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Ten "health" foods that could be bad for you

Siski Green / 07 April 2015 ( 09 January 2020 )

Why the small print is important when it comes to health foods.

rice cakes
Imagine how much healthier it would be if you swapped a few rice cakes for some fruit.

Vegetable crisps

Beetroot, parsnip and carrots - what could possibly be unhealthy about that? Well, just like potato crisps, vegetable crisps contain a lot of fat per gram, as well as salt. Try making your own vegetable crisps instead. Slice thinly and bake in the oven, sprinkling salt over at the end so you can control exactly how much you put on.

Find out how to choose the best healthy snacks

Frozen yogurt

This is one of the best tricks food manufacturers have come up with – appealing to health-conscious ice-cream lovers by freezing high-sugar yogurt. Even if the yogurt is low in fat, by adding sugar all the health benefits are lost. Don’t be fooled: eating frozen yogurt is just as much of a treat as eating ice cream.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, just that you need to be aware that it’s not a health food. 

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Rice cakes

These might seem like the ultimate stomach filler as they’re very low in fat and calories... but imagine how much healthier it would be if you swapped a few rice cakes for apples or some other fruit instead? That way you’ll get immune-boosting nutrients as well as fibre and liquid as well.

Dried fruit

Yes, it’s fruit but it’s also had all the liquid sucked out of it, which means that it’s far easier for you to eat too much of it. Imagine eating a bunch of grapes and how full it would make you feel, then compare that to a tiny handful of raisins, which is what you’d get from that bunch. I

t’s the same with other fruits - plus some manufacturers add sugar too, making dried fruit a risky treat for those with diabetes, for example. 

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High-fibre cereal

If it’s high in fibre, it’s healthy, right? Not necessarily. Many high-fibre cereals contain a lot of sugar and even those high-fibre cereals without added sugar might be adding to your sugar load via dried fruits. If you can’t find a brand with less than 6g (more than a teaspoon) of sugar per serving, make your own instead. Grab some plain oats or whatever other grains you’d like to use, lay flat on a baking tray, drizzled with some oil, and roast until they’re as crispy as you like it. Now you can add honey or sugar if you like, nuts and dried fruit, but be aware of how much you’re putting in so you don’t overdo it. 

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Smoothies or green juices

Even if it’s pure fruit, a smoothie might not be as healthy as you expect – because often there’s so much fruit packed into that small bottle that you’re getting a lot of fruit sugar in one go without realising it. Some smoothies also contain added sugar, making it even more sugary. Instead, make your own smoothie at home where you can see what goes in and add water or skimmed milk to boost the liquid content.

Vegetarian burgers or sausages

Just because it doesn’t contain meat does not make it healthy. Food manufacturers often add fat, extra salt or other high-fat foods such as cheese to boost the flavour of vegetarian food products. Again, it’s best to make your own or look for burgers and sausages that have a high protein content (in the form of beans, for example).

Veggie dips

Again, that word ‘veggie’ or vegetable conjures up images of health food... but vegetable dips made with artichokes, peppers or asparagus often contain large quantities of cream, cream cheese or similarly high-fat ingredients. Check the label or make your own in a blender at home. Add low-fat cream cheese and a handful of nuts, as well as herbs, to make your own delicious dips without the health risks.

Great ideas for vegetarian meals

Turkey meat

It’s touted as the healthy low-fat lean meat option but if your turkey meat comes in the form of slices in a sandwich, in sausages, or a burger, you’d  better check the label. Because it lacks in flavour compared to ham, for example, turkey meat often contains a lot of salt and other flavourings, and with burgers and sausages, fat may even have been added to the ingredients. And remember, if your ‘lean’ turkey meat sandwich also contains mayonnaise, you may as well go for the fuller-flavour ham without the mayo and you’ll have a healthier sandwich. 

Anything fat-free

Fat-free does not mean sugar-free, in fact sugar is often added to compensate for the lack of flavour from the fat. So be extremely wary of anything sold as fat-free or low-fat.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.