Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Health Food Facts and Fiction

So here's another article that I thought was really helpful in your journey (I would hope you have a journey) to eat better. Again I added emphasis on things that you should be concerned with. Here's the article if you want to read it online.

Health Food Fact and Fiction

In the old days, differentiating healthy foods from unhealthy foods was simple; fruits and vegetables were healthy, sweets and fried foods were not. However, today, this distinction is not so clear. "Healthy" products are popping up left and right on supermarket shelves. Often the products' names (not the nutrition facts labels) trick many into assuming they are healthy. The following bite reveals the most common "faux health foods"-unhealthy foods perceived as healthy offerings.

Nutrition Facts and Figures
Here are five foods incorrectly assumed to be healthy:

1. Wheat crackers: As soon as one sees the word "wheat" the first assumption is that the food must be nutrient dense. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. "Wheat" does not mean "whole wheat". In fact, wheat crackers (regardless if they are enriched, stone-ground, or otherwise) are actually made from refined white flour...therefore they have less nutritional value than whole wheat crackers and definitely less fiber. So, unless they are "whole wheat" crackers, don't be deceived into thinking they are healthy

Good Choices:
Ak Mak 100% whole wheat crackers
Kavli Crispy Garlic whole rye crackers

Bad Choices:
Golden Stone Ground Wheat crackers
Nabisco Original Wheat Thins

2. Yogurt covered snacks: While yogurt itself is an extremely nutrient-dense, healthy snack, beware of yogurt covered raisins, pretzels, and nuts. The main ingredients in the "yogurt" coating are sugar and palm kernel oil, NOT yogurt. As a result, the calories and fat grams really add up. Compared to a 100 calorie cup of plain non-fat yogurt, 1 cup of yogurt covered peanuts contains 921 calories and 73 g fat, 1 cup of yogurt covered raisins contains 750 calories and 14 g fat and 1 cup of yogurt covered pretzels contains 392 calories and 14 g fat. Therefore, your best bet is to stick to consuming yogurt separately from nuts, pretzels, and raisins, rather than as yogurt covered snacks.

Good Choices:
1 cup plain, non-fat organic yogurt
Small portion of mixed nuts, raisins, and pretzels

Bad Choices:
Yogurt covered nuts, raisins, or pretzels

3. Granola: A heaping bowl of granola with fresh fruit and yogurt is the gold standard of healthy breakfasts for many. Despite being a good source of potassium, vitamin A, iron, protein, fiber, and B vitamins, granola is loaded in calories and fat! A cup of granola contains ~600 calories and 30 grams of fat; this alone can comprise half of one's daily calorie and fat intake. Therefore, unless you are just sprinkling a little low-fat granola on top of your yogurt or fruit, you are better off opting for a high fiber cereal that is lower in calories and fat.

Good Choices:
Kashi Good Friends Cereal
Nature's Path Organic Optimum Slim

Bad Choices:
Bear Naked All Natural Granola
International Harvest Fruitfull Cran-Cashew-Pecan Organic Granola

4. Bran and Oat Muffins: In an effort to avoid ordering a high calorie/fat bagel with cream cheese on the way to work, many have turned to what they assume is a healthier choice: muffins. Unfortunately, most muffins, even bran, carrot, multigrain, and oat ones, do not usually offer any more nutritional benefits than a bagel. In fact, some contain even more calories, sugar and fat! For example, a typical Starbuck's muffin has 450 calories, 20 grams of fat and only 1-2 grams of fiber at most. Many other store bought muffins, even those that are low-fat, contain close to 400 calories and very little fiber. Therefore, unless you are making the muffins yourself (and keeping their size in check) you are much better off starting the day with whole grain toast and peanut butter.

Good Choices:
Vitamuffin (individual muffin top)
Homemade low-fat muffins (1 ounce each)

Bad Choices:
Store bought muffins

5. Dried fruit: While dried fruit is obviously made from healthy fresh fruit, it is not equivalent in terms of calories when comparing equal portions. While 1 cup of fresh cut up apples contains 60 calories, 1 cup of dried apples contains 210 calories. Likewise, 1 cup of fresh apricot halves contains 74 calories while 1 cup of dried apricot halves contains 315 calories. To understand why this is so, you have to put in perspective how much you are eating. One fresh apricot is equivalent in calories to one dried apricot; however, while it is easy to consume 10-15 dried apricots, it is NOT so easy to consume 10-15 fresh apricots in one sitting! So, if you are not likely to stick to just the 1/4 cup serving of dried fruit, you are better off opting for fresh fruit instead. Note: the worst offender of dried fruits is dried banana chips...Unlike most other dried fruits these are fried, which not only increases their calorie count, but their fat count as well.

Good Choices:
Fresh fruit
Small portions of dried fruit

Bad Choices:
Banana chips
Large portions of dried fruit

Alyse's Advice
With all the tricky food product marketing, advertisements and names, it is very important to be a savvy shopper and read food labels to ensure that a food is good for you. No longer can you judge how healthy a food is solely by its name."

I hope this helps.

1 comment:

  1. Hum. Interesting. I always knew those yogurt covered nuts/raisins were up to no good. They taste like candy to me.

    I really liked this article.