10 "Healthy" Foods That Actually, Well...Aren't


Let me just prepare you out the gate. After reading this, you're probably gonna have a couple of moments of "Daaaaang. So exactly what can I eat?!" The thing is, if you're being even remotely intentional about the kinds of foods that you put into your mouth (and ultimately your system), you're already winning in a lot of ways. And, as far as "unhealthy" goes, if you try your best to avoid things that have a long list of ingredients on the packaging, you're already winning a lot of the battle.

As for the 10 items that I'm about to break down, the main thing to keep in mind is moderation is key. A lot of times, the mistake that we make is if we think something is healthy, we'll eat a ton of it, all day, every day. It's that lack of balance is what can throw things, well, off.

Bottom line, nobody is out here saying that you can't have these types of foods every once in a while (well, at least I'm not). But before you stock up your fridge and pantry with nothing but these items, check out why you should probably rethink that.

1. Fruit Juice

Yes, fruit juice contains Vitamin C and that's a vitamin that is loaded with antioxidants. That's the good news. On the other hand, there is plenty of research to support the fact that, for the most part, there's not much difference between fruit juice and your favorite kind of soda.

All you have to do is read the label of a soda can and then juice container and you'll notice that there may be a 10-15 grams difference of sugar between them (most have around 30 grams of sugar; your body only needs 10 grams per day). Plus, what goes into the process of making juice isn't the best for the environment either. 12 oranges alone make up one cup of OJ. That's a lot of pesticides, irrigation and fuel used to truck juice into your local grocery store. Just something to think about.

If you're wondering what some of the worst so-called healthy commercial juices are, Welch's 100% Grape Juice with Fiber, Simply Orange High Pulp, R.W. Knudsen Just Pomegranate, Ocean Spray 100% Juice No Sugar Added Cranberry and probiotic juices (unfortunately) top the list.

The moral to the story is you'd be better off juicing yourself, making some infused water or at least slicing your juice intake in half by mixing it with half a glass of mineral, sparkling or seltzer water.

2. Soy Products

As a doula, I'm constantly telling new moms that if they do decide to use formula, they need to avoid the kind that contains soy at all costs (especially if they have a son). Why? Soy contains phytoestrogen, which is basically a plant-derived form of the female hormone estrogen.

While soy does contain a decent amount of vitamins C and K, folate, iron, magnesium and potassium, it also tops the list of foods that create "man boobs". Plus, it's one of the most genetically-modified foods around. Another "ugh" thing about soy is studies reveal that it has the tendency to produce more bodily inflammation than cow's milk. Inflammation is never good.

3. Granola Bars

Last year, General Mills removed "100 percent natural" from the popular granola bars. Why, do you ask? Apparently their bars contained glyphosate. What the heck is that? It's a weed killer that has been linked to cancer. As if that's not enough of a reason to rethink eating granola bars (or to at least research the ingredients that are on the label before buying them), they also contain quite a bit of oil and sugar.

Does that mean you can never snack on granola again? No. Just go with making some instead of buying it. That way, you can control how much "extra" goes into it. (A pretty healthy granola bar recipe is found here.)

4. Flavored Yogurt

What could possibly be wrong with yogurt? When it's plain and Greek, not much. Problem is, most of us reach for the kind that is full of sugar and artificial coloring. In fact, many doctors say that not only is flavored yogurt pretty fattening, it also doesn't contain enough protein or fiber to be beneficial.

Before you pick up some Greek yogurt, what are some of the worst brands on the market? Activia Greek Vanilla, Yoplait Greek 100 and Dannon Light & Fit Greek Nonfat Vanilla. Some of the best? Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt, Stonyfield Organic Greek Whole Milk Plain and Dannon Oikos Greek Nonfat Yogurt Plain. You can click here to read why.

Oh, and if you hate the taste of plain yogurt, remember that you can always add some fresh fruit and/or organic honey to make it more palatable. It's a lot healthier to do it this way than to trust what's on your grocery store's shelves.

5. Whole Wheat Bread

If after you eat pasta or cereal, you notice that you feel nauseated or have a headache, it could be because you've got a wheat allergy that you didn't know about. You can find out for sure by making an appointment with a local allergist. However, that's not the reason why wheat bread makes this list.

The biggest problem with this kind of bread is one, that it's bread. Bread is a high-carb kind of food that is able to raise your blood sugar levels. Bread also contains lectins and phytates; those are toxins that are found in grains. Another problem with a lot of grocery store brands of bread is they're loaded with high fructose corn syrup (which is basically the devil). And, as far as the wheat part goes, most whole wheat bread actually isn't made from whole wheat. Since the grain is ground so finely that, by the time it's ready to eat, it's not much better than (gasp!) white bread. Hmph.

6. Agave Nectar

Some people are hyped about agave nectar because it's a natural sweetener. Problem is, although it registers low on the glycemic index due to its amount of fructose (a hexose sugar that's found in honey and fruit), believe it or not, it contains a greater amount of fructose than high fructose corn syrup. Consuming too much fructose can ultimately lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver disease too.

Organic honey or even blackstrap molasses is a way better bet. Leave the white sugar and agave nectar alone.

7. Veggie Chips

If lately, you've been snacking on veggie chips because you thought they were a better alternative to standard potato chips, I hate to rain on your parade but that's not really the truth. Sure, veggie chips contain vegetables but most of them are so highly-processed with sugar, salt, oil, artificial colors and preservatives that you might as well have a few Lay's if that's what you really desire.

What's the true healthy alternative? Baking your own veggies at home. DIY kale, sweet potatoes and zucchini chips are all really easy to make and pretty delicious too. Plus, you know how healthy they are (or not) because you made them yourself. (Click here for some great recipes.)

8. Meat Substitutes

Aside from the fact that a lot of meat substitutes contain a lot of soy (and we've already covered what's wrong with that), most of them also contain quite a bit of gluten. The problem with gluten is that it's a gooey kind of protein that can put you at risk of being diagnosed with celiac disease. It's a condition where your small intestine is damaged due to the consumption of gluten. Some other challenges with gluten is it can cause bloating, constipation, fatigue, psoriasis and iron-deficiency anemia too.

So, before you reach out for some vegan bacon or a Morning Star griller, check out the labels to see how much soy and/or gluten they contain. The answer just may surprise you.

9. Store-Bought Smoothies

Smoothies are a quick and convenient way to "drink your fruits and veggies". The challenge that comes with a lot of them is one, we tend to consume 20-24 ounces per sitting (that's a lot) and two, if we buy them at a store, the amount of sugar and carbs can be literally off the charts!

Something else that a lot of people don't know is although a lot of the fruit in smoothies contains fiber, because it's close to liquified, having one smoothie typically makes you hungrier in a shorter period of time than if you ate a whole piece of fruit.

Long story short, if you're looking to lose weight, a smoothie a day will not automatically or necessarily keep the sugar content or fat cells at bay. (Yeah, this is another kind of food that you'd be better off making at home.)

10. Gluten-Free Foods

OK, so we already touched on where too much gluten will get you. Now check out what having none has the potential to do. Aside from going vegan, probably the most popular health trend is eating gluten-free. However, CNN recently published an article that this trend isn't the best idea for everybody. And with good reason.

While one study revealed that going gluten-free can actually be bad for your heart over time, other data supports that a lot of foods that don't contain gluten are loaded with fillers that are no more than junk. Also, your diet needs to be comprised of about 50 percent carbohydrates, which is what gluten contains. So, when it comes to this final unhealthy healthy food, it's much smarter to eat healthy than to decide to kick carbs altogether. Feel me?

Yeah, this was a lot. But now that you have the knowledge that you do, hopefully you'll rethink buying something just because it's packaged—which means marketed—as being healthy. Eat wisely, y'all.

Want more stories like this? Check out these xoNecole related reads:

9 Healthy Breakfast Dishes For Women On-The-Go

My Obsession With My Health

10 Foods You Should Eliminate From Your Diet If You're Trying To Lose Weight

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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