Back by popular demand… we have uncovered 5 more foods that are often marketed as “healthy” but that may not be so nutritious after all. Here’s our latest list:
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.
2. Jarred Pasta Sauce
In a pinch to get dinner on the table? Jarred pasta sauce sounds like a healthy option, right? Tomato based pasta sauce is rich in vitamins A and C and delivers at least a serving of vegetables. Not to mention, tomato products provide nearly 85% of dietary lycopene, which protects against heart disease and some cancers. The problem with jarred pasta sauce is that commercially available brands are often loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium and fillers. Believe it or not, just ½ cup of Prego Fresh Mushroom Italian sauce has 11 grams of sugar — the same amount that’s in a glazed yeast-raised donut! Sugar aside, to extend shelf life and taste, jarred sauces are packed with sodium and ascorbic acid. The end product? Some of your favorite pasta toppers pack well over 900 milligrams of sodium per 1-cup serving. That’s more than a third of daily sodium intake per serving. Healthy sauce solution: If you want to reap the nutritional benefits from tomato sauce, make your own with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and a touch of extra virgin olive oil. If you are at the local grocery store, skip five-cheese and vodka options, which pack even more sodium and sugar than traditional marinara.
3. 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!
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. Frozen Yogurt “Fro-Yo”
Frozen Yogurt (Fro-Yo) has been gaining popularity in U.S. cities since 2011 and is now considered one of the trendiest treats on the block. Nutrition experts agree: with the explosion of fro-yo stores and stands there comes a bit of a ‘halo effect’ surrounding the frozen yogurt craze. Don’t be mistaken, Greek and tart yogurt varieties are high in calcium, low in fat and carbohydrates, and contain probiotics, which aid in digestion and help support immunity. While a better choice than ice-cream, commercial Fro-Yo shops offer self-service machines, jumbo portion sizes, and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink topping bars filled with cookies, candy, and hot fudge. After a hefty swirly and a dozen-or-so toppings, this novelty looks more like a justified dieter’s trap! Bottom line: If you frequent the corner fro-yo store, stick to the smallest portion size and choose real fruit toppings with a tablespoon of roasted almonds or pistachios. Looking for a healthy version at home? Try freezing non-fat Greek yogurt, which provides protein and calcium and can be enjoyed as a healthy dessert, breakfast or afternoon snack.
Want to eliminate confusion when it comes to choosing the most healthful foods? Be sure to check out our Monthly Meal Plans. They’re calorie-controlled and designed by Registered Dietitians (Julie and me!) so you’ll be sure to get great-tasting, satisfying meals every day!