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"Eat it Thinking it's a Cookie:" Top 9 Foods that Might Not Be as Healthy as You Thought

Eating Sweets and Treats

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I have nothing against a good sweet or treat. In fact, I encourage my patients to make sure that when they choose to have a sweet or treat, they pick something they genuinely enjoy. And when they are eating it, they should give themselves the time to really enjoy it.

That being said, I don't like when people get misled into thinking sweets and treats are health foods. In short, there is nothing wrong with eating a sweet or treat, but it is helpful to understand what you are eating so you can understand how it plays into your whole diet.

stack of pancakes with butter and syrup

Foods that Masquerade as Nutritious and are Not as Healthy as You Thought

There are numerous foods that you might assume are healthy but are not as healthy as you thought. Sometimes this is because foods are marketed as being nutritious when they really are actually not as nutritious as they seem. Others times this is because of how they are perceived culturally. Take a look at this list of my top 9 foods that masquerade as nutritious.


Pancakes, a quintessential breakfast food. These soft cakes piled high and topped with maple syrup are delicious! But a well-rounded breakfast food, they are not. The ingredients are more similar to cake, and once the syrup is added on top, their sugar content matches or exceeds cake. So eat it knowing what it is, not assuming it is a nutrient-dense breakfast.


With similar ingredients to pancakes, waffles are another breakfast favorite. The crispy raised edges that hold toppings perfectly add to the pleasurable eating experience. While exceedingly yummy, again, they are nutritionally similar to cake. Eat waffles for their cakeyness, not for their nutrition.


Crunchy granola on yogurt... the textural experience and the sweet flavor makes granola a classic go-to. Nutritionally, granola can be similar to oatmeal cookies. With granola, there are varieties that are lower in added sugar, and some can also be higher in fiber than cookies, so with this one, a bit of product comparing can help you decide if you want a cookie experience or not.

Granola Bars

Similar to granola, many granola bars are cookies pretending to be health foods. Often, it is only the shape that separates a granola bar from a cookie. Too frequently, the granola bars barely even top cookies in terms of fiber! Eat it and enjoy it, but eat it thinking it's a glorified cookie.

Breakfast Cereal

This is a touchy one... we assume they are healthy because they are breakfast cereals. Many even are promoted for their vitamins and minerals. It is true that breakfast cereals often have added vitamins and minerals, but when looking at the macronutrients, some breakfast cereals are nutritionally like snack foods. With breakfast cereal though, there is a lot of diversity. Some are nutritionally dense, and others I'd consider to be vitamin-fortified snack foods.


Yogurt is another food that can go either way in terms of nutrition. A plain yogurt is simply milk and bacterial cultures, with no added sugar. In contrast, many flavored yogurts and yogurts with toppings have more sugar than you'd expect. Don't make assumptions, and check the label. And when you choose a sweetened yogurt, enjoy it for what it is.

Fruit Ices and Ice Pops

But they say they are made with fruit! True that they are, but take a look at the ingredients...all of them. Any type of sugar, including cane sugar and corn syrup are considered added sugars. Fruit juice in the ingredient list is also an added sugar. Once a fruit is juiced, the fiber is removed, and what is left is the liquid and sugar from the fruit. Don't confuse a dessert that contains fruit with an actual fruit! And on that hot day that calls for an ice pop, enjoy it as an ice pop, not for it's resemblance to fruit.

Fruit Snacks

This is one that parents of littles often give their kids thinking that it is at least a fruit. If fruit snacks do contain any remnants of fruit, it is mostly fruit juice, and the other ingredients include sugar, corn syrup, and other versions of sugar. So this one is squarely a candy, not a fruit. When the time calls for a candy, this could be your choice; when the time calls for a fruit, maybe go with an actual fruit.

Veggie Straws

Again, another go-to snack for kids who don't eat least they get them this way, right? Unfortunately, it's a no again. The vegetable content in these snacks comes from potato starch and corn starch colored with some other vegetable powders. They do not contain any of the fiber from the vegetables they are pretending to be, and they have miniscule amounts of vitamins. If you want a snack food, this is a tasty option, but it doesn't count as a vegetable.

How to Approach Foods That are Not As Healthy As You Thought

I think that it is really important to understand that most of us do not need to eat highly nutritious foods at the exclusion of all else. Many people opt to include some sweets and treats in their eating pattern. These foods provide pleasure and enjoyment in life. Here is my opinion. When you want a sweet or treat, choose one you really like. Don't choose a non-nutritious food that is marketed as nutritious because you think it is better for you. Choose it if you truly want it for its sweet or treat nature.

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