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Not-So-Healthy 'Health' Foods

Some foods you think are good for you may not be all they seem
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WebMD Feature

No cholesterol, no trans fat, no added sugar, multigrain, all natural, organic … These are just some of the phrases that seem to shout "healthy food" from the labels of our favorite brands.

But, experts say, unhealthy choices lurk among even the most healthy-seeming foods.

"Many people assume that if something has a healthy buzzword on the label, or even that if it's sold in a health food store, that it's automatically a healthy food, but that is not always the case," says Samantha Heller, MS, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at New York University School of Medicine.

A case in point, she says, is granola.

"Granola got a reputation as a health food in the 1960s, because it was in fact, healthier than the heavily sugared, frosted cereals that were being sold," Heller tells WebMD. "But by today's standards, in terms of fats and just sheer calories, granola is not your healthiest choice."

The same is true of most cereal bars, as well as many energy bars and drinks, experts say.

"I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about healthy eating is in thinking these so-called cereal or energy bars and drinks are a good choice, and most are definitely not," says Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

While they may contain a miniscule amount of vitamins, and sometimes even potentially helpful herbs, Sandon says most are so loaded with sugar and fat that the bad outweighs the good.

"In many instances, you may as well eat a candy bar for all the nutrition you are getting from these products," Sandon tells WebMD.

Nutritionist Miriam Pappo Klein, MS, RD, agrees: "The high energy in many of these products comes from the fact that they are loaded with calories. There's no magic here; it's just high fat and high sugar," says Klein, a clinical nutrition manager at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

Hidden Diet Hazards

A bowl of whole-wheat cereal; a turkey burger; banana chips; a "healthy" frozen dinner; a handful of peanuts. On the surface, that seems like a pretty healthy menu for the day.

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