Five 'healthy' foods that aren't
Know what you are eating, what is healthy and what is not, says columnist Carrie Dennett.
Special to The Seattle Times
Sometimes, eating healthfully can be stunningly simple. For example, we know that "single ingredient" foods like an apple, a broccoli spear or a piece of salmon are nutritious.
But when we consider multi-ingredient foods, the road to good nutrition can get complicated.
One reason is that these foods tend to come packaged with health claims and other marketing messages. When you're trying to make healthful choices in a hurry, these messages can fool you into thinking you've hit a nutritional home run.
Here are five "healthy-sounding" foods to be wary of:
Multigrain. This doesn't mean what you think it means. Multigrain indicates that the bread, cracker or other product is made from more than one type of grain. It doesn't mean that those grains are whole grains.
Sadly, each grain in a multigrain product may be refined — stripped of its fiber and nutrients. What you want to see is the word "whole" in the list of ingredients on the Nutrition Facts panel. "Whole wheat flour" or "whole grain flour" means the fiber and nutrients are intact. "Wheat flour," "rye flour" and the like means they are gone, baby, gone.
Yogurt. Do you think cellophane-wrapped snack cakes are a health food? Well, some yogurts have more sugar than those eternally shelf-stable marvels.
Yogurt can be a very healthful food, but it can also be nutritionally comparable to dessert — and that's not the smartest choice when it's time for breakfast or a healthy snack.
Read labels to find varieties that are lower in sugar, or add a dab of jam or squirt of honey to plain yogurt. In a pinch, cut the sugar by simply leaving most of the "fruit at the bottom" behind.
Salads. Forget the name — the devil is in the ingredients. Add too much creamy dressing, cheese and other high-calorie, high-fat ingredients, and you can quickly go from "healthful" to "excessive."
The worst offenders are many of the massive main-dish salads served in chain restaurants, but you can do some damage yourself if you are heavy handed at the salad bar — or in your own kitchen.
Build a smarter salad by loading up on veggies and using small amounts of your favorite high-calorie extras.
Energy bars and drinks. These products claim to "fuel your workout," but many of them are the nutritional equivalent of a candy bar or sugary soft drink.
If you appreciate the portability of bars when you're on the go, read the Nutrition Facts box and the list of ingredients. Look for the bars that have the shortest ingredient list and the most natural, "real food" ingredients (Larabar is one example).
There are a few brands that contain little more than a delicious mix of ground-up dried fruits, nuts and seeds.
Smoothies. These meals-in-a-glass can be 1,000-calorie sugar bombs with the wrong ingredients. Say yes to real fruits (and even vegetables) and low-fat or nonfat milk or yogurt (or dairy alternatives). Say no to sugar-laden fruit juices, ice cream, whole milk or yogurt and added sugars like chocolate syrup.
Next time: Alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages.
Carrie Dennett: email@example.com.
Dennett is a graduate student in the Nutritional Sciences Program at UW; her blog is nutritionbycarrie.com.