Ever go shopping and pick up a “reduced fat” version of a food thinking it was healthier? It might not be. While there are certainly a fair amount of individuals who make an effort to eat a healthy diet, all too often we don’t see food for the nutritional value it’s supposed to provide. In fact, close to 700,000 deaths every year are connected to nutrition and obesity related conditions.

Marketing companies attempt to help us make smarter eating choices with certain products or keywords that are seen on many of our packaged food, and buzzwords like “organic” or “natural” lead us to think we’re making a good decision. Believe it or not, much of this information is misleading and a good deal of the foods we eat are actually unhealthy.

Let’s take a quick look at 6 popular things you thought were healthy, but actually aren’t:

  1. Wheat bread – Often seen as a healthier sandwich alternative to white slices, wheat bread has gained the reputation as an optimal choice. It’s true that some brands do offer very pure and healthy wheat options, but in many instances, only one piece of wheat bread holds as much as one tablespoon of sugar. It might also depend on your body’s microbiome – research shows that whole wheat bread isn’t necessarily always better than white bread for every person.
  2. Artificial sweeteners – It can be hard for those of us with a sweet tooth to opt for foods that don’t contain much sugar, so as a substitute the food industry has developed artificial sweeteners. Advertised as being much healthier than sugar itself, sucralose and aspartame are commonly found in our favorite snacks and drinks. Yet new studies have shown that the consumption of these products greatly increases your risk for weight gain, diabetes, and even heart disease.
  3. Skim milk – The war on fat seems to be never ending, and for years we’ve heard that drinking a low-fat milk is healthier and better for your waistline than its whole milk counterparts. However, the science behind skim milk actually tells a different story, because when we deprive our bodies of fat, we instantly start to crave carbs and sugar to help stabilize our blood sugar. The consumption of these foods can ultimately lead to far poorer health overall than drinking whole milk to begin with.
  4. Rice cakes – How many of us have been on a mission to lose weight or lead a healthier lifestyle and thought of rice cakes as the holy grail of food? Eating such a low-calorie snack felt like a dream come true, but if you look at the nutritional value of rice cakes you’ll find there’s practically nothing in them. Contrary to popular belief, that’s actually a bad thing, as the carbohydrates in them tend to spike food cravings.
  5. Store bought trail mix – Theoretically, this outdoor snack can hold a lot of nutritional value if you take the time to prepare it yourself. Buying nuts in bulk and drying your own fruit can result in a tasty treat, but many individuals don’t have time for that. The store bought version doesn’t just contain nuts and fruits, but often times have chocolate pieces as well as a host of extra oils, fats, sugars, and preservatives.
  6. “Fat-free” foods – Those who want to lose weight or improve their diet are often tricked into thinking that fat in our food is the enemy. The emergence of “fat-free” foods can lead people into thinking they’re making a healthy choice, yet many of these products have increased the amount of salts, sugars, and oils to make up for the flavor that’s missing due to there being no fat. Instead, choosing foods with healthy fats and eating in moderation can go much farther toward your goal weight.

Does it seem like all of your favorite healthy foods now have to go out the window because of their hidden ingredients and health concerns? Don’t be discouraged, as there are plenty of options out there that contribute to a nutritious diet without making you feel like you’re missing out.

With just a few simple diet tips to keep in mind like avoiding take out and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, you’ll start to feel better and notice a difference in your overall health. Proper nutrition can taste good without having to be fooled by product marketing and fancy packaging. Remember that we truly are what we eat, so making good choices now can go a long way toward a long and healthy life.