6 Foods That Get a Bad Rep for Being ‘Unhealthy’, but Aren’t

6 Foods That Get a Bad Rep for Being ‘Unhealthy’, but Aren’t
Image: iStock

Some of the things you might think are unhealthy might not actually be as bad as you’d think, particularly if you’re willing to make some customisations to the food in question.

We chatted with a few nutrition pros to figure out what’s healthy and what’s not.

Egg salad doesn’t have to be a bad choice.

Egg salad is often considered an unhealthy choice because it’s often made with a lot of mayonnaise. But just because there’s mayonnaise involved doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not a fine choice for lunch.

Melissa Eboli, a certified culinary nutrition expert and nutritional chef, told us that if you’re making lunch at home, you have more control over what’s in it (and how much), so you can keep the mayo content in check. That way, egg salad can be a high-protein, healthy choice.

Burgers can be customised to be healthier.

6 Foods That Get a Bad Rep for Being ‘Unhealthy’, but Aren’tImage: Hungry Jacks

“I think that is a good example because, like anything, depending what you put on it or how you have it, it can make or break it being healthy or not,” Eboli said. “Obviously, if you’re having a double cheese bacon burger, it’s probably not the healthiest, but you can still enjoy a burger for lunch, let’s say if you forgo the cheese or forgo the bun or obviously don’t have it with the fries.”

Choosing a turkey, chicken, or healthy vegetarian burger or loading up on vegetable toppings can also be sneaky ways to make your burger a bit healthier.

Burritos have an unfair reputation for being unhealthy.

6 Foods That Get a Bad Rep for Being ‘Unhealthy’, but Aren’tImage: iStock

Depending on the burrito you’re eating, it can definitely be a healthy lunch option. You just have to be careful to watch the portion size and ingredients.

“Burritos can get a bad reputation simply because of their size, however, traditional burrito fillings like brown rice and vegetables are fibre-rich and often include plant-based sources of protein like beans,” Allison Knott, MS, RDN, CSSD, a registered dietitian based in Brooklyn, told us.

“Swap a large tortilla for a smaller size to reduce total sodium and consider doubling up on vegetables for additional nutrients.”

Swapping out certain ingredients for others can make quesadillas healthier.

6 Foods That Get a Bad Rep for Being ‘Unhealthy’, but Aren’t

Quesadillas are also notoriously considered unhealthy. But even they don’t have to be that way. Eboli said that swapping a tortilla for a sprouted rice wrap, putting less cheese on it, or opting for a plant-based cheese product might help make your lunch more nutritious.

Salads can be either healthy or unhealthy.

6 Foods That Get a Bad Rep for Being ‘Unhealthy’, but Aren’t

Salads have also gotten a reputation for being unhealthy as of late, as more and more people realise that creamy dressings, cheese, fried toppings, and more can all take a salad from healthy and nutritious to a not-so-healthy choice.

“Always ensure your salad choice has dark leafy greens and lots of additional vegetable toppings,” Knott said. “One way to keep salads interesting is to top with grilled or roasted vegetables for added flavour. Choose plant-based proteins or lean animal proteins and add a whole grain for extra fibre and nutrients.”

Sandwiches don’t always deserve their sometimes unhealthy characterization.

6 Foods That Get a Bad Rep for Being ‘Unhealthy’, but Aren’t

If you’re eating an over-stuffed sandwich made on refined bread, it might not be as nutritious as you’d like it to be. But it’s easy to turn a sandwich into something healthier.

“A simple switch to a whole grain bread can boost the fibre which helps to fill you up and reducing the size of the bread will lower total sodium in most cases,” Knott said.

“Use sandwiches as an opportunity to increase vegetable intake by adding extra veggies as a filling. Lots of vegetables work as a filling, so try to think outside the normal lettuce, tomato, and onion. Squash, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, and peppers are all a great filler for sandwiches. You can also increase healthy fats in the diet by adding avocado, hummus, or a drizzle of olive oil as a spread.”

This story originally appeared on Business Insider and has been update since it was originally published.


  • I read a few years ago that a supreme pizza made right had all the food groups in very close to the right ratio. Except fat, which was double the ratio, or something like that. If so, and you can do something about the fat, it might not be as unhealthy as you think either. With most of the fat coming from cheese, that seems the obvious choice.

    Also note that I dont know how true that is, its just something I read that, after considerable field testing, appears to be pretty accurate to me. Done right there are far more fruit and vegies on a pizza than you realise.

    • Especially if you’re getting pizzas from an independent shop rather than a chain. The best local one near me puts quite a bit of seafood on their pizzas. So you’re also getting the benefits of eating seafood 🙂 That said, they’re super, super oily to the point you really need to wrap them in a paper towel before eating. 🙁

      Back to the article;

      “but you can still enjoy a burger for lunch, let’s say if you forgo the cheese or forgo the bun”

      So not actually a burger then?

      • Central Wollongong is ridiculously over-represented by quality independents so its not hard here 🙂 There are still all the chains as well, but of the Top 10 in the Illawarra as a whole, I think 8 of em are within 5 minutes drive from where I live. 2 or 3 are 5 minutes walk…

        Having said that, I don’t actually mind Dominos supreme. Not that I get them very often, the indies are just that damn good.

        • That’s cool. Sadly in other areas a lot of the local pizza shops are few and far between. There are two decent ones near me, the closest is 10 minutes drive, the better one is 15 minutes 🙁

          I just can’t face Dominos (or pizza hut) unless it’s to get their absolute cheapest $5 type pizza when I’m in a hurry. Their “large” is about the same size as the local shops Small and has about a quarter of the toppings. I wonder whether the quality in Dominos varies from shop to shop, because the supreme here is terrible.

          • Yeah, we have a truckload of burger joints as well that are damn good. A few of us do a week of burgers in July, and we have to leave out a good half dozen as well that would make a regular rotation. One of the places makes an award winning burger that’s remarkably like a Big Mac, with onion rings to die for.

            Its just insane how much the food scene has grown around here. Those are just the fast foods, the restaurant scene has exploded in the last 5 years as well, from traditional restaurants to your restaurant/cocktail bar setup.

            I think quality does vary from Dominos to Dominos myself. While theres a standard process, the local owner would have some scope to cut corners (or not), and mix it up. I wouldn’t put it past some to be cheapskates just to save a couple of bucks.

            Thankfully that doesn’t happen at my local, with all that competition they wouldn’t survive if they did.

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