Ben Squires


“Healthy” foods that could be harming your health

“Healthy” foods that could be harming your health

When you’re trying to improve your diet, it’s easy to get fooled by products masquerading as “health” foods. From smoothies to muesli bars, many products are loaded with hidden carbs and sugars. To help you avoid these surprisingly unhealthy foods, we spoke to dietitian and nutritionist Susie Burrell, who identified some of the worst health offenders below.


Sure, fruit, dairy, yoghurt, wheat germ, chia seeds, muesli and protein powder are all very nutritious foods but when we combine them all, it equates to a complete calorie overload rather than a quick healthy drink on the run. In fact, a regular size smoothie can contain more than 12g of sugar and as many calories as a large meal. So, if you do love your smoothies, stick to just two to three key ingredients, choose the smallest size you can, and remember, even a small smoothie will have at least 200 calories.

Fruit yoghurt

The number of yoghurts available in the supermarket continues to increase, which means that it can be harder to weed out the healthy options amongst the high sugar varieties that tend to dominate the shelves. Plain natural or Greek yoghurts tend to be low in sugar, fat, and calories, but many of the fruit based options can contain as many calories as two slices of bread and up to six teaspoons of sugar. As a general rule of thumb, the lower the total carbohydrate content and the higher the protein content of your yoghurt, the better it will be for you.

Rice snacks

It doesn’t matter if rice has been made into a snack bar, cake, puff, or crisp: rice is a dense source of high glycaemic index carbohydrate, which means that it causes blood glucose levels to rapidly increase rather than [providing] long lasting energy.  [It also increases the] hormone insulin, which promotes fat storage in the body. Rice snacks are low in protein and other key nutrients, which means that they offer “empty calories.” Better snack options when it comes to blood glucose control include corn and rye based cakes and crackers. 

Vitamin water

Despite the name, which instantly suggests all things healthy, vitamin water is simply sugary water with a few vitamins added. While vitamins are important for numerous bodily functions, the vitamins that are commonly added to vitamin water are already consumed in more than adequate amounts from even a very basic diet. Given that a single serve of Vitamin water can contain as much as 5 teaspoons of sugar, you are best to get your vitamins from grains, fruits and vegetables and leave your water as nature intended it. 

Diet soft drink

While diet soft drink is a better option than the regular full strength stuff, this is not to say that “diet” soft drinks are a healthy choice. Diet soft drinks may not contain sugar, and are instead sweetened with various types of artificial sweetener, but there is a growing body of evidence to show that consuming extremely sweet substances may promote overeating in the long term. There have also been some recent concerns over the various preservatives used in diet soft drinks, the interaction they have with artificial sweeteners, and the effect this interaction has on various functions within the body’s cells. Given these concerns, while occasionally a diet drink is unlikely to do any harm, diet soft drink should never be considered a healthy choice.

Fruit muffins and banana bread

Fruit muffins or breads may sound like healthier options than brownies, slices, and cakes but the truth is that whether it is a muffin, slice or banana bread, the ingredients are still basically sugar, butter, and white flour, which really equates to cake. If you consider that the average muffin or slice of banana bread contains more than 60g of total carbohydrate (or the equivalent of four slices of bread) 20 to 30g of fat, and at least four teaspoons of sugar, it is safe to say that there is nothing healthy about these café options.

Muesli bars

One of the most popular snack choices for children and adults alike, how could a simple muesli bar not be a good choice? Very easily – there is a big difference between natural unprocessed muesli and a processed mix of honey, sugar, dried fruit, fillers, gums and coatings, that are found in most commercially available muesli bars. With the average muesli bar containing more than 4 teaspoons of sugar and less than a couple of grams of fibre, avoid processed snacks at all costs and replace with natural yoghurts, nuts or wholegrain crackers for much more nutritious snack food choices.

For more information on Susie Burrell’s online diet plan, visit her website now.