Monday, June 17, 2013

5 “Healthy” Snack Foods to Avoid

Don’t you just hate it when you’re trying to be healthy and then someone tells you what you’re eating isn’t as good for you as you thought it was? Well, I’m sorry to be that person today—but it’s a job someone has to do. The problem with the food industry is that it wants you to want their food—and today that means marketing anything that can be as “healthy,” even when it might be just the opposite.

Instead of flavored yogurt, buy plain Greek yogurt and add honey or fresh fruit.
Instead of flavored yogurt, buy plain Greek yogurt and add
honey or fresh fruit.
Image: Shutterstock
Sure, there are foods that fall on one side or the other—wonderfully healthy or terribly unhealthy. For those black-and-white cases, it’s easy to follow the rules. Unfortunately, most foods fall somewhere in between, in a gray area that makes it easy for food companies to twist healthfulness to their whimsy.

Flavored yogurt, such as Yoplait and other brands, might seem like a good choice at the store, but let’s take a second look. Looking at the back label might reveal a relatively low calorie and fat count, but check out the sugars, too. Flavored yogurt often contains up to 30 grams of sugar in one cup, which (by the way) is the entire recommended daily allowance for most women.

As an alternative, buy plain Greek yogurt (lots more protein, anyway) and flavor it with fresh fruit like bananas or strawberries, honey, or cinnamon.

Instant oatmeal is something I ate for years thinking it was super healthy. While it isn’t unhealthy, it’s super processed (for faster cooking), has a high glycemic index and your body digests it very quickly—meaning you won’t be held over until lunchtime. Try steel-cut oats instead. Not only do they taste better (in my humble opinion), but they’re also way better for you. They take a while to cook, but they also keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Instead of instant oats, try steel-cut oats.
Instead of instant oats, try steel-cut oats.
Image: Shutterstock
My favorite is slow-cooking steel-cut oats with chopped apples and a little cinnamon. Naturally sweet, it’s a delicious start to the morning (and I won’t get hungry an hour later!).

Packaged egg whites generally have less than half of the amount of protein of a whole egg. They also often contain artificial ingredients like maltodextrin, which is a sweetener, and are missing crucial healthy ingredients like choline and lutein. Stick with a whole protein-rich egg—just don’t overdo it!

Bottled salad dressing can really ruin a wonderfully healthy salad. Bottled dressings and sauces often contain high amounts of sugar, especially in the “low-fat” versions. If you’re cooking meat, try a dry-rub powder instead or make your own dressing at home—sans sugar.

Sugar-free protein / granola bars may be getting their flavors from other places. It’s better to have a bar that’s naturally low in sugar with a few ingredients than one that contains a whole laundry list of unpronounceable names but no sugar. Sorbitol is a common ingredient in sugar-free bars, and it’s hard for your body to break down and can cause bloating.