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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Healthy Food Imposters

Is That a Healthy Halo Over Your Food?

Have you ever eaten a food because you thought it was super healthy? Make sure you look carefully at everything you eat and don’t be fooled by deceptive advertising! A few of our favorite foods may have been branded as nourishing, when in reality they provide no nutrient quality, or may be excessive in calories and fat. Here’s a list of foods that may need to lose the “healthy” halo because they aren’t so angelic after all:

Bran Muffins

Ever hear the joke about the man who was in heaven for a few minutes and turned to his wife and said, “If you hadn’t fed me all those darn bran muffins we could have been here a long time ago”? Well, it probably wasn’t the bran muffins that kept him alive. Most bran muffins you find commercially are actually loaded in sugar and oil—something has to mask that bitter and dry bran!

Swap: Try VitaTops from Vitalicious. I got turned onto these muffins the past few years.  The muffin tops come in various flavors of bran or chocolate and are 100 calories each and delicious! Keep them in the freezer and when you want one, just stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds and enjoy!


Couscous may look and sound healthy, but just like any white grain it’s refined and lacks nutrients.

Swap: Try whole grain couscous, or try other whole wheat grains such as pasta, brown rice, quinoa or bulgur.


Granola has gotten a good name in the health food world, but it is actually quite high in calories, fat, and sugar. Made using oil, a 1/4 cup of some granolas can have nearly 200 calories.

Swap:  If you love granola, there are some good ones out there. I love Kashi GoLean Crunch. Or try Kashi GoLean Crisp Toasted Berry Crumble. Check labels for a granola bar with at least three grams of fiber and reasonable in calories for a not so miniscule portion.  Or make your own!


Wraps are definitely a halo food. Everyone eats a wrap at lunch thinking they are doing better than bread. But those warps are HUGE and often equivalent to three or four slices of bread in calories—plus they leave a lot of room to stuff them full, which can result in a very high calorie meal. Many wrap sandwiches can end up being 500-600 calories or more!

Swap: Whole wheat bread is a better option since it doesn’t allow you to fit in as much food. You’ll also get whole grains and more fiber.

Nutrition Bars

Not all nutrition bars are alike. Many are super dense and packed in calories—and they don’t even taste good! Or they are so full of sugar and white flour and lead you to believe that they have more whole grains than they really do.

Swap:  Stick with bars—if you are a regular reader of this blog you know I love them!  Have you been KIND-ed yet?  Try KIND bars loaded in dried fruit and nuts with ingredients you can see and pronounce. My two favorite flavors? Currently I’m addicted to Apple Cinnamon & Pecan and Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew.


Falafel is made from chick peas and is a staple in Mediterranean diets. Although it may come off as healthy, this food is actually fried and high in fat.

Swap: Try baked falafel, or choose pitas or meals with only hummus and vegetables instead.

Swapping foods is an easy task once you learn the more nutritious options! Swap these foods and you’ll have fewer calories and fat, and a healthier body.

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Tags: Healthy Eating , Nutrition Trends

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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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