Wednesday, July 20 2016
More than 20,000 new food and drink items hit our grocery store shelves each year. With all of the conflicting information about health and nutrition, it can be confusing to figure out what we should and should not be putting into our carts, and our bodies. Here are five foods with unwarranted health halos that aren’t doing your body any favors.
Eat your fruit; don’t drink it. Juice is great if you want to gain weight. It adds calories in a concentrated form without any of the fiber found in real fruit. Fiber is one of the best reasons to eat fruit; but when you juice fruit and discard the pulp, you’re getting rid of about half of the fiber. Top that with the fact that most juice also excludes the peel and you’re losing the rest of the fiber there, too. If you like the idea of juice for the flavor it provides, add fresh fruit to your water, but forego the fruit juice for the real fruit.
If it looks like a cookie and it tastes like a cookie, it’s a cookie. At its core, granola is just a grain with added sugar and fat. Package it up in bar form and it gets even less healthy. Most commercial granola bars are made with refined grains and contain added sweeteners and fat. They rarely feature whole grains, fiber or protein, which should be key components of a better-for-you bar. You can find great recipes online for homemade granola bars that are full of fiber and flavor. Bypass the granola bar aisle and save yourself from cookies in disguise.
Not all yogurts are created equal. If you can tolerate dairy, choose plain yogurt. Most yogurts you find in the yogurt aisle are packed with added sugar. Flavored yogurts are the worst, as they pretend to feature fruit. If you read the ingredient list, you’ll rarely find real fruit. If you like yogurt with fruit, make it yourself. Add real fruit to real yogurt and leave the flavored stuff on the shelf.
Veggie chip bags show pretty pictures of real vegetables, but the ingredient list tells a different story. Most vegetable chips are fried and salted versions of potato starch. Now a potato is technically a vegetable, but when you fry it and salt it, you decrease its nutritional value. Veggie chips are glorified potato chips. You want real veggie chips? Cut up vegetables, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle them with a modest amount of salt and bake them. If you want potato chips, buy them. But don’t pretend your veggie chips aren’t French fries in disguise!
Sometime during the fat-free frenzy of the 1990s, people got the idea that pretzels were a health food. Sure, they have no fat, but neither does white bread. And pretzels are just white bread with a little more crunch and salt. What about whole grain pretzels? It sounds like a great idea, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a pretzel whose first ingredient is actually a whole grain. Even pretzels made with whole grains are mostly refined white flour and contain no fiber. If you want a satiating snack, go with nuts over pretzels. Nuts contain fat, fiber and protein, which provide a more satiating snack than a pretzel ever can.
Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a consultant, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator based in San Diego, CA. She specializes in nutrition communications and is the author of Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing (McGraw Hill 2014). As an advocate for foods you can eat MORE of, Katie serves as a media spokesperson and writes the popular blog www.fiberisthefuture.com.