written by Caitlin Hess
You may want to think twice next time you’re shopping down the cereal isle. Many think granola is a healthy breakfast option but in fact this yummy breakfast cereal is one of the least healthy ways to start your day. Granola includes too many unnecessary additions to
make this a truly healthy option. “Most granolas have too much sugar and very little fiber. A healthy breakfast cereal should be the exact opposite,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of Small Change Diet. Eating a healthy breakfast is important because it helps the body consume more vitamins and minerals during the day, helps lower cholesterol and controls weight. With all the added sugars and dried fruits, granola can quickly accumulate
many calories in a relatively small serving size. Just one cup of granola can easily top out
at 600 calories.
Try this instead: Look for unsweetened or low fat granola to take advantage of its benefits without all those extra calories and unnecessary fats. Or choose oatmeal for breakfast. While both oatmeal and granola both use oats as their base, oat-meal is created from oat grains. This healthy breakfast option has a surprisingly high number of health benefits. According to the American Cancer Society, oatmeal includes insoluble fiber which helps eliminate toxins from the body. Oatmeal also has soluble fiber which may reduce LDL cholesterol levels, or bad cholesterol. Soluble fiber also slows down digestion, making you feel full longer. Finally, oats are an excellent source of vitaminE, selenium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper (http://www.webmd.com).
2. Vitamin Drinks and Sweetened Beverages
Most people believe that sports drinks are the best alternative to replenish lost fluids and loss of electrolytes but that’s exactly not true. Many sports drinks are loaded with calories and contain as much as two-thirds the sugar of sodas. They also typically contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and food coloring, none of which are a healthy substitute for water. Turn to the back of a bottle of Defense Vitamin water for example, the label reads 50 calories. Actually, it doesn’t. It contains 125 calories, as the nutritional info given is for 1 serving, and there are 2.5 servings in a bottle. That is approximately 33 grams of sugar in the form of crystalline fructose, that’s a total of 7 tsps of sugar per bottle. That’s more calories and sugar than a 12 ounce serving of Coke (12 oz of coke equates 110 calories and 30 grams of sugar). The average bottle of Vitamin Water contains more sugar than a standard can of Coke. Now, Coke contains high fructose corn syrup and is not fortified, but nutritionally, you’re still getting sugar and calories from both drinks. Research suggests that ingesting added sugar from sweetened beverages increases the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. In fact, The American Heart Association recommends we get no more than 6.5 tsps of added sugar daily. But most of us way outpace that. Consuming 2 bottles of Vitamin Water a day adds up to 14 tsps of added sugar daily, over double the amount of the recommended daily intake, which adds up to 250 empty calories every day (www.realsimple.com).
Try this instead: In restaurants, ask for unsweetened beverages, like ice tea, and if you’re craving a sweater taste, add in a zero-calorie sweetener such as Splenda. Look for sugar-free versions of Vitamin Water and lemonade (like Crystal Light), and Gatorade’s G2 reduced-sugar drink. At home, make your own flavored water, adding in sliced cucumbers, oranges, berries, lemons, or limes. Or try squeezing lemon or lime in pure or sparkling water. Try these alternatives and you’ve got a drink that hydrates, tastes great, and isn’t full of added sugar or artificial flavors.
3. Frozen Diet Entrées
Yes, frozen dinners are convenient and cheap, but they are not as healthy as you may think.Frozen diet foods are not as nutritious as meals you prepare yourself due to their often high preservatives and sodium content. Many frozen meals contain between 700-1800 mg of sodium. With the daily-recommended maximum of 2300 mg of sodium, it makes it hard to stay under the maximum. This also puts people with high blood pressure at further risk. It makes it hard to believe because many frozen diet meals are less than 300 calories. But without any other calories to supplement them, 3 frozen meals a day will not provide enough calories for most people. The danger of under eating exists. Under eating causes your body’s metabolism to slow down, making it harder to lose weight. It is also disadvantageous for those with active lifestyles. Finally, many frozen meals do not provide enough fruits and vegetables to meet your daily nutritional requirements. Eating just frozen diet meals with no additional fruit and vegetables can lead to vitamin deficiency (http://www.fitday.com).
Try this instead: Frozen meals come in 2 types: light meals with less than 300 calories and 8 g of fat, and regular meals with 360 to 400 calories and up to 25 g of fat. Whenever possible, go for light meals. Also, find meals with lots of vegetables. Not only do these meals have fewer calories, they also have higher amounts of vitamins and fiber. When eating a frozen meal, serve it with a salad or a side of fruits or vegetables or even a whole wheat roll. Not only will you be more full after a meal and less prone to snacking, but you will also better be able to reach all of your nutritional requirements (www.abc.go.com).
When purchasing a frozen meal, look for these numbers:
- 250 to 300 calories
- Less than 4 g of fat
- Less then 800 mg of sodium
- At least 1 cup of vegetables
- ½ – 1 cup of brown rice or whole wheat pasta
- ¾ cup of beans or lean meat, fish or chicken
4. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Reduced-fat peanut butter spreads can be as little as 60 percent peanut. So where’s the other 40%? A jar of reduced-fat peanut butter does come with a fraction less fat than the full-fat variety, but what the food companies don’t tell you is that they’ve replaced that healthy fat with maltodextrin, a carbohydrate used as a filler in many processed foods. Nutritionally they’ve voided ingredients like corn syrup solids, sugar, and unhealthy oils make up the difference. However this means you’re trading the healthy fat from peanuts for empty carbohydrates, double the sugar, and a savings of as little as 10 calories per serving.
Try this instead: Buy the real stuff. Pick a full-fat option labeled “natural,” or look for
a layer of oil at the top of the jar. Check out the ingredients, too – there should be no fillers, or added sugars. The label should also list only two or three items, with peanuts being the first (http://www.webmd.com).