11 unhealthy foods made healthy

1. Favourite food: Pretzels and chips
The swap: Popcorn is a whole grain, so it is more fibre-rich than pretzels, says Rosenbloom. Plus, those little kernels are known to have even more polyphenols (disease-fighting antioxidants) than fruits and veggies. Skip the microwave versions and air-pop your own. Add a pinch of salt or spices (try cayenne pepper or rosemary) for added flavour.

Don't swap: Chips
"Healthy" chips made from vegetables, lentils or beans might sound better than the simple-starch-filled potato variety, but the fat, calorie and sodium levels are often just as bad. "Don’t let healthy ingredients trick you into thinking the whole thing is healthy," says Rosenbloom.

2. Favourite food: Creamy dips
The swap: Store-bought veggie and chip dips are often filled with fat, sugar and sodium. Make your own with fat-free or two percent Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise or sour cream. It’s just as thick, but with less fat and more protein. Or, to kick it up a notch, make a dip out of puréed white beans, which contain iron, protein and fibre. Replace the salt with other satisfying flavours such as finely chopped onion, garlic or hot peppers.

3. Favourite food: Cookies, brownies, muffins and cakes
The swap: When making baked goods, use whole grain flours such as oat, barley, quinoa or brown rice. Skip recipes that use shortening or lard, and substitute half of the butter or oil with puréed fruits, such as apples or prunes. And for a boost of healthy fats, add nuts to your batter or use them as a healthful crumble topping.

Don't swap: Donuts and croissants
Unfortunately there is no good way to replicate deep-fried dough or buttery pastry without all the fat. When it comes to these pastry-shop treats, Rosenbloom says you should just enjoy the real thing—but only on occasion.

4. Favourite food: Pop
The swap: Take sparkling water and add your own flavouring, such as orange juice, a squeeze of lemon or even a cinnamon stick. "Pop is basically carbonated water with sugar, caramel colour and flavouring," explains Rosenbloom. What’s more, one bottle can have around 70 grams of sugar. Research suggests that drinking just one 12-ounce can of pop per day can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Also, the acid in soda causes tooth erosion.

Don't swap: Candy
"There isn’t really a replacement for candy," says Rosenbloom. Those fruit snacks and leathers that pretend to be healthful alternatives? "They basically take fruit purée and turn it into licorice or gummy bears. But when you take fruit and concentrate it, you’ve just produced sugar."

5. Favourite food: Lattes
The swap: Luckily, these decadent drinks can be customized to cut calories. Your first move should be to switch to skim milk. "If you don’t ask at the coffee shop, the default is usually whole milk or two percent," says Rosenbloom. Also ask if you can omit syrup (or make it half-sweet), whipped cream and calorie-packed caramel or chocolate drizzles, then add your own flavour by sprinkling cocoa powder or cinnamon on top. A tall skim-milk latte doesn’t have to be much more than 100 calories. It’s the extras that make it unhealthy.

6. Favourite food: Sushi and Asian stir-fries
The swap: These can seem like healthy options because they’re packed with veggies or raw fish. But just one tablespoon of soy sauce contains a whopping 1,160 milligrams of sodium, making it easy to consume double or even triple the daily recommended amount in one sitting. (You’re only meant to get 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.) Even low-sodium soy sauce can be way over the limit. When dining out, try getting sushi seasoned with wasabi instead of soy sauce, or get a side of spicy mayo for dipping. When ordering stir-fries, ask for the sauce to be served on the side.

Don't swap: Fried foods
"The biggest red flag at a restaurant is a plate with only one colour on it: beige,"says Rosenbloom. Battered fish, chicken fingers and fries are mostly fat, salt and not a whole lot else. Just forgo these meals altogether. No matter how healthy the protein inside, once fried and battered, it’s a nutritional nightmare.

7. Favourite food: Creamy pasta
The swap: Opt for pasta tossed with pesto instead of a thick, creamy sauce, suggests Rosenbloom. You’ll get less saturated fat and more healthful fats from the nuts and olive oil. Though high in unsaturated fat, pesto tends to be used more sparingly. Another good alternative: marinara sauce, which delivers less fat and more antioxidants, including vitamins A and C.

8. Favourite food: Hamburgers
The swap: Start with extra-lean ground beef, turkey or chicken and make your own from scratch. "But what really matters with burgers is not so much the meat but the condiments," says Rosenbloom. "That’s where you get into trouble with sugar and sodium." Avoid piling ketchup, relish and mayonnaise on your burger. Instead, try tomatoes, salsas, grilled portobellos, avocados or sautéed onions, and choose a smaller bun made with whole grains.

Don't swap: Hot dogs
Ignore the health claims of all-beef or low-fat hot dogs. All processed meats should be avoided. "They are linked with colon cancer—at any amount," says Rosenbloom. Hot dogs and deli meats contain a dangerous combo of sodium, carnitine and nitrates. According to a review published in Nutrition and Cancer, people who eat processed meats frequently could be increasing their risk of colon cancer by a whopping 20 to 50 percent.

9. Favourite food: Steak
The swap: Grilling up a steak once in a while won’t do much damage to your diet, but don’t make a regular habit of it. That T-bone or rib-eye has a lot of unnecessary fat and calories. Try switching to an eye of round or top sirloin cut—you could trim your fat intake by as much as 70 percent. And opt for a homemade spice rub instead of a store-bought, sodium-laden steak sauce.

10. Favourite food: Boxed cereals
The swap: As a general rule, all of your cereals and granolas should look like the grains they’re made from. Once processed into a circle or alphabet shape, they’ve lost a lot of nutritional value. Opt for puffed cereals (such as rice or quinoa) or pick a muesli made with oats, dried fruit and nuts.

11. Favourite food: Spaghetti
The swap: Try Rosenbloom’s recipe for a healthier pasta: Start with noodles made from whole grains, quinoa, brown rice or even lentils, then cook until just al dente. That bit of firmness in the centre of the noodles makes the pasta harder for your body to break down, says Rosenbloom. And the longer your body takes to digest the carbs, the more your blood sugars remain stable. Add a homemade tomato sauce (some store-bought versions contain added sugar and more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium per cup) made with olive oil, onion, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, all simmered for about 15 minutes. The cooked tomatoes add a healthy dose of cancer-preventing lycopene.