Even in this age of “constant connectivity” and access to the Internet, there's still plenty of false information spread throughout society. Sadly, this causes gym-goers to buy into myths about what they should look for when they make their weekly grocery store run. Whether you’re an experienced bodybuilder or a newcomer to the health and fitness realm, you might not know about these “secretly” unhealthy food options.

Keep reading as this article takes a look at five common foods that appear healthy but are actually full of empty calories and additives.

Low-Fat/Fat-Free Salad Dressing

Sadly, many fitness enthusiasts totally negate the healthy aspects of salads by drenching them in fat-/sugar-laden dressings.

I realize that salad without dressing is unequivocally terrible, but even the "light" salad dressings are not as healthy as they seem.

Just one serving of common light ranch and light French dressings can pack upwards of 10 grams of fat and 100+ calories to a salad. And let’s be honest, very few people use a measly two tablespoons (one serving) of dressing per salad.

Worse yet, many people add other ingredients to their salads, like bacon, cheese crumbles, and croutons. Ultimately, these seemingly "healthy" salads can pack 700-800 calories!

With some creativity and simple substitutions you can make salads taste great and be healthy. I recommend dressing them with vinegar, spices/herbs/pepper, lemon juice and olive oil; you'll be surprised at just how much flavor is added without all the extra empty calories.

→ Better choice: Homemade dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Fruit Juices and Premade Smoothies

There's no doubt that smoothies and juices can be healthful, particularly if you make them on your own with whole fruits and minimize the added sugar. Sadly however, when you purchase the premade juice/smoothie options in the grocery shop or at restaurants, chances are they are packed with added sugar and other additives.

Moreover, even “natural” fruit juice choices still contain sugar as the 2nd ingredient (remember, numerous sugars are "natural" but that doesn't imply they're healthy in large amounts).

→ Better choice: Concoct your own fruit juice or smoothie using whole fruit, protein powder, amino acids, stevia, etc. and a juicer/blender or food processor.

Granola Bars/Cereal Bars

I want to make it clear that not all breakfast cereals and breakfast bars are wholly unhealthy. However, some of the purportedly “healthy” breakfast cereal-based bars, like Nature’s Valley and Special K bars, are not nearly as nutritious as they seem. Just check the ingredients in these bars: Most of them start with a type of processed flour/grain followed by sugar.

Many consumers are quick to understand that things like a Reese's Puffs cereal bar is not going to be healthy selection; yet, they get fooled into purchasing the previously mentioned "healthy" cereal bar varieties. Even the timeless breakfast granola bars are often packed with added sugars and little nutritive worth beyond that. Heck, just one cup of store-bought granola may contain upwards of 600 calories (mostly from sugar and fat)!

My advice is to swap out these traditional cereals (and cereal bars) for whole-grain options that are high in fiber, like rolled oats. There are lots of ways you can make your own whole-grain foods for on-the-go with much healthier nutrient profiles.

→ Better choice: Homemade granola or oat bars (use protein powder or even exogenous ketones for an easy, healthy on-the-go snack)

Mpa Products

Processed Cold Cuts (Deli Meat)

Deli meats/cold cuts are a dietary staple in much of the United States and Europe.

Unfortunately, the store-bought varieties of deli meat are typically processed with loads of sodium to maintain adequate shelf-life (not to mention other ingredients like nitrates). Even two modest slices of deli turkey may yield over 30% of your recommended daily sodium intake.

And let's be real, nobody makes a cold-cut sandwich with two small pieces of turkey; chances are they're loading on a minimum of four or five, which is nearly their entire recommended daily allotment of sodium.

Moreover, the sodium in deli meat isn't the only concern; a number of cold cuts are likewise loaded with saturated fat (e.g. salami, corned beef, bologna, etc.).

If you absolutely want some cold cuts in your diet, your best option is to go with lean, lower-sodium selections, and restrict them to one serving daily. Even better, just swap them out for lean unprocessed protein sources like chicken and turkey breast.

→ Better choice: Fresh meat & poultry with herbs/spices (cooked at low heat)

Dried/Candied Fruit

Dried and candied fruits are frequently touted as being a guilt-free treat, particularly for kids. After all, they taste amazing and are made from absolutely nothing but fruit, right? Nope. Dried fruits are normally fried in oil and packed with added sweeteners. Not to mention, a great deal of the micronutrient content gets lost in the process.

Furthermore, one serving of dried/candied fruit is nowhere near as satiating as a serving of whole fruit, and the fiber content of the former is nonexistent. This results in people eating numerous calorie-dense portions of dried fruits, which can tally upwards of 30+ grams of sugar in a matter of minutes.

Be careful of dried/candied fruit consumption, and keep it minimal if you want to indulge a bit.

→ Better choice: Whole fruits (you can dehydrate them yourself without all the added sugar)


With health foods being a major focus of fitness-oriented individuals and bodybuilders alike, it’s only necessary that we start to expose these seemingly “healthy” foods for what they really are. Hopefully, you can use a few of the alternative options that were recommended in this article to make smarter, healthier food selections on your next grocery shopping trip.