As more and more of the population becomes health conscious, it is important I feel to continue expanding one’s ideas of what “healthy” really means.

As a society we have become very accustomed to accepting many things as being “healthy” which from a nutritionally scientific standpoint just aren’t. What do I mean by that?

While you will not die, or get an immediate disease from such foods, they are not helpful in aiding the body to function optimally and over the course of your life lead to various damage. Sure we can continue to get by on statements like, “but it is just from time to time” or “it is okay in moderation“, but this is not conducive for optimal health, wellness and longevity. And while these things may seem to be worth it in the moment, they will not seem like that if you fast forward to the future where they may have lead to a serious disease.

The American Dietetic Association has stated in the past, and as far as I know still stands by the statement today:

“There are no bad foods. All foods, in moderation, can fit into a good diet.”

This statement has confused many over the years, to say the least, not to mention completely thrown many people off track from leading a truly healthy lifestyle. And I am sure it did not help matters where the current obesity situation stands.

This statement greatly diverts attention away from the central truths that 1) certain foods diminish the optimal functioning of our systems, no matter in what amounts and 2) by eating “bad” foods, one does not have enough room for the good foods. Consider this example: if I am eating french fries, a hamburger and a soft drink for lunch, do you think I really have enough room for a big plate of the stuff I really need like vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, etc.? The answer is no.

That is why in this ongoing quest to educate more people on what healthy really means and what foods to take seriously for good health, never mind optimal health, I will be featuring certain foods in this new series called “Foods That Seem Healthy, But Aren’t“. There will not be a specific amount of parts to this series, as it will be done on an ongoing basis. Every so often I will feature several foods that may seem healthy, or that we have accepted as healthy, but ones that really aren’t.

Granola Bars

I hope you are not too shocked by this one. But at the same time, as an avid granola bar eater in the past who thought she was “healthy”, I would not be surprised if you were.

During the past decade, granola bar sales have skyrocketed to make it a multi-million dollar industry. Too many people made them their substitute for chocolate bars, proper breakfasts and the ideal school snack. Thus today, we have granola bars with fruits, with chocolate, in chocolate, with yogurt, various grains, peanut butters and you name it!

The truth is granola bars are loaded with sugars. Be it natural, artificial or organic – they all still contain not just one, but numerous sweeteners. Check out a wrapper of your favorite granola bar and you are sure to find the typical sucrose, glucose-fructose, corn syrup and if it is from a health food store cane juice, rice syrup and the like.

Secondly, they are highly processed! Don’t kid yourself that the granola bar that has apple pieces or cranberries in it is healthy. After the company has finished with them, those fruits are next to worthless, nutritionally speaking.

Thirdly, they have sodium – yes salt and lots of it! I know, I know, you would not expect that from a “sweet” food, but don’t be fooled. Check out your labels and if the sodium is more than the amount of calories per serving, you’ve got yourself a high sodium food.

And let’s not even go to the ones with chocolate and/or yogurt. Have you ever seen how much fat, but especially saturated and even possibly trans fat is in them?

So bottom line, if you seriously consider yourself health conscious and look for healthy food options, then granola bars are not part of that equation. Sure there are some better ones, like Kashi, and worse ones like Quaker, but bottom line they are all not much better than chocolate bars. If you really want to keep them in your diet, then the only other option is to make your own and omit the unnecessary chemical additives and numerous sweeteners and salts.

Boxed/Refined Cereals

Food number two is going to be hard to swallow for many out there as well, but yes I am talking about 99% of the cereal aisle. From the obvious Fruit Loops to All Bran and Mueslix, refined cereals trick many each day into thinking they are eating a “healthy breakfast.”

A bowl of milk with cereal has become the signature breakfast for many adults and children alike out there for decades now. After all, what could be more convenient and at the same time more acidic to the body. And throughout the years there have come numerous cereals that cater to pretty much, one would think everybody’s taste buds. But very few people are actually seeing them for what they are.

For starters, like their granola bar friends they are loaded with sugar and no I am not talking about a select few, but all of them. I have no idea how ones like Lucky Charms or Fruit Loops are still even on the market. I guess advertising is doing a really good job somewhere convincing people that somehow their kids are getting a nutritious breakfast?

You do not need to believe what I am writing here, simply go and pick up the box, any box of cereal that you have at home and read the ingredients. You will find numerous sweeteners, some with fancy words, that may not even strike you as sweeteners. Check out this label from Kellogg’s Mueslix – one of the better looked upon cereals (sugars, artificial additives and even hydrogenated fats!)

And what of all of this? Such a breakfast, or meal at any point in the day gives your poor pancreas some serious and very unnecessary work. To add to that, all these simple sugars run rampant through your bloodstream, and you find yourself hungry again shortly after, more prone to mood swings and depression, not to mention excessive sugars at any one time cannot be used by your body unless you are going to run a marathon in that moment, so they result in some of the easiest weight gain.

Now before you start thinking, “but what about all the whole grains?” Yes, let us talk about those whole grains. Do you actually see whole grains in Cheerios? How about in Shreddies? And no one is questioning this?

While you may see the odd whole grain, in cereals like Mueslix or Kashi, most cereals are just ground up flakes, and relatively all cereals use some kind of flour. While whole grain flower is a huge improvement to white flower, we still cannot kid ourselves and think this is the healthy way to get grains. When grains are ground up like that, your body for the most part treats them like simple sugars, and there you have even more stress for your pancreas, weight gain risks and even links to future diabetes.

Finally, while I do not have to explain to you that these foods are highly processed and thus acidic, they too contain enough salt/sodium to make some people think twice about eating them, especially if you are concerned about your blood pressure or heart disease.

So is there any hope? Of course. If you want a delicious and nutritious grain based breakfast or meal, look for that 1% in the cereal aisle that are nothing but real, whole grains and add in your own fresh fruits and nuts. For ideas see “6 Optimally Healthy Breakfast Grain Options.” Yes it will take you a little more time to prepare in the morning, but I would hope that the health of you and your family is worth it.

Sweetened/Processed Juices

If I were writing this to you all about 3 years ago, you would not hear me say what I am about to say. I, like most other people out there thought juices were great! It wasn’t until some serious research that I did on “liquid sugar” and how your body deals with it, and then reading Dr. Olson’s book “Sugarettes”, that I quickly re-evaluated my thoughts about juice.

For starters, drinking juice is not a substitute for eating fresh fruit. This is something that many people think. It can be perhaps, IF you juice your own fruits and drink them immediately, but even then you are most likely missing the best part – the fiber.

Millions of people around the world rely on juices to quench their thirst each day and likewise millions of parents push juices onto their children thinking they are doing the right thing. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case.

When we drink “liquid sugar” our body prepares for physical digestion, but there is nothing to digest. The simple sugars that all juices are, are very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream as they require very little, if any digestion. Hence this stimulates the appetite. But wait a minute, didn’t we get at least a couple hundred calories here? Yes. But the average body reacts as if it did not eat yet.

Straight simple sugars like this mess with our insulin regulation, pancreas, mood balance, weight balance and even have a profound effect on our artery health, which can trigger future heart disease.

They lack fiber and thanks to the processing lose a lot of the nutritional benefits that the original fruits had, while they gain unnecessary additives.

And I am not even talking here about drinks, or sodas, just good old orange, apple, tropical and similar juices from Tropicana, Oasis and the like. And while some companies are now bringing about unsweetened juices, which of course are a bit better, liquid sugar is still liquid sugar.

So what is the solution? If you like the fruit taste, eat the fruit – fresh and whole or make a homemade smoothie. And as for drinks, we really don’t need anything but water. Most people can’t seem to drink enough water in a day. Rightfully so, with all the other beverages they are consuming, but we need pure water nonetheless, which nothing can replace. And if that seems a little boring to you, squeeze in some fresh citrus fruits into your water to liven it up a little, but know that processed juices have no place in an optimally healthy lifestyle.

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Yes, that was not a typo – I did say fruits and vegetables. You may be thinking, “when does someone say fruits and vegetables are not healthy?” Well the answer is when they come from cans that are lined with a serious hormone disrupting chemical toxin called bisphenol A.

Some of you may recognize this name as being tied to the whole plastic bottle controversy, but cans for food are also guilty of having this chemical substance. Without getting into the whole explanation of bispehnol A here, just know that as of April 2008, Canada has officially become the first country to initiate a ban on the importation, sale and advertising of items with this substance, and currently other countries are following suit. As hopeful as that sounds, they are for now mainly targeting baby products and it will be some serious time still before we see them tackle canned food.

So are all cans to blame? Generally speaking, yes. Perhaps the odd company out there makes their cans without the liner, but it is virtually impossible to know and I wouldn’t hold my breath out on this one.

And what of the effects of bisphenol A? As I mentioned to you it is a very potent hormonal disruptor. It mimics estrogen and has been linked to all sorts of reproductive organ cancers, fertility issues, and proper sexual development in kids to say the least.

So what is the solution? Simple – just substitute all canned fruits and vegetables with fresh or frozen ones. I know it cannot be that hard, it will just take some getting used to at the beginning, but is actually very easy to accomplish if you are going to give it a conscious effort. And while you are at it, don’t stop with the fruits and vegetables, aim for removing all cans from your lifestyle. For optimal health and wellness, it is the only solution that makes sense.


Thus there we have it – 4 food items that seem healthy, but really aren’t.

Remember, people have lived without these items in the past and did just fine and we can do it again. Especially when we live in such a richly abundant world today where we have so many options and substitutes.

So will consuming these items kill you? Of course not. By keeping them a part of your life, you will most likely have average health and be part of the typical health statistics of society. IF that is not good enough for you however, and if you are motivated for more, then removing these items from your life is part of the journey of achieving optimal health, wellness and longevity.

For in the end, everything that you ever put into your system adds up – it all just depends on how good you are at connecting the dots in the end.