4. Nutrition Bars
Some are filled with so much sugar that you may as well be eating a candy bar. For instance, the best-selling energy bar, according to a 2013 survey, has 230 calories, 10 grams of sugar, and 160 milligrams of sodium. A Snickers bar clocks in at 250 calories, 27 grams of sugar, and 120 milligrams of sodium.
Bottom line: If you’re going to eat them, choose one that’s low in added sugar and made mostly of nuts, seeds, fruits, and whole grains. Better yet, make your own.
5. Raisin Bran or Flavored Oatmeal
The classic breakfast cereal is another sugar trap. Although some are high in healthy fiber, the already-sweet raisins usually come coated in more sugar.
The same goes for flavored instant oatmeal. Even though it offers whole grains, the flavored packets have more sugar and salt than plain rolled or steel-cut oats.
A better option for cold or hot cereal: Start plain and add your own extras. Buy bran flakes and sprinkle a tablespoon of raisins into your kids’ bowls. Or dress up plain oatmeal with fresh fruit or a small dab of honey.
Bottom line: “There’s lots of smoke and mirrors on cereal boxes, especially the ones marketed to kids,” Kirkpatrick says. She suggests looking for cereals that have less than 135 milligrams of sodium per serving and no added sugar.
What could be healthier than drinking a smoothie made of fresh fruit? The fruit itself.
“A smoothie every once in a while is OK, but you’re removing the fiber and taking in a high concentration of sugar,” Kirkpatrick says. “So you’re going from having 9 grams of sugar in a bowl to 30 or 40 grams of sugar in a smoothie -- even more if it’s a commercially made one.”
Bottom line: Make smoothies at home so you know exactly what’s in them. Better yet, just eat the fruit.
7. “Low-Fat” and “Fat-Free” Products
“We have to get away from this thinking that ‘low fat’ is a good option,” Kirkpatrick says. “Naturally occurring low-fat foods like an apple are one thing, but packaged low-fat foods are a bad choice 90% of the time.” That’s because low- and no-fat foods typically replace the fat with other stuff, like salt, sugar, or thickeners, which can add calories.
Bottom line: Don’t assume “low-fat” or “fat-free” is healthier than its full-fat version. Check the label for the calories and serving size.