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14 "Health" Foods Worse Than a Donut

Let's not sugarcoat it: We're consuming way too much sugar—but it's not just coming from junk anymore.
Health food donut lead

Americans finally figured out that sugar is bad. How bad exactly? High consumption of sugary foods has been linked to health issues that range from obesity and type 2 diabetes to heart disease and stroke. And thanks to mounting consumer awareness, sales of the sugar industry's golden child—soda—have declined so much over the past 11 years that 2016 will be the first year in recent history that the per-person consumption of "health-conscious" bottled water will surpass soft drink sales. Sorry not sorry, Coke.

Unfortunately, marketers have picked up on the fact that people are looking for more healthy options, and are now slapping misleading labels of health-centric phrases like "whole wheat," "gluten-free," and "low-fat" on foods that are full of as much (and many times, much more) sugar as a Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donut (which, for your reference, has 4 grams).

These health halos usually cover up a bunch of junk in disguise, which can inevitably get in the way of even your most dedicated weight loss efforts. Here at Eat This, Not That!, we don't want you to fall prey to the health-food guise—which is exactly why we've rounded up some of the sneakiest sources of added sugar. (If you're trying to cut out even more added sugars, our Zero Sugar Cookbook could be a great place to start!)

Now, you can see for yourself how much sweet stuff has been injected into fake health foods.  For each product below, we've calculated its sugary donut equivalent.

1

Whole-Grain Cereal

Foods worse than donut honey bunches of oats

Post Honey Bunches of Oats Whole Grain Honey Crunch

Nutrition: 1 cup, 220 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (4 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 4 g protein
Sugar equivalent of: 3 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

It's not really shocking that cereals with the words "froot" or "chocolatey" splattered on their boxes contain added sugar, but did you know that certain "healthy," "whole grain" cereals are equally devious? When grabbing a box off the shelf, be sure to steer clear of the three C's: crunch, crisps, and clusters. This trio is typically code for clumps of rice held together by sugar and fat, like in these Honey (aka corn syrup and caramel color) Bunches of Oats.

2

Dried Fruit

Foods worse than donut craisins

Ocean Spray Original Craisins

Nutrition: ¼ cup, 130 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (3 g fiber, 29 g sugar), 0 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 7 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

Fruit is healthy. In moderation, dried fruit can be healthy. But, in many cases, these dehydrated chewy pieces of carbs might as well be candy. Not only are natural sugars more concentrated in dried fruits than fresh, but manufacturers will also often coat dried fruit in even more sugar. That's definitely the case for these craisins. Cranberries have the lowest sugar content of all fruits, but Ocean Spray took this as an open invite to inject them with as much cane sugar as seven donuts.

3

Salad Dressing

Foods worse than donut salad dressing

Ken's Steak House Fat-Free Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Nutrition: 2 tbsp, 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 16 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 12 g sugar
Sugar Equivalent of: 3 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

They might be marketed as "light" and "fat-free" because their fat has been cut out, but these salad dressings have been loaded with salt and sugar in order to compensate for the loss in flavor. Both ketchup-based dressings (like French, Russian, and Thousand Island) and fruity vinaigrettes (pomegranate, raspberry, and even Ken's sun-dried tomato) will typically include more added sugar than you might assume… like, three donuts worth in only two tablespoons. Yikes.

4

Fruit Yogurt

Foods worse than donut fruit yogurt

Yoplait Thick & Creamy Peaches 'n Cream

Nutrition: 1 container, 180 calories, 2.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (0 g fiber, 28 g sugar) 7 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 7 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

Yes, some of the sugar in dairy yogurts is naturally-occurring in the form of lactose, but it's the added sugar typical of fruit yogurts that you need to watch out for. While many fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts can attribute some of those extra sugars to real fruit pieces, Yoplait can't make the same claim for this Peaches 'n Cream flavor. The peach is just "natural flavor," food coloring, and, you guessed it, sugar.

5

Fruit Juice

Foods worse than donut fruit juice

Langers Mango Nectar

Nutrition: 1 cup, 140 calories, 0 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (0 g fiber, 35 g sugar), 0 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 9 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

Just because fruit is healthy, that doesn't mean fruit juice is a waist-friendly pick. Plus, labels that shout "made from real fruit!" simply mean that at some point, at least one slice of fruit came into contact with this concoction. Langers Mango Nectar, for instance, is mostly filtered water with some mango puree, citric acid, natural flavor, and lots and lots of sugar. More specifically, be wary of juice "cocktails," which is code for "loaded with sugar." Instead, opt for juices that are 100 perfect fruit juice, or, better yet, whip up one of these 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss.

6

Granola

Foods worse than donut granola

Organic Gemini Tiger Nut Raw Granola: Banana Cacao

Nutrition: 2 oz, 330 calories, 14 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 5 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (14 g fiber, 37 g sugar), 5 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 9 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

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Just because granola is usually paired with breakfast's new golden child, yogurt, doesn't mean it belongs in the picture of good health—especially this specific concoction. Granola is usually clumps of rolled oats stuck together with caramelized sugars, but Organic Gemini's seems to be clumps of sugar disrupted by pieces of tiger nuts. Steer clear.

7

"Skinny" Ice Creams

Foods worse than donut ice cream

Skinny Cow Vanilla Caramel Cone

Nutrition: 1 cone, 160 calories, 3.5 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 65 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (2 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 4 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 4 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

It's easy to think that ice creams that market themselves as "skinny" are the way to go if you don't want to end up looking like a cow (especially since many ice creams are loaded with saturated fats). But some spots lie. The real winning strategy isn't eating light ice cream—it's eating moderate portions of the normal stuff. "Skinny" ice cream is loaded with inflammatory oils, sweeteners, and chemicals to give it taste without the added calories.

8

100-Calorie Snack Packs

Foods worse than donut 100 calorie

Nabisco 100-Calorie Pack, Oreo Thin Crisps

Nutrition: 1 pack, 100 calories, 0 g fat, 150 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 1 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 2 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

Cutting cals may be the main key to losing weight, but they shouldn't be your only guide for choosing which foods to eat. And that's certainly the case for these Oreo Thins. Sure, they might only be 100 calories, but that doesn't mean they're "healthy." In fact, with two donuts worth of health-harming sugars, these could lead to you being skinny fat if you make them a daily indulgence.

9

Whole-Grain Bread

Foods worse than donut whole grain bread

Pepperidge Farm Honey Wheat Whole Grain Bread

Nutrition: Per 1 slice, 110 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 5 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 1 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

No slice of bread should have the same amount of sugar as a donut. Period. So don't be fooled by the classic marketing technique that feeds off of many people's well-founded avoidance of refined, white flour. Companies try to replicate the same sweet taste consumers love from simple-sugar-laden white breads by stuffing whole grain loaves with even more sweet stuff.

10

Energy Bars

Foods worse than donut energy bar

Clif Bar Carrot Cake

Nutrition: 1 bar, 240 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 45 g carbs (5 g fiber, 25 g sugar), 9 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 6 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

If you're recovering from a hard cardio workout, energy bars might be a good option to replenish spent glycogen stores. But, if you're grabbing and munching on one without breaking a sweat first, you could be harming your health. Clif Bars, in particular, are teeming with added sugars—which are still bad news even if they are organic. In fact, the first ingredient in these bars is organic brown rice syrup, followed by organic cane syrup, organic dried cane syrup (aka sugar, sugar, and more sugar), and barley malt extract.

11

Smoothies

Foods worse than donut smoothie

Odwalla Strawberry C Monster

Nutrition: 1 bottle, 240 calories, 0 g fat, 35 mg sodium, 58 g carbs (0 g fiber, 48 g sugar), 1 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 12 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

Homemade smoothies are one thing; store-bought is another. Bottled smoothies, like Odwalla's, are often overflowing (seriously, 12 donuts worth!?) with sugar, most of which is naturally occurring. However, when fruit juice concentrates are added to sweeten products, it's just as bad as adding high fructose syrup, as these natural sugars are lacking in fruit's waist-whittling partner in crime: Fiber.

12

Instant Oatmeal

Foods worse than donut oatmeal

Oat Revolution Maple & Brown Sugar Thick Cut Oats

Nutrition: 1 packet, 160 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (3 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 4 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 3 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

If you don't have 45 minutes to spare in the mornings to whip up a batch of fiber-rich, steel-cut oats, instant oats may feel like your only time-saving solution. (Psst, they're not! Check out the wonder that is overnight oats.) What they make up for in time saved though, they lack in nutrients. Even worse, if you're grabbing a packet of Oat Revolution Maple & Brown Sugar oats, know that it's packed with loads of added sugar.

13

Organic Fruit Snacks

Foods worse than donut gummy snack

Annie's Organic Bernie's Farm Fruit Snacks

Nutrition: 1 pouch, 70 calories, 0 g fat, 35 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (0 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 0 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 3 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

Yes, organic foods are raised without weight gain-inducing pesticides, but don't let that blindside you to what's lurking in your snack. Organic gummy fruit snacks can be just as harmful to your health as "regular" brands of the sweet drops. The very first ingredient in these Annie's snacks is organic tapioca syrup, then organic cane sugar and juice concentrates. If you're craving something sweet, your best bet is to eat real fruit so you can get the satiating fiber and nutrients that come along with it.

14

Sports Drinks

Foods worse than donut drinks

VitaminWater Power-C Dragon Fruit

Nutrition: 20 fl oz bottle, 120 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (0 g fiber, 32 g sugar), 0 g protein
Sugar Equivalent of: 8 Dunkin Donuts Sugar Raised Donuts

Don't let your need for vitamin C justify this purchase (just nosh on a couple strawberries!). VitaminWater is far from what it's marketed as and should typically only be had if you're a marathoner in need of replenishing carbs—not a person sipping on this pink beverage at their desk. Not only does this bottle serve up just as much sugar as a can of Coke, it's also the sugar-equivalent of eight donuts. No amount of vitamins are worth that.

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Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is a senior editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more