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7 food misconceptions debunked to help you make better nutritional choices

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Striving to eat healthier can seem overwhelming.

Some may think they need to cut out all of their favorite foods to truly be healthy, but this is mostly untrue. In fact, some foods that are marketed as ultimate health foods don’t actually merit the praise. At the same time, some foods you may be avoiding might actually be quite good for you. Let’s debunk some common food misconceptions so we can make better-informed and more sustainable food choices for nutrition and enjoyment.

Nutrition science can be confusing, leading to quite a bit of food misinformation. Here are foods and drinks that are often demonized, but actually are quite beneficial for health:


Bananas are touted as being too high in sugar to be healthy. In reality, bananas contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium and fiber, making them a great choice. Plus, bananas, especially green bananas, contain a significant amount of resistant starch. Fiber and resistant starch help to stabilize blood sugar, improve digestion and increase the feeling of fullness after eating.


Coffee’s potential risks are mostly due to its high caffeine content. It has the potential to raise blood pressure and should be limited or avoided by those sensitive to caffeine including pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. At the same time, this beloved antioxidant-rich beverage is known to improve focus, energy levels and performance. Plus, there is evidence that drinking coffee can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and protect against neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Microwave Popcorn

The chemicals used in the flavoring and packaging of microwave popcorn, such as PFCs and diacetyl, have given it a bad rap. However, these chemicals are no longer used in food products in the United States. When this wholegrain snack is made without too much butter, salt or sugar, it is a really good choice. Air-popped popcorn provides one gram of fiber and only 31 calories per cup. The good news is that one serving is three cups.

Frozen Vegetables

Bagged frozen veggies are often thought to be inferior to fresh vegetables. The truth is that frozen vegetables are flash-frozen at the peak of freshness helping them retain their nutrients. This makes frozen vegetables just as nutritious or possibly even more nutritious when compared to fresh vegetables. For the best choice, check the ingredients on the label and steer away from frozen vegetables with added butter, oils, sauces and salt.

And then there are foods with a health halo – that is, a perception of healthfulness even when the claim is unfounded. Even though there are laws protecting against making unsubstantiated health claims, many products seem to skirt these laws. Health halos can strongly influence our grocery purchasing decisions.

Here are some foods that are not as healthful as they may seem:

Rice Cakes

While rice cakes seem like the ultimate health food, most rice cakes available on supermarket shelves are lacking nutritionally. Rice cakes made from refined grains have little to no fiber, which means you may still feel hungry after eating them. Plus, flavored rice cakes can contain added sugar, salt, oils and food coloring.

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Single-Serving Snacks

Although single-serving snacks are designed to help with portion control, this strategy can backfire. Single-serving and 100-calorie snack packs can tempt you to purchase calorie-dense ultra-processed snacks. However, studies have shown that people eat more high-calorie snacks when they are in small packages compared to large packages. Instead, opt for single-serving packages of whole foods and minimally processed snacks like nuts, hummus, guacamole and sliced apples, for example.

Ground Turkey

Ground turkey is a nutritious food, rich in vitamins, minerals and protein. However, it is commonly assumed that ground turkey is naturally extra lean thus low in fat. The fat content of ground turkey can vary and some types of ground turkey have as much fat and saturated fat as lean ground beef. While 90% lean ground turkey contains 10 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat per 4-ounce serving, 99% lean ground turkey contains just 1 gram of fat and 0.5 grams of saturated fat per serving. Be sure to read the label when choosing ground meat.

LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian, providing nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and organizations. She can be reached by email at [email protected].

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