Is Your Health Food Really Healthy

6 Healthy-sounding Foods That Really Aren't

My friend's husband, Henry, recently bought a huge box of Yogos, confident that these "yogurty-covered, fruit-flavored bits" were a healthy choice for his kids.

"Not exactly," his wife, a nutritionist, said when he presented her with the box. Sure, Yogos are fortified with 100 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and some calcium. But the ingredient list begins with sugar and partially hydrogenated oils, and a small pouch (just shy of an ounce) of the pea-sized candies supplies 90 calories, two-thirds of which come from sugars. In fact, Yogos contain very little yogurt or fruit. How did this smart man get fooled into thinking this was health food?

No doubt Henry was deceived by what Brian Wansink, Ph.D., executive director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and an EatingWell Advisory Board member, calls the "health halo" effect. Words like "yogurt" and "fruit" positively glow with such halos, since we consider these foods healthy in their natural state.

In his "McSubway" studies, reported last October in the Journal of Consumer Research, Wansink showed how we let our general impressions of foods mislead us. He asked people who had finished eating at McDonald's or Subway to estimate the calories in their meals, then compared their guesses to the actual counts. Participants estimated that a Subway meal contained 21 percent fewer calories?than a McDonald's meal with the same calories. Wansink concluded that Subway's "healthier than fast food" image was biasing customers' calorie estimations. Today, his advice is, "Take your best estimate of how many calories you think the food contains, and double it!"

Don't be fooled by health halos. Some of the worst offenders:

Energy Bars
Energy bars usually contain protein and fiber-nutrients that help you feel full-but also may be loaded with calories. That's fine if you occasionally make one a meal, but most of us eat them as snacks. You might as well enjoy a Snickers, which at 280 calories is in the same range as many energy bars.

Lesson learned: If you need something to tide you over until dinner, look for a calorie-controlled bar with about 5 grams of protein (e.g., Balance 100-calorie bar, Promax 70-calorie bar).

Granola
Granola sounds healthy. But it's often high in fat, sugar and calories. Don't be fooled by a seemingly reasonable calorie count; portion sizes are usually a skimpy 1?4 or 1?2 cup. Low-fat versions often just swap sugar for fat and pack as many calories as regular versions.

Lesson learned: Read granola labels carefully and stick with recommended portion sizes (which are teeny), perhaps as a topping on fruit or yogurt.

Salads
"Salads trip up many of my clients," says my friend Anne Daly, R.D., director of nutrition and diabetes education at the Springfield Diabetes & Endocrine Center in Springfield, Illinois. Most of us could use more vegetables-so what's not to love?  In a word, toppings. The pecans and Gorgonzola cheese on Panera Bread's Fuji Apple Chicken Salad (580 calories, 30 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat) propel it into double-cheeseburger territory. A McDonald's double cheeseburger has 440 calories, 23 grams fat, 11 grams saturated fat.

Lesson learned: Before ordering a salad, check its nutrition information plus that of the dressing and all add-ons (often, they're listed separately). See Healthy Salad Recipes and Cooking Tips

Smoothies
Smoothies may seem like a tasty way to help get your recommended fruit servings-but studies show that beverages are less filling per calorie than solid foods. And added sugars can make some the equivalent of drinking fruit pie filling: the smallest (16-ounce) serving of Jamba Juice's Orange Dream Machine weighs in at 340 calories, with 69 grams of sugars that don't all come from orange juice. You're better off with fresh-squeezed juices; orange juice has 110 calories per cup.

Lesson learned: Some smoothies pack as many calories as a milkshake. Look for those made with whole fruit, low-fat yogurt and no added sugars. See Healthy Quick and Healthy Smoothie Recipes and Tips

Yogurt
Yogurt is a great way to meet your calcium needs, but not all are created equally. Some premium whole-milk yogurts can give you a hefty dose of saturated fat. Shop around: many low-fat versions of these products are every bit as creamy. Enjoy a fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt, but understand that the "fruit" is really jam (i.e., mostly sugar). Or opt for low-fat plain and stir in fresh fruit or other sweetener to suit your taste; you'll probably use less. My favorite, a tablespoon of Vermont maple syrup (52 calories), provides all the sweetness I need.

