Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a key factor to building long-term health and wellness.  But food choices are hard to make, especially with so many items on grocery shelves that feature health claims right on the label.

Unfortunately, our commitments to make healthy choices have created an industry of so-called “health” foods – which are really junk food in sheep’s packaging.

Here  are “healthy” choices you should reconsider:

Fruit Juices/Healthy Energy Drinks – It doesn’t matter if the drink says it will stimulate your brain or relax your muscles; it definitely has more sugar than you want.  The easiest way to wipe out all the good you did on the treadmill is to drink back all the calories you burned with one of these unhealthy beverages.  And low and no calorie options aren’t a better choice since they’re loaded with unhealthy artificial sweeteners.

Consider Instead: A water bottle with slices of cucumber or lemon in it will keep the drink refreshing-tasting and low calorie.

Energy Bars – Whether it’s supposed to power you through the day or fill you up between meals, energy bars are bad news.  They often contain the same (or more!) calories and sugar content as a candy bar and they taste worse, to boot.  The added vitamins and minerals are nothing compared to what you can get from natural foods and the claim to fill you up is mostly bogus.  The sugar will have you feeling good temporarily, and then yearning for a second serving as your blood sugar crashes.

Consider Instead: An apple, orange, or another piece of your favorite fruit.

Yogurt – Yes yogurt can be a good source of probiotics (gut microbes that help your body digest), but if the carton you’re eating tastes like Key Lime Pie, just say no.  In an effort to create more desire for the fermented dairy product, producers have added so much sugar and coloring that yogurt frequently tastes more like ice cream than tangy yogurt.

Consider Instead: Unsweetened, unflavored, Greek-style yogurt with your favorite berries.

Trail Mix – Trail Mix is often an enticing choice because of the high proportion of healthy nuts and fruits compared to the much lower chocolate content. Sadly, this doesn’t make it a health food.  The nuts are covered in salt, the fruit in sugar, and the bits of chocolate are, well, chocolate! The combination of salty and sweet entices you to eat more, even if you’re full.  Before you know it, you’ve eaten over 1000 calories of trail mix in just a few minutes.  A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself this question: Am I hiking or will I soon be hiking a trail?  Is the answer no?  Then leave the trail mix alone.

Consider instead: A bag of raw, cut veggies and healthy dip like hummus or Greek yogurt.

Anything “reduced-fat,” “low-fat,” or “guilt-free” – If you’re looking for a snack and you see any of these labels, run.  None of these choices are for you.  Manufacturers often add tons of sugar to make up for low-fat content in products, and up until recently, they usually added trans-fats as well.  Furthermore, people tend to eat more of a snack-food if they considered it to be a healthier choice.  This wipes out any benefit of a lower calorie or sugar content!

Consider instead: Foods with no labels.  That’s right; consider healthy fresh produce, the kind that doesn’t come with a label or ingredients list.

What are some of your favorite healthy snacks?