Foods That Fool

By AM Northwest Staff

More than 20,000 new foods and beverages were introduced into your local grocery store in 2006. Some of the most popular of those items claimed to be natural, organic, fresh, low or no-fat, contain no preservatives or more short to be super-nutritious. But some healthy sounding foods are imposters, implying they offer more than they really do. Most of us are aware that just because a bread says it is 7 grain or whole wheat, doesn’t mean it’s so. But there are many more deceptive tricks to avoid.

Elizabeth Somer, M. A., RD nutritionist, joined us to discuss the types of "Foods That Fool" us.


Here are some of them: 

1. Cereals

What has less sugar - Cocoa Puffs or Select Cranberry Almond Crunch?

Many of those sophisticated cereals aimed at adults have as much or more sugar as the kid’s junk. In this case, Cocoa Puffs has slightly less, 12 grams vs 13 grams in the healthy-sounding Crunch. Granted the Crunch has a bit more fiber, but it also has 80% more calories. Both are made with whole grains, but no one would venture to say a chocolate cereal is healthy for you. Well, guess what...many of those cereals aimed at adults are not much better.

Instead choose: Cereals that contain only whole grain or bran, have at least 4 grams of fiber, and no more than 8 grams of sugar, such as Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal, Spoon-size Shredded Wheat or Shredded Wheat ‘n Bran, GrapeNuts, or Weetabix name only a few 

2. Chips

Which is better for you - Potato chips, Flat Earth’s Garlic & Herb Field Baked Veggie Crisps with 1 /2 serving of real vegetables in every ounce, or Seneca apple chips?

This is one of the best examples of deceptive packaging in the grocery store! Check the label and you’ll note that the first two ingredients in the Crisps are rice flour and potato flakes....that’s right, this incredibly deceptive chip, which often is found in the canned fruit aisle, is just potato chips. Check further and you’ll note the Crisps have more corn oil, modified corn starch, and oat flour than pumpkin, more sugar than dehydrated onion, and more salt than tomato. While a serving of any of those vegetables supplies 19 to 40 calories and virtually no sodium, to get a full serving vegetables from these Crisps will cost you 260 calories, with 380mg sodium. How a manufacturer can take a healthy, fat-free apple or banana, load it with fat and sugar, then pass it off as healthy is beyond me! Same goes for the apple chips, which have the same calories per ounce as potato chips

Instead choose. If you want something crunchy, try snacking on raw Chinese pea pods or apple slices. If you want something closer to a chip, cut corn tortillas into wedges, dust them with salt or seasonings and bake until crisps.

 3. Crackers

Wheatsworth Stone ground Wheat crackers or Triscuits

Seems like any cracker that say’s "wheat" twice and mentions that the wheat is stoneground must pack a hefty nutritional punch. However, the deceptive word here - wheat - just means it is made with refined wheat flour, the first ingredient listed. 5 crackers packs almost a teaspoon of fat (3.5 grams), too. Throughout the grocery store and especially in the cracker aisle, watch out for brand deception. Some brands, such as Kashi, make some wonderful, high-fiber wholesome cereals, but other products in the line, such as some of their crackers have more white flour than whole. Always read the label and assume nothing!

Instead choose. Check the ingredient list and know the code words. Refined white flour is often called wheat flour or enriched flour. If you don’t see the word "whole,"’cracked wheat," "oats," or "whole grain", it probably isn’t. Also, the nutrition panel may say "trans free", but if you see hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredient list, you have a product that has trans fats, just not enough per serving to qualify for a listing. Eat more than the serving size and you could be eating more than your allotment of trans fats. Healthy options include: Reduced-Fat Triscuits, or their Roasted Garlic or Garden Herb varieties - they are whole grain, high-fiber, and hydrogenated fat-free.

4. Pasta

Spinach pasta or regular pasta

What could be better than to meet your vegetable quota by eating carbs?! Too bad there is so little spinach in spinach pasta that the label says a hefty portion contains no vitamin A, also a red flag there’s little of the healthy phytochemicals that have made spinach famous, like lutein to protect your eyes.

Instead choose: Toss thawed and drained chopped spinach into pasta (preferably pasta that is at least half whole grain) or pasta sauces... a half cup serving will supply 100% of your daily need for vitamin A and 25% of your requirement for folate.

5. Lettuce

Bagged Full Salads vs McD’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese

Dole’s Garlic Caesar Salad kit says that there are 3 servings in a bag. Each little serving (1.5 cups) is 170 calories and 15 grams of fat! Use the entire salad dressing pouch and croutons on your salad and you are consuming more calories than you’ll get in a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Hillshire Farm has a new line of Entree Salads, such as Chicken Caesar, Turkey & Cranberries with Ham Julienne...all you add is the lettuce. You also will add half a day’s saturated fat and a full day’s sodium, in fact, you’ll be gobbling the nutritional equivalent of a McD’s Sausage McMuffin with Egg, plus 700mg more sodium.

Instead choose: Bagged baby spinach or romaine lettuces, then drizzle a smidgeon of your own favorite low-fat dressing. Better yet, try Wish Bone’s Salad Spritzers, which coats the greens with only one calorie’s worth of dressing.

6. Peanut Butter and Jelly

Reduced-fat or Full-fat Peanut Butter

It’s a wash. They both have about the same calories. The reduced-fat makes up for the calories by adding more sugar in the form of corn syrup solids. When it comes to your weight, a calorie is a calorie whether it comes from sugar or fat.

All fruit Jam or Regular Jam

They are the same, and some all-fruit jams even have more calories. Both list whole fruit as the first ingredient. The only difference is that regular jam uses corn syrup (a vegetable-based ingredient..hence it can’t be called "all fruit.") while all-fruit the sweetener if concentrated white grape or pear juice, which is just highly refined sugar extracted from fruit.

Instead choose: Whichever jam you like the best, just watch the serving size. Or, smear a bit of peanut butter on bread and top with fresh fruit, such as thinly sliced apples or chunks of banana.

Instead choose: I love peanut butter, just watch your serving size. Keep it to 2 Tablespoons and use as a dip for fruit, as a sandwich spread, when making Thai sauces, or even in smoothies. Also, you can add partially debated