( A far prettier version of this post appeared on Blisstree)
I’ll bet my nutrition credentials that broccoli will remain in the good--for-you food group for eternity. Similarly, SPAM and Velveeta will always be unhealthy. Still, many foods aren’t solidly at either end of the health spectrum. And lots of foods that people assume are healthy really aren’t. So, in the hopes of helping you to make smarter eating choices, here are ten foods you may think are healthy and nutritious, but the reality? Not so much
Most pretzels boast no fat and so have a beloved place in many snack drawers. But aside from taste, exactly what do pretzels have to brag about? One ounce of pretzels contains 100 calories and 580 mg of sodium (and little else). Which is almost the same as eating 1 oz. of white hamburger bun: 77 calories and 149 mg sodium. For healthier alternatives, we suggest Happy Herbert’s Gluten Gone Pretzels or our favorite, Food Should Taste Good Chips.
Couscous is cute, with its small bead-like shape. And my clients often put it on the “good carb” list with bulgur and other whole grains. I hate to break it to you, but couscous is pasta. The nutritionals are exactly the same. Bulgur and quinoa contain more nutrients.
“Veggie” doesn’t automatically mean healthy. Many veggie burgers are made with TVP (processed soy), grains, and at times, scant amounts of actually vegetables. Scan ingredient labels for TVP and look at the sodium. (Our favorites are Sunshine Burgers.)
And now for many people’s treasured tuna salad. Fish contains omega-3’s and we’re told we should consume more of those. However, these particularly omega-3’s have globs of mayo added to them. Four ounces of tuna salad contains 212 calories and 10 grams of fat – double the calories and five times the fat of sliced turkey. We suggest those delicious jarred tunas with chopped peppers, onion and celery, like the Zoe or Tonnino brands.
Brown sugar should be healthier than white sugar, right? Unfortunately, it’s not fiber that gives brown sugar its color; it’s molasses. When it comes to calories, brown and white are equals.
Canned Foods/Canned Fruit
My mother was a great cook, but we admittedly ate fruit cocktail growing up. I have two issues with canned fruit: one is the corn syrup pool the fruit swims in, and the other are the BPAs present in the can itself. Fresh fruits are always best, but dried (no sulfites) is my second choice. A medium peach has 8 grams of sugar; while one serving of canned peaches has more than 24 grams (or three times as much).
Now it's time to address a food we all know, use, and love: olive oil. We’re actually fine with EVOO (thanks Rachel), but we’re not fine with using it like it’s “free”. It does contain calories, and if you use it to scramble eggs in the morning, in your salad dressing at lunch, and for dunking your bread before dinner (and more to cook your entrée), you’ve racked up almost 1,000 calories – not so healthy. It’s also not recommended to heat olive oil at high temperatures.
We love Italian names, but these are still just cookies. For you cookie monsters, we like healthier options including GlowCookies and Kookie Karma.
UHT (Ultra-Pasteurized) Organic Milk
As we mentioned in an earlier post, organic is a good choice when it comes to dairy, but you need to look carefully at the labels. UHT (ultra pasteurized) milk is not as healthy as regularly pasteurized because the high heat process kills good bacteria and other nutrients. Companies like Organic Valley offer both options, and many including Natural By Nature, Milk Thistle, and our #1, NY Milk always pasteurize at a lower temperature.
Sugar-Free Pudding or Sugar Free Anything.
Sugar-free Pudding (or sugar-free anything) with Splenda or NutraSweet can make brown sugar actually look healthy. We’ll take a little bit of real sugar over the faux version any day.
What were the surprises on this list for you? Any allegedly healthy foods we missed?