It’s hard to eat healthy when there’s so much junk food to choose from — but some of the most sugary foods have managed to convince a lot of us that they are healthy. A recent New York Times survey finds that most people overestimate the healthiness of orange juice, frozen yogurt and especially granola bars.
Photo by Sheila Sund.
The data comes from asking members of the American Society for Nutrition whether they thought certain foods were healthy, and comparing their answers to a sample meant to be representative of all Americans. Though the survey focused on Americans, it’s a fair bet that you’ll find similar misconceptions in Australia. The biggest disagreements included the foods mentioned above, plus Slim-Fast shakes, American cheese and coconut oil.
Granola was invented as a health food in the 1800s, but it’s changed a lot since then, with lots of sugar added. Now, it’s among the breakfast foods that are barely distinguishable from dessert. Coconut oil is maybe slightly better for you than other oils, but a spoonful of coconut oil is still just a spoonful of oil.
In truth, a single food isn’t “healthy” or “unhealthy” by itself, but the foods that nutritionists ranked as healthy are the ones that are easiest to fit into a diet that’s good for your body. The good news is that plenty of foods earned the opposite result: Even though the average American wasn’t sure if hummus, wine or sushi is healthy, nutritionists overwhelmingly gave these foods the thumbs-up.