These four healthy-looking packaged foods are overrated

Why do some processed foods get all the attention?

Clever—or misleading—marketing doesn’t hurt. Here are four overrated foods. Missed our list of five underrated foods? Check out this post.

1. Protein bars

“It’s like having the doughnuts you’re not supposed to have filled with everything you are supposed to have,” says ONE about its Maple Glazed Doughnut Flavored Protein Bar.

Everything you’re supposed to have?

ONE bars are mostly protein isolates, processed fiber, sugar alcohols, palm and palm kernel oil, and (in many flavors) the sweetener sucralose, which gets our “avoid” rating (see chemicalcuisine.org). ONE’s competitors—like Quest and stevia-sweetened Protein One—aren’t much better.

Yes, they’re largely sugar-free. But they’re not chock-full of nutrient-rich real food, either. And nearly all Americans already eat plenty of protein. Instead, snack on a handful of fruit, veggies, or nuts.

2. Green juices

Daily Greens. Green Goodness. Green Machine. Why wouldn’t you grab one of those shortcuts to the land of kale and spinach? Answer: Apple juice.

“It isn’t always convenient to carry around a combination of cucumber, celery, romaine, kale, kiwi and other greens to snack on,” chirps Bolthouse Farms’ website. “Which is why we put their juices all together for you in this bottle.”

Oops! Forgot to mention the apple.

Daily Greens, for example, has more (nutrient-poor) apple juice than anything else. No wonder 15 oz. bottle packs 150 calories, largely from 30 grams (7 teaspoons) of total sugars.

Some juices have less. Suja Über Greens (6 grams of sugars) is mostly vegetable juice. But it tastes like, well, vegetable juice. All that to avoid irresistible garlicky sautéed spinach, kale-and-avocado salad, or a broccoli-shiitake stir-fry?

3. Granola

Nature’s Path Organic promises “real ingredients” and “whole grain goodness” in its Honey Almond Granola, which, like most granolas, is made with whole oats.

Too bad it doesn’t also promise honest labels. The package’s Nutrition Facts use the 1 oz. (1/3-cup) serving size for snacks, not the 2 oz. (2/3-cup) serving for dense cereals.

Some other brands, like Purely Elizabeth, also play the serving-size game.

And even a (still petite) 2/3-cup serving packs 280 calories and a quarter of a day’s added sugar. That’s typical for granola, which is calorie dense and often sugar laden.

Want a lighter, less-sugary breakfast? Start with unsweetened muesli, shredded wheat, oatmeal, or bulgur.

4. Veggie chips

“You can satisfy your crunchy cravings in a smart and wholesome way,” promise Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Sea Salt Wavy Chips

Smart and wholesome? Sensible Portions has more potato flour, potato starch, oil, salt, and sugar than dried spinach, tomato, or beet powder.

Other brands of “veggie” chips and crisps—like Good Health and Eat Smart—are similar. Tomato-and-spinach-hued potato chips are one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Even if veggie chips had enough pulverized greens to boost their nutrient levels, they wouldn’t be smart and wholesome. Smart is crunching on carrots, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, and other non-starchy fresh veggies that fill you up with few calories.

Photos (top to bottom): ONE, Jennifer Urban/CSPI, Jennifer Urban/CSPI, Sensible Portions.

The information for this post first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


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