8 surprising foods that suggest the FDA needs to update its definition of ‘healthy’

Aly Weisman/Business Insider

Last week, nut-filled snack-bar company Kind got into a spat with the Food and Drug Administration over what’s considered healthy.

In March, the FDA issued a warning letter that explained why Kind had to remove the word “healthy” from its labels, along with a “+” sign that once was used between the words antioxidants and protein. (To bear the “+,” the bar needs 10% more of the healthy nutrients in a comparable snack bar.)

Kind isn’t taking the situation lightly, instead challenging the way “healthy” is defined as it relates to fat.

Here’s a rundown of all the foods the FDA considers “healthy,” and those it does not:

Almonds — unhealthy, too much saturated fat.


A cup of almonds has 3.4 grams of saturated fat, above the FDA’s standard of less than 2 grams allowed to be considered healthy. Here’s the reason Kind is upset: Its bars are teeming with almonds, along with other fatty but protein-rich nuts.

Salmon — unhealthy, too much fat.

Shutterstock/Olga Lyubkina

Salmon has 27 grams of fat, far higher than the 5-gram maximum required by the FDA. But it is high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins, all of which are good for you. The jury’s still out on whether omega-3s can protect the brain from cognitive decline and dementia, but at the very least they might be helpful for preventing heart disease. Here’s the reason Kind is upset: Their fruit and nut bar has 11 grams of fat.

Olive oil — unhealthy, too high in fat.


Olive oil may have a whole 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, but that doesn’t mean you have to ditch it. It’s mostly filled with monounsaturated fat, a kind of fat that’s liquid at room temperature and may help prevent heart disease and possibly fend off other diseases.

Campbell’s soups — ok to bear the ‘healthy’ label since it’s low in fat.


The creamy soup fits all of the FDA’s guidelines, with its relatively low (3 grams) fat content. Although it doesn’t have many nutrients, a serving of the chowder is also pretty low in calories but fairly high in carbohydrates, so it doesn’t appear to be particularly healthy or unhealthy.

Avocados — unhealthy, too much fat.

The average avocado has 21 grams of fat, putting it well above the FDA’s “healthy” threshold. However, they’re packed with nutrients like potassium, an important electrolyte, and fiber for digestion, and the kind of fat (monounsaturated) they carry is actually pretty good for you.

Cereal — ok to get the ‘healthy’ label since it’s low-fat.


Raisin Bran has great things (like fiber, which help with digestion) but also boasts a whopping 18 grams of sugar. That’s more than one-third of your daily 50 grams. KIND called out sugary cereals for getting way more lenience when it comes to “healthy” labeling than foods higher in fat. The cereal also packs in some protein, which helps keep you full.

Full-fat plain yogurt — unhealthy, too high in fat.


At 5 grams of saturated fat per serving, full-fat yogurt’s not in a great spot for being considered healthy. However, plain yogurt is relatively low in sugar (Stonyfield’s plain has 12 grams), and it’s packed with protein for keeping you full and with calcium for strong bones.

Eggs — unhealthy, thanks to cholesterol.


Eggs may get a bad rap for having a lot of cholesterol, but they also pack a lot of protein. Plus, research is starting to suggest that cholesterol in food doesn’t have much of an impact on the cholesterol in your blood. Plus, they’re relatively low in fat at 5 grams (the FDA’s threshold), and have B vitamins that may help with brain function and are hard to get from nonanimal sources.