News & tips on health, fitness and nutrition

Sunday, March 8, 2009

“Healthy” foods that really aren’t

You’ve decided to lose some weight and get in shape by generally limiting yourself to healthier food choices. Just today, for example, you started off with a bowl of granola for breakfast, had a tuna sandwich at a restaurant near your job for lunch, snacked on some nice non-fat pretzels around mid-afternoon, and treated yourself to a couple slices of the vegetarian pie at your local pizzeria for dinner. And you didn’t even butter the bread they gave you while waiting, just dipped it in a bit of olive oil.

Naturally, you feel pretty good about yourself, right? But hold on. Don’t count your chickens before they’re breaded, cautions Tanya Zuckerbrot, a dietician and nutritionist who recently offered Fox News a list of 10 supposedly “healthy” food items that in fact aren’t so much.

That granola, for example, will typically contain enough saturated fat oils, sweetener, and nuts to deliver around 240 calories and 5 to 10 grams of fat in a half-cup serving.

The hefty tuna sandwich, along with its lovely omega-3 oils, will usually be packing enough mayonnaise, at 100 calories per tablespoon, to deliver 700 calories and over 40 grams of fat, more than the average roast beef or even chicken salad alternative.

Those lo-cal pretzels included just enough sugar - -and virtually no nutrition — to actually leave you hungrier, which is probably why you succumbed to the pizza, whose mozzarella and other cheeses amounted to around 350 calories per slice.

And oh yeah — that “healthy, monounsaturated” olive oil that your bread soaked up still had 120 calories and 14 fat grams per tablespoon; butter would have been a better option.

Among Zuckerbrot’s other not-so-healthy “health” foods:

  • Organic food: may be devoid of pesticides and preservatives, but not of calories, sometimes in excess.
  • Sushi: Fine in its pure form, but watch out for Americanized versions that pack in cream cheese and avocado and the like; a tempura roll incorporates over 300 calories and 15 grams of fat.
  • Frozen diet entrees: though low-cal, they are also high-sodium and heavily processed and tend to leave you unfilled and hungry.
  • Fat- and sugar-free muffins: are still essentially 600-calorie treat foods that are extremely rich and energy dense, bran muffins included.

In short, when appraising purportedly “healthy” food items, you’re advised to maintain a healthy skepticism.

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