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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

America's a Little Confused About What Counts as 'Healthy Food'

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Let’s just skip to the important takeaway, here: Despite a widespread public assumption to the contrary, granola bars are probably not “healthy.” Tasty? Well, I can’t tell you how to live your life. But not quite nutritionist-approved.

The New York Times recently surveyed both regular Americans and members of the American Society for Nutrition to see whether they thought 52 food items were healthy or not. While everybody’s got the really obvious ones down—hamburgers and french fries bad, apples and oranges good—“The results suggest a surprising diversity of opinion, even among experts.”

Unsurprisingly, there were several items with gaps between the nutritionists’ consensus and that of that Average Joes. One stand-out: The granola bar. Guess what? They’re basically crap candy bars.

Of the 52 common foods that we asked experts and the public to rate, none had a wider gap than granola bars. More than 70 percent of ordinary Americans we surveyed described it as healthy, but less than a third of nutritional experts did. A similar gap existed for granola, which less than half of nutritionists we surveyed described as healthy.

Several of the foods considered more healthful by everyday Americans than by experts, including frozen yogurt, a SlimFast shake and granola bars, have something in common: They can contain a lot of added sugar.


Meanwhile, nutritionists went harder for quinoa, tofu, sushi, hummus, wine, and shrimp than the general public; the Times theorizes some combination of newness to the American palate and histories of confusing, conflicting media coverage. Then there were the foods that split both demos. Fat-heavy foods like steak and whole milk are still up for debate among nutritionists. But there was also some debate over popcorn, probably because it seems impossible that something so delicious could be even remotely okay for you to eat.

Anyway, granola is a lie.

Photo via AP Images.