You hear it constantly from doctors and even health infomercials on TV. Everyone’s telling you to “eat healthy” these days. But what does that really mean? Aren’t your “all natural” energy bars or “diet” drinks making a positive impact on your health?
“Food packages look like billboard advertisements and are packed with deceptive symbols and phrases to lure you into making a purchase,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., author of “Read It Before You Eat It.” However, you might be surprised to learn that some foods that are advertised as “healthy” may actually not be as good for you as you think.
So how do you know which foods to cut out of your diet? Find out which so-called “healthy” foods to skip:
Granola or protein bars
While some types of granola offer many health benefits like being high in fiber, protein and potassium, many granolas have additives such as sugar, chocolate or sugar-coated fruit. And when it comes to energy, fiber or protein bars, some aren’t too far off from having the nutritional value of a candy bar. Look for bars that contain whole-grain oats with no artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup added. Sweeteners such as honey or agave nectar are a better alternative than sugar, too.
Reduced-fat peanut butter
Sometimes, it pays to leave the fat in foods, especially when it’s a healthy type of fat. “The fat in peanut butter (a combination of polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fats) is actually healthy, so there’s no need to take it out,” explains Karen Ansel, RD, CDN, spokeswoman for the ADA. Also, sometimes when the fat is taken out of peanut butter, sugar may be added to heighten the flavor, and that means more calories. Instead of a reduced-fat brand, try a natural peanut butter, with ingredients of nothing other than peanuts and salt.
“They don’t have calories, but they don’t have anything good for your diet, either,” says Kerry Neville, RD, owner of KLMN Nutrition Communications in Washington. While diet sodas are a better alternative to regular soda, studies still show that diet soda can lead to a higher risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. A better option: Beverages that offer nutrition (even at the cost of calories), such as orange or apple juice (just be sure to avoid ones that say “juice cocktail” on the label). Unsweetened ice tea or a no-calorie seltzer are also good alternatives, especially if you’re craving the fizziness or flavor of a soda.
“The fact that there's yogurt in the name in no way exonerates what's in your cup," says David Katz, M.D., founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “It's not an alternative to yogurt, it's an alternative to ice cream.” In fact, frozen yogurt has been known to contain additives such as guar gum, maltodextrin, sodium citrate, cellulose gum, disodium phosphate and propylene glycol monoesters, among others — but worst of all, if it doesn’t say otherwise, the frozen yogurt you’re eating is likely filled with all types of sugar: fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, juice concentrates, polydextrose and pure cane sugar.
"One of the things they'll do is in the same product list sugar by three, four, five different names," Katz says. In addition, frozen yogurt shops are typically of the serve-yourself style, which means portion control can easily be thrown out the window — especially with the vast array of sugary toppings offered at these shops. If you do eat fro-yo, keep the portions to a minimum and only spring for it as an occasional treat. Also, instead of loading it up with chocolate candies, sprinkles, and caramel sauce, take advantage of the healthier toppings, like fresh fruit and nuts.
Turkey lunch meat
While packaged turkey provides a good source of lean protein, it can also be packed with sodium. In fact, a 2-oz. serving size of some packaged turkey brands could consist of nearly one-third of the maximum recommended daily sodium intake. Your best bet: Opt for roasting your own turkey and cutting fresh slices for sandwiches. If you must eat packaged lunch meat, look for a brand with less than 350 milligrams of sodium per 2-oz. serving.
This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado.