What you turn to for a light breakfast or a healthy mid-afternoon snack may be deceivingly bad for you, according to a new survey from The New York Times. With the help of media and polling firm Morning Consult, Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz of the Times asked hundreds of certified nutritionists and a representative sample of the American electorate one simple question: Which foods are good for you?
After cycling through 50 different items, a clear line emerged between which foods Americans think are healthy and which are actually healthy by a nutritionist’s standards. Five items stood out as being particularly misunderstood by the general public: granola, granola bars, coconut oil, orange juice, and frozen yogurt. While the average joes rated these five foods as healthy, nutritionists disagreed by a substantial margin. Granola bars drew the most polarizing responses, with 71% of people believing them to be healthy, compared to just 28% of nutritionists.
What do these five foods all have in common? Lots of added sugar, an unhealthy ingredient targeted in the Food and Drug Administration’s recent nutrition label revisions. While sugar’s many negatives may be common knowledge to those in the industry, there’s a good chance that this information has yet to reach the masses, let alone evolve into a widely accepted cultural norm. What’s more, foods containing added sugar are hard to spot: Salad dressings, pasta sauces, and certain brands of white bread all contain high amounts of added sugar, according to Sanger-Katz. Ridding your diet of sugar is much more difficult than you think.