Although we try to eat healthy, we can hit a fork in the road…and choose the wrong path. It’s easy to get fooled by the simple sound of something. Words might signal nutritious… but are they really what they seem?
Read this, and the next time you’re in the market for some healthy eats, you’ll know just how to head in the right direction.
1. Multi-Grain, 7-grain, Wheat
Sounds healthy, right? Not so fast. Many breads or cereals are made with refined grains. A giveaway: the label reads “bleached” or “unbleached enriched wheat flour.” It’s this processing that strips the grain of its full nutritional benefit. Instead, look for a label that offers “100% whole-grain.” This gives you the germ, endosperm and bran — a nutritional powerhouse.
What could be bad about a bunch of healthy vegetables? Well, not much — until you start adding other things to them. Are you are eating prepared tuna, chicken or shrimp salads along with your greens? Stop right there…you’re getting lots of extra fat and calories coming from their high mayonnaise content. Better to add some lean protein like a grilled chicken breast. And watch the way you top your salad, too: Things like creamy dressings, bacon bits, cheese and croutons can load artery-clogging fat and calories, making your salad resemble a bacon cheeseburger, calorie-wise. Instead, drizzle on some flavorful vinegar (like balsamic) and a small amount of heart-healthy olive oil (remember, even though it’s good for you, olive oil still has calories!).
3. Fat-Free Anything
Fat-free cookies, salad dressings, creamers and ice cream grace the supermarket shelves, enticing consumers to indulge without the guilt. But is it really wise?
For one thing, “fat free” can often translate to “taste free.” If the fat — which gives a food its texture and taste — is removed, something has to be added to make up for it, and that something is usually extra sugar, flour, thickeners and salt. These ingredients may help to boost the taste, but they also boost the calorie count. And a lack of fat in foods can bring with it a lack of satiety — so you end up eating and eating until you’re stuffed, but still not satisfied.
Fats are not just for flavor — bodies need a certain amount of them for energy and to support cell growth, which protects your organs and keeps you warm. Fats also help the body absorb certain nutrients and produce important hormones. Keeping the amount of fat in your diet down to about 30 percent is important — but also important is using the right kinds of fats (“good” fats), like canola and olive oil (instead of butter), lean meats, poultry without skin and fish (instead of fattier cuts of meat).
4. Trail Mix
If you’re on the go and need an energy boost, what’s easier than toting a lightweight and portable bagful of fruits, nuts and seeds? Some of these mixes provide excellent sources of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and protein, except when they don’t — many contain things like sugar-coated fruit, salted nuts, bits of add-ins like coconut and chocolate, pushing a formerly-healthy snack into dangerous calorie-laden territory. It’s best to DIY: put together your own individual bags (limit your serving size to one-fourth of a cup) with things like sunflower seeds, unsalted peanuts, cashews, almonds or walnuts and dried fruit with little or no added sugar, like dried cherries, cranberries, blueberries, apricots, figs and dates. Puffed-rice cereal and popcorn make a fun addition — and while you’re at it, sprinkle on some onion powder or cayenne pepper.
They may have begun as a nutritious way to incorporate fiber-rich and heart-healthy bran into a tasty edible pleasure, but many muffins have morphed into high-calorie, sugar and fat-laden sweet treats that can pack more fat, sugar and calories than the much-maligned doughnut. Muffins — or cupcakes for the adult set — now come in creative and endless (unhealthy) varieties like chocolate chip, snicker-doodle, candy cane and pecan pie. No longer are they wholesome and healthy; now they’re veering down a road that should read “Do Not Enter.”