5 “Health” Foods that May Not Be Healthy
Posted by Becky Lake on March 12, 2012 at 11:42 AM
The grocery store can be a minefield for a diet. With every box and bag screaming their health benefits down every aisle, it’s hard to know what’s good and what’s not. We all want to eat better, whether you want to drop a few pounds or feel better on your next run. But eating healthy can be harder than you think thanks to creative marketing. I know that words such as “low fat,” “high fiber,” “multigrain” and “natural” can fool even the most careful customers into believing what they’re buying is healthful. So what can you do? First, make a habit of reading the ingredients list, not just the Nutrition Facts panel. Anything you can’t pronounce? Probably not worth putting in your body. And remember the following products worth resisting.
Reduced-fat peanut butter
All fats are not created equal. The oil is the healthiest part of a nut, containing most of the nutrients, so there’s no advantage to taking it out. In fact, it’s worse because it robs the peanut butter of its health benefits. In this case, the minimal calorie difference isn’t enough to offset the extra sugar they add in to cover up the missing fat!
Instead: Buy regular peanut butter. Eating one or two ounces of nuts daily is associated with reductions in heart disease and cancer risk. And a recent Harvard study showed that eating nuts is associated with lower body weights. Just watch your portions…those tablespoons add up fast.
Drinks such as Vitaminwater are essentially sugary drinks with a vitamin pill. Whether vitamins dissolved in water have any benefit will depend on who you are and whether you are already getting enough. Some people may be getting too much of some vitamins and minerals if they add vitamin water on top of other fortified foods and supplements. And watch out for the zero calorie options. Artificial sweeteners have their own set of issues.
Instead: Drink water, ideally from the tap. It’s the best drink for hydrating your body, is naturally calorie-free and contains fluoride to prevent tooth decay. No supplement matches the nutrients in foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
The reputation of energy and meal replacement bars is that they are healthy, aid in weight loss or help build muscle. In fact, they are little more than candy bars with vitamins, protein or fiber added. For most of them, sugar is either the first or second ingredient.
Instead: Snack on fruit or veggies for weight loss and yogurt for muscle gain. If you are on the go and need a good option, look for bars with less than 200 calories, as little sugar as possible, and high levels of fiber and protein to make sure you stay full.
Multigrain breads, crackers and cereals are often the most confusing foods. People see the buzzword “multigrain” and think “whole grain.” Which isn’t necessarily the case. This is an important distinction because people who eat whole grains have a lower incidence of disease and are less likely to be overweight compared with those who eat refined grains like white pasta and bread. Note that when “enriched wheat flour” is listed in the ingredients, that’s refined flour.
Instead: Be sure a whole grain, such as whole wheat, whole oats or brown rice, is the first and preferably the only grain in the ingredient list. A great example is a cereal listing whole rolled oats as the only grain. Alternatively, consider a high protein egg or greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast.
Non-fried chips and crackers
It’s easy to believe these foods are healthful because of labels such as “baked,” “low fat” or “gluten free.” But most are made with refined grain or starch, which provide plenty of calories and few nutrients. Popchips, for example, are a new product marketed as healthful. But the ingredients are highly refined potato flakes, starch, oil, salt and about 14 additional things. Pita chips, made with white flour, oil, salt and several more ingredients, are no better. All are easy to overeat and add nothing of value to your diet.
Instead: If you’d like a chip, try Terra Chips, made with sliced vegetables, or even a 100 percent whole grain chip fried in a healthy oil, such as olive or canola. Tortilla chips and SunChips are two examples. A better option: dip carrots, celery, or any other veggie in hummus…you’ll get the crunch you’re craving with far fewer calories.
Next time you’re wandering the grocery aisles keep these tips in mind for a healthier cart and a fitter body.