Some Foods that Sound Healthy… But Really Aren’t

1. Prepared Salads

Don’t assume that anything with the word “salad” in it must be healthy. Prepared tuna salads, chicken salads, and shrimp salads are often loaded with hidden fats and calories due to their high mayonnaise content. While a lot depends on portion size and ingredients, an over-stuffed tuna sandwich can contain as many as 700 calories and 40 grams of fat. If you’re ordering out, opt for prepared salads made with low-fat mayonnaise, and keep the portion to about the size of a deck of cards. Better yet, make your own.

2. Granola

Granola typically starts with nutritious ingredients: rolled oats, dried fruit, and a healthful dose of fat from nuts and seeds. The problem with this breakfast cereal is that most of the whole grain goodness and fiber is coated in sugar, honey, and molasses and then baked in oil to deliver the crunchy texture and taste we all love.  The price we pay for granola’s sweet and crunchy appeal is a hefty caloric punch. A traditional 1-cup breakfast serving can pack nearly 600 calories and 20 grams of sugar before adding milk or yogurt! Not to mention, with the addition of gourmet ingredients (think: coconut, chocolate, and roasted almonds) some commercial brands deliver as much as 25 grams of fat per serving! The verdict: If you can’t live without the crunch of your favorite granola clusters, try using this whole grain as a condiment and simply sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons onto Greek yogurt or hot oatmeal for an added crunch.  Or try our Homemade Energy Bars! If you are looking for a commercially available option that won’t bust your diet, read labels carefully and check to see that the granola is lower in fat and sugar, and remember a serving size for this food is typically only ¼ to ½ cup.

3. Bran Muffins

Most bran muffins, even those sold at delis and coffee shops, are made with generally healthy ingredients. The problem is portion size. Many muffins sold in stores today dwarf the homemade muffins made a generation ago. A random sampling of some coffee and restaurant chain bran muffins showed that many topped 350 calories apiece, and that’s before any butter or jam. The bran muffins at one popular chain bakery contain 600mg of sodium―roughly one-third of a day’s maximum. Even a healthful food, if over-consumed, can be not-so-healthful. Enjoy your bran muffin, but just eat half, and save the rest for an afternoon snack. If you want to save money and calories, bake your own.

4. Vegan Baked Goods

Just because a baked good is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Popular vegan diet books, restaurants and bakeries endorse vegan cookies, cakes and breads as healthy super foods that can be enjoyed as a part of a balanced diet.  Although some vegan products are healthy, the average consumer believes that just because a cookie or bread is labeled ‘vegan’ it is automatically categorized as a health food. Vegan products can pack just as many calories, sugar, and fat compared to traditional baked goods.  The problem with vegan-baked goods is that consumers see natural ingredients such as: evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, vegan chocolate chips, and coconut oil and assume these ingredients are healthier than traditional sugar, dairy and flour.  Commercially available vegan chocolate frosted cupcakes have 350 calories, 18 grams of sugar and 22 grams of fat per 2 oz. serving!  Don’t be fooled by the ‘naturally sweetened hype,’ vegan treats are just that, –a treat! Cookies, cakes, and sweetened breads are high in calories and sugar and should be enjoyed as a splurge item, not as a part of everyday meals.

5. Restaurant Baked Potatoes

Sure, a baked potato in its natural state (that is, sans toppings) is a very healthful food. Potatoes are naturally rich in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Plus, a medium-sized baked potato contains only about 160 calories. But if you’re eating out, don’t assume that the baked potato is the healthiest choice on the menu. Many restaurant-style baked potatoes can come “fully loaded” with butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, and other goodies that can add up to around 600 calories and 20-plus grams of fat. Ask for one that is plain and get one or two small-portioned toppings on the side. Or try making your own healthful baked potato meal at home by adding some chopped, cooked chicken.

6. Packaged Turkey

Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein and a good choice for a speedy lunch or dinner, but many packaged turkey slices are loaded with sodium. One 2-ounce serving of some brands contains nearly one-third of the maximum recommended daily sodium intake. So make sure you buy low-sodium varieties or opt for fresh turkey slices. If you can’t roast your own, the best rule of thumb is to find a brand with less than 350 milligrams of sodium per 2-ounce. serving.

7. Fat Free Salad Dressing

When trying to lose weight, salads can be the perfect lunchtime meal or light dinner, unless you top the nutritional powerhouse with fat-free dressing! That’s Right! In theory, individuals think that by using fat-free dressing they are saving calories and benefitting their health. Unfortunately, by skipping dressing, which has a healthy dose of fat, most are missing out on the true health benefits from fresh vegetables.  Here’s the scoop– as we all know, salads are choc-full of produce:  lettuces, carrots, peppers and tomatoes, which contain fat-soluble vitamins, essential minerals and antioxidants that protect our bodies from disease. Without the addition of some fat, our bodies are unable to fully absorb the nutrients in salad. A recent study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research showed that eating fat with your salad significantly increased how many nutrients were absorbed compared to fat free dressing.  Bottom line: Fat-free salad dressing negates the nutritional and antioxidant benefits you gain from noshing on greens.  In fact, fat-free dressing can be diet wrecker in disguise. Some commercially available fat-free dressings are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, and pack as much as 10 grams of sugar per serving.  If you want to create a healthy dressing at home: simply combine extra virgin olive oil with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and fresh herbs!

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