At Brown Bag, we know that you’re trying to turn the page on junk food, but substituting high-calorie/high-sugar/high-sodium/high-fat foods for more healthy alternatives can be tricky.  Did you know that some of the snacks you think are good for you, that you’ve been proudly purchasing in a quest for better health, are actually dressed up junk food?  Many companies have recognized the rising trend toward healthier eating, and they’re cashing in on it to your detriment.  We’ve talked a lot about reading labels, but here we go again…Take a look at this list we’ve compiled of some of the most common “healthy food” offenders.

1.  Dried Fruit–Say it ain’t so!  How many of you have patted yourself on the back for purchasing a bag of raisins or dried apples instead of that Snickers Bar you were eyeing in the company vending machine?  Well, we’re still cheering on your efforts (and the dried fruits are better than grabbing a candy bar), but dried fruits aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  Dried fruits have at least 3 times the calories of their fresh counterparts, and usually they’re full of added sugar as well.  What’s more, they’ve got sulpher to keep them preserved.  Here’s an example: Banana chips have 20% more fat and three times the calories of a fresh banana.  Something to consider: We know that packs of dried fruits like raisins, banana chips and apples are really convenient to throw in your purse or work bag, but lots of fruits travel well.  Apples, for example, are the perfect take-a-long food.  Perhaps you could think about getting a dehydrator (or check to see if your oven has a dehydrating setting) and drying your own fruits.  You control the additives.

2.  Flavored Yogurts–Yogurt is a breakfast staple, we know, but in a quest to lose the fat, you’re gaining chemicals and sugar.  Most people eat yogurt because of the protein content, calcium and probiotics (and the yummy taste!), but they don’t want the fat that can come with most dairy products, hence the birth of fat-free yogurt varieties.  The problem is that when you lose the fat, often you have to replace it with sodium, sugar and chemicals to make it taste like the “real” thing.  You’re keeping food scientists employed, but are you really doing your body any good?  Your body does need fat to function properly, so ingesting reasonable amounts is necessary.  How about switching to an unflavored Greek variety and adding some fresh fruit or a bit of honey to flavor/sweeten it instead?  Did you know that Yoplait’s “Original Strawberry” flavor contains 26 grams of sugar.  That’s equivalent to 2 strawberry frosted donuts from Dunkin Doughnuts. (Source BostInno.com)

3.  Granola:  We know this is a tough one.  We just ruined flavored yogurts and now we’re telling you granola gets an F in the health department?  Well, kind of.  Having just given a small a mini-lecture in a grocery store aisle about the downside of sugary cereals, you can imagine how distressed we were to learn that Cascadian Farm’s granola has 14 grams of sugar/serving; that’s as much as that marshmallow-ly delightful cereal, Lucky Charms.  We love granola because it’s sweet and actually does have some nutrition in it; and it makes us feel good about our breakfast choice.  Despite  all of that nutty goodness, though, it’s sugar-packed and carrying a big sack of calories.  It’s still a better choice than the leprechaun, but consider making your own so you can control the sugar content.

Next week, we’ll continue this list because these foods give us a lot to think about.  We don’t want to demonize them; they are still healthier alternatives to the “quick” snacks people have historically reached for, but they’re not exactly all they’re purported to be either.  Got a food you’re curious about?  Send us a tweet or a Facebook post, and we’ll research it for you!