Lesson learned: Although they are still good sources of calcium, some yogurts can be closer to dessert than to a healthy snack. Don't let fat and added sugars spoil a good thing.

Sushi Rolls
Sushi is big in my family. There is a wide variety of sushi rolls out there and in some the fried tidbits and mayonnaise can really tuck in the calories. The Southern Tsunami sushi bar company, which supplies sushi to supermarkets and restaurants, reports its 12-piece Dragon Roll (eel, crunchy cucumbers, avocado and "special eel sauce") has almost 500 calories and 16 grams of fat (4 grams saturated).

Lesson learned: Signature sushi rolls often come with a creamy "special sauce"; you should ask what's in it. Or just order something simple: for example, a 12-piece California roll (imitation crabmeat, avocado and cucumber) or a vegetarian roll with cucumbers, carrots and avocado supplies around 350 calories and 6 or 7 grams of fat, and most of it is the heart-healthy mono­unsaturated type.

Despite these precautions, I'm not trying to be a nutrition nanny. In truth, most of these foods can fit into a healthy diet if you know your limits. But do a reality check and read labels first. After all, as my friend told Henry, even if the Yogos package screams yogurt-­covered fruit, the ingredients list proves it's still candy.

Recipes

Low-Fat Granola Bars
Storebought granola bars sure are convenient, but they're often loaded with undesirable amounts of fat. These come together in minutes. Try using chopped dates or dried cranberries in place of the raisins.

Makes 12 bars.

ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour (includes cooling time)
EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups low-fat granola
1/4 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk egg white, honey, oil, vanilla and cinnamon in a small bowl until blended. Combine granola and raisins in a mixing bowl. Stir in the wet mixture until well coated. press granola into the prepared pan with a wet rubber spatula.
  3. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 12 bars.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 83 calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 42 mg sodium; 78 mg potassium.
1 Carbohydrate Serving

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 5 days

More Quick and Healthy Snack Recipes

Snap Pea Salad with Radish & Lime
A tangy, refreshing twist on a classic bean salad; try serving this salad with Shrimp Enchiladas Verde.

Makes 4 servings, about 1 cup each

ACTIVE TIME: 25 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes
EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved (about 2 cups)
7 ounces yellow wax beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 10)

  1. Steam peas over 2 inches of boiling water, stirring once, until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towel. Steam wax beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the baking sheet. Refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes.
  2. Whisk lime juice, oil, cilantro, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add radishes, peas and beans; toss to coat. Serve chilled.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 108 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 3 g fiber; 162 mg sodium.

Healthy Salad Recipes and Cooking Tips

Banana-Cocoa Soy Smoothie
With plenty of protein from both tofu and soymilk, this banana-split-inspired breakfast smoothie will keep you satisfied until lunchtime.

Makes 1 serving

ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour (includes freezing time)
EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

1 banana
1/2 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup soymilk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey

Slice banana and freeze until firm. Blend tofu, soymilk, cocoa and honey in a blender until smooth. With the motor running, add the banana slices through the hole in the lid and continue to puree until smooth.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 340 calories; 8 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 60 g carbohydrate; 17 g protein; 10 g fiber; 121 mg sodium; 749 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Magnesium (29% daily value), Potassium (21% dv), Iron (20% dv), Vitamin A & Vitamin C (15% dv). 3 Carbohydrate Servings. Exchanges: 1 1/2 fruit, 1/2 reduced-fat milk, 1 1/2 other carbohydrate, 1 medium fat meat.

Quick and Healthy Smoothie Recipes and Tips

From www.eatingwell.com with permission.  © 2008 Eating Well Inc.

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