When you are eating a handful of raisins or cashews — maybe even granola — do you feel like you are doing your body good?
Well, you might be. But sometimes, food we think of as healthy is actually not so much.
In honor of April Fool’s Day we are taking a look at foods that might fool you as you go down the aisle at your local grocery store.
“Look for variety,” said Debbie Walls, a dietician at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. “Nuts are heart protective but about 1 ounce a day ... a small amount is fine.“
Or, take dried fruits — fruit is good for you, right?
“Dried fruit is concentrated calories. (Dried) cranberries are big now but just 2 tablespoons per day ... people consume too large a portion,” Walls said.
And Mary Ann Clever, a registered dietician at Longstreet Clinic, said for children, the sticky dried fruits — in large portions — can be bad for teeth.
Walls said she tries to get her patients to start with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and move up from there.
If a food claims to be “energizing,” then watch out.
“I work with heart patients and they will lock into brands and assume whatever they produce is a good product,” Walls said. “Look at the nutrition-fact panel — soups may still have a lot of sodium ... along with sugar-free items, and the same thing happens with fat-free foods.”
Often, she said, people think vegetarian options should be lower in calories.
“People think that vegetation foods are a better choice,” Walls said. “But cheese can make it high in fat or sodium.”
Clever recommended looking closely at granola and bread, which could be hiding ingredients and higher fat content.
“One of the things that a lot of people think is when they buy brown bread in the grocery store, they think they are getting whole wheat and that can be far from the truth,” Clever said. “A lot of times it can just be white bread that has been colored with some kind of coloring agent, whether it be caramel coloring ... I think it’s one of the biggest consumer misconceptions they get in the grocery store. What they want to look for ... make sure the first ingredient on the back is whole-wheat flour or else read 100 percent whole wheat on the front.”
Granola, Clever added, can be a nutrition powerhouse or sometimes a snack full of extra calories.
“A lot of times it can be full of calories and even fat,” she said. “One cup can have up to 300 calories and then they can have four grams of fat with one gram being saturated and 65 grams of carbohydrates, which can be an awful lot.”
Cereal, protein and energy bars also can pack hundreds of unnecessary extra calories, fat and sugar.
“What you really want to look for is ... one that is no more than 200 calories and low in saturated and no trans fat and have some fiber in it,” Clever said. “My gosh, some of these things are just candy bars with a vitamin and mineral coating. I try to go for at least three to five grams of fiber and some protein.”
And it’s not just the prepared foods that are dangerous. Some basics should be chosen carefully, according to Tim Mathias, owner Austin’s Nutrition Center.
“Surprisingly bad is two things — processed wheat and (processed) sugar or plain white sugar,” he said. “It (sugar) does all sorts of things. It can cause you to have weight issues, but then it also causes all sorts of insulin issues including diabetes.”
Mathias said if you want to use an alternative to sugar, try stevia or xylitol.
“Stevia is a natural sweetener which is a leaf that is 2,500 times sweeter than sugar,” he said. “The body doesn’t even process it at all. It tastes sweet, it makes things sweet, but we don’t use it at all, so diabetics can certainly use it. Another one is using something like xylitol, which is a natural sugar but it is one that our body can’t process, so it doesn’t hurt anything either.”
So, if all this talk about what to watch out for has you wondering about what is good for you Mathias says to try quinoa.
“It is an ancient grain that has kind of lost popularity over the years because everybody has gone to plain white flour, but it is surprisingly good for you,” he said. “It has a higher protein than the other grains, it has high fiber. It is a superfood, meaning that you could actually sustain and live off of just quinoa alone because it has carbohydrates, it has proteins, fats, it has everything you need in that one grain.”
Quinoa can be eaten as a cereal, made into flour or made into a drink.
“You can drink that as a meal replacement and be full for all day long, and it’s good for weight loss,” Mathias said.