6 Health Food Rip Offs & What to Buy Instead (PHOTOS)

Adriana Velez | Aug 8, 2014 Food & Party
6 Health Food Rip Offs & What to Buy Instead (PHOTOS)

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Every day there's a new, supposedly healthy super food on grocery shelves promising you eternal youth -- or at least a trimmer figure. Some of those foods are actually legit. They really do deliver a high dose of powerful nutrients. Also? Most of them have been around forever, and you'll find them in the produce aisle. They're called fresh fruits and vegetables. You should try some!

Womp, womp. But seriously, we're not judging you for trying out some of the trendy health foods out there. That can be fun. It's just that some of them are rip offs. You're shelling out a lot of money for food that doesn't actually do that much for you. Here are 6 health food rip offs you can cross off your grocery list.

health food rip offs

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  • Almond Milk


    © iStock/Geo-grafika

    Almond milk and other nut milks are supposed to be good for you, a great source of protein. It's an alternative to cow's milk and soy milk. But what are you buying exactly? Here's how writer Tom Philpott put it: "A jug of almond milk containing roughly 39 cents worth of almonds, plus filtered water and additives, retails for $3.99." An eight-ounce serving of that almond milk gives you one gram each of protein and fiber, plus five grams of fat.

  • Buy Instead: Almonds or Coconut Milk


     © iStock/Alasdair Thomson

    Compare that with a one-ounce serving of almonds -- you know, a handful. If you buy your almonds from the bulk bin, that amount should cost around 66 cents. You get 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). 

    But what if you're lactose intolerant and want something to pour over your cereal? Try raw coconut milk. An 8-ounce serving has 5.5 grams of protein, 5.3 grams of fiber, and loads of healthy fats. Even if you dilute yours with water (to save money or because you like a thinner fluid), it's got almond- and other plant-based milks beat.

  • Prepared Salads


    © iStock/bhofack2

    It's so easy to pull one of those pre-made salads with the candied walnuts and dried cranberries off the shelf thinking you're making a healthy choice. At least you're getting vitamins and fiber from the greens. But those pre-made salads with their dressing and toppings are usually so full of sugar and empty calories, they're practically dessert, which is why people love them. And you just spent $7 to $12 on yours.

  • Buy Instead: Salad Ingredients


    © Marnie Burkhart/Corbis

    A great-tasting salad is really easy to make yourself. Buy a bag of mixed greens. Throw in some cherry tomatoes, chopped corn or cucumbers, maybe some leftover rotisserie chicken, some seeds or nuts. (Your salad will be more satisfying if you add some sort of protein.) If this is your lunch for work, bring a little cup or jar with olive oil with lemon juice and honey, shake it up, and pour over your salad just before eating. Done!

  • Reduced Fat or Fat-Free Foods


    © iStock/Photo-Dave

    For the longest time we were told all fat in food is bad for us. Now, new research shows that some fat can actually be good for us. And those low-fat and fat-free foods that are supposed to be "better" choices? Food manufacturers add sugar and artificial ingredients to make up for the flavor and mouth-taste that comes with lipids. So skip the low-fat peanut butter (what is up with that?!?), fat-free cream cheese, skim milk, and good Lord, the reduced-fat ice cream.

  • Buy Instead: High-Quality Fat


    © Ingeborg Knol/imagebroker/Corbis

    That doesn't mean we should raid the freezer aisles and live on ice cream every day. (I wish!) But be selective about the full-fat foods you buy. Try whole milk or yogurt that's from mostly-grass-fed cows not given hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics. Have that regular cheese, or the peanut butter, in moderation. You may be surprised at how satisfying they are, which means you can eat less of them. And you're not paying someone to take out the fat and add a bunch of less-healthful ingredients back in.

  • Juices & Smoothies


    © iStock/viennetta

    You don't have to eat your veggies -- you can drink them instead! Or so we've been led to believe. Oh it's so tempting to go this route, and they make it so easy. But juices give you all the sugar without the fiber. And the smoothies you buy are often filled with extra sugar and syrups. That $5 you just spent on a smoothie? Consider that dessert, not a healthy choice.

  • Buy Instead: Fresh Fruit & Yogurt


    © iStock/IngaNielsen

    It costs less to make your own fruit smoothie -- just put fresh or frozen fruit in the blender with yogurt. Not sweet enough? Maybe add some honey. But here's the thing about sugar: When you start eating less of it, your palate adjusts over time, you crave it less, and next thing you know, you'll actually prefer less-sweet foods. 

  • Trail Mix & Nut Mixes



    I admit, I love all the new nut mixes out there -- curry-flavored cashews with dried pineapple chunks and coconut flakes? Yes, please! But for me, they're a special-occasion treat. For one thing, they're ridiculously expensive. For another, they tend to be (yes, this again) high in sugar. Some trail mixes come with chocolate candies, yogurt-coated raisins, and other treats. You can do better.

  • Buy Instead: Raid the Bulk Bins


    © iStock/bhofack2

    If you make your own trail mix, you can control the nutritional value of what's in your mix better -- and you'll save money. Go through the bulk bins and gather nuts, seeds, and maybe a small amount of dried fruit (very small, since that stuff is loaded with sugar), then mix it all together and store in a jar or plastic container.

  • Kombucha


    © iStock/Scrofula

    Okay, this one is going to hurt. I admit, I've been hooked on kombucha. I used to buy a bottle whenever I was feeling under the weather, and it would usually revive me. But then one day I looked at the ingredients list and realized something: I probably had to attribute at least some of that perk to the 4 teaspoons of sugar.

    The thing is, you have to use sugar to make kombucha. More research needs to be done before we know for certain whether it really lives up to the health claims (curing joint pain, really???). I think we know probiotics are great for us, but there are probably better ways to get them. And $4 for a bottle of fermented, sugary tea is maybe not $4 well spent. (Making your own is a different story.)

  • Buy Instead: Other Fermented Foods


    © iStock/Lehner

    Fortunately, you can get your probiotics from many other sources: Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, soft cheeses, kefir, yogurt, sourdough bread, pickles, and tempeh. Watch the sodium in some of these -- moderation is key, even when it comes to health food.

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