Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Five ‘healthy’ foods that aren’t so healthy

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

As a gluten-free gal who regularly talks about the subject, I have the pleasure of meeting so many different people from all walks life. The spectrum of people is varied, including those who are interested in learning more about a gluten-free lifestyle, and those who have been gluten-free for years and simply want new recipe suggestions. 

There are, of course, also misconceptions, similar to the ones that come with any health or nutrition topic. The top one I hear all the time? 

“So, a gluten-free diet is healthy, right?”

The truth is, yes, it can be. But I am always sure to remind people that like any dietary decision, there is plenty of room for unhealthy error. Remember the low-fat craze of the ’90s? Yeah, well, a lot of those products were recreated to taste like the real thing, only to include loads of sugar and chemicals in order to make up for a lack of flavor. In the same way the “low-fat” label didn’t mean the food was necessarily healthy, the “gluten-free” label is not a sure thing either. 

That rule of thumb goes for a lot of other foods that have been given a healthy green light with a less-than-stellar track record. Other foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy as much as they are touted as health superstars without the street cred to support the hype. 

Here are five foods that aren’t as healthy as we’ve been led to believe:

Whole grains

We love to latch onto words like “whole wheat” and “multi-grain” when choosing a healthy bread or grain product, but the truth is, those terms don’t always contain wholesome grains. In fact, many mainstream bread products contain refined grains that don’t even come close to resembling the grains they are mimicking. In order to avoid these “Franken-grains,” look for words like “bleached,” “unbleached” or “enriched flour” on the label – all are indicators you are not about to buy nutritionally-beneficial whole grain bread.

Low-fat foods

Remember how we were chatting a bit about this already? Low-fat foods are often packed with more or the same amount of sugar and other chemicals in order to make the foods taste better. For example, regular Oreos contain 7 grams of fat (2 grams of saturated fat), 160 calories and 14 grams of fat; reduced fat Oreos contain 3.5 grams of fat (1 gram of saturated fat), 140 calories and 14 grams of sugar per serving. With only a 20-calorie difference and one less gram of saturated fat and sugar per serving, the reduced fat Oreos just aren’t worth the compromise. Truth? Pick a better cookie altogether!


Here’s the deal with these guys: If you love smoothies as I do, then it’s best to make them at home. Sure, there are some wonderful smoothie joints, but unless you know the inside scoop, then it’s best to keep in mind some chains serve “smoothies” that pack more than 500 calories. For example, the Baskin Robbins large Strawberry Yumberry Greek Frozen Yogurt Smoothie has 1,110 calories, 29 grams of fat (19 grams of saturated fat) and 154 grams of sugar. That should be illegal, right? Opt for an at-home version with fresh greens and fruit, milk or coconut water and a bit of healthy fat, like a tablespoon of almond butter. Check out the recipe below for a tasty at-home treat.


Food bars

Also known as “energy” bars, food bars can be a great go-to snack when you’re stuck in a hangry situation (hungry + angry = hangry). But it’s important to do a bit of investigative work with these guys. Added sugar, high fructose corn syrup and excess calories like to make their home in food bars, making them a not-so-reliable choice. Choose brands with real ingredients, like KIND bars ( or Raw Revolution bars ( for a solid option when you need something on the fly.


Touted as a protein- and calcium-packed “smart pick,” yogurt can certainly be a healthy snack or breakfast option. Yogurt also boasts probiotics, healthy bacteria that help support good digestion and immune health. Watch for sugar-loaded and calorie-packed options. For example, Yoplait Strawberry Original Yogurt has 170 calories, 1.5 grams of fat (1 gram of saturated fat), 5 grams of protein and 26 grams of sugar. On the other hand, Chobani 2 percent Strawberry Banana Yogurt has 150 calories, 3 grams of fat (2 grams of saturated fat), 11 grams of protein and 16 grams of sugar. Another great option is Stonyfield Greek Vanilla which has 110 calories, 0 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 15 grams of protein and 12 grams of sugar.

The bottom line? Just because a food is being touted as the latest health superstar it doesn’t mean you should believe the hype. Be your own health advocate and do a bit of research before making food decisions – your body will be glad you did.

Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at

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