I'm sure many of you remember the diet fads of the late 90's. It was all about eliminating as much fat as possible, and I cringe when I think about how I survived on white pasta with a little Parmesan for many meals, and loaded up on fat-free Snackwell's cookies and gummy peaches for midday fuel. Hey, they were all fat-free so I felt good about my choices. Today, of course, the prevailing advice leans away from sugar and is kinder to fat. Personally, I feel that high-sugar snacks and white pasta alone aren't the smartest diet moves. But still, there are a few foods lurking on grocery store shelves that may still be fooling us with their reputation of purported health.
Katherine Tallmade, registered dietician and author, recently wrote a piece for The Washington Post on foods that trick us into thinking they're "healthy." Now, we all of course have a different idea and set of choices on what is "healthy" for us personally, so I'm curious what your perspective might be on each of these points.
Personally, while I think there's a lot of wiggle room with each of her points, she does raise awareness about reading food labels and paying close attention to what's actually in the packaged foods we buy. That's always a good thing. I can't say that I'll be giving up energy bars anytime soon, but here are Tallmadge's tips for being smarter and more-informed about your choices next time you're at the grocery store:
5 Foods That Aren't as Healthy as You Think
1. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter: The oil is where most of the nutrients are, so if you opt for reduced-fat nut butters, you're almost always consuming the same amount of calories but missing out on most of the nutrition. If you want to really control the ingredients in your nut butters (not to mention the amount of salt and sugar you're getting), then make your own:
→ Homemade Peanut Butter at Averie Cooks (pictured above)
2. Enhanced Water : Katherine Tallmadge claims that these beverages are essentially "sugary drinks with a vitamin pill." Instead, she suggests going straight to the source: drink regular water.
3. Energy Bars: Energy bars often contain a great deal of sugar with some added protein or fiber. I often make my own at home (get our recipe here for homemade energy bars) and control exactly what goes in them, so I feel good about this decision, but Tallmadge raises a good point about becoming aware of the ingredients in these bars, and noticing how much sugar is in each one.
4. Multi-Grain Foods Multi-grain foods are another lesson in analyzing verbiage on your packages of crackers, pastas and breads. "Multi-grain" doesn't always mean "whole grain" and the latter is really what you want to shoot for if you're looking to minimize the refined flours and grains in your diet and boost it with whole grain fiber, protein and amino acids. Tallmadge suggests ensuring that the whole grain is the first ingredient listed in packaged foods (i.e. a box of flavored oatmeal would have "rolled oats" as the main ingredient; a loaf of rye bread would contain rye flour as the first ingredient).
5. Non-Fried Chips and Crackers : While avoiding fried foods is something we've all been told is a wise move, loading up on baked chips and crackers isn't always the best solution. Tallmadge notes that "most are made with refined grain or starch, which provide plenty of calories and few nutrients." Instead, she suggests searching for whole-grain crackers like Wasa of Finn Crisp for a nutritious, low-sodium option.
→ Read the Article: 5 So -Called Health Foods You Should Avoid by Katherine Tallmadge | The Washington Post
Related: Brown Rice Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Cherries
(Image: Averie Cooks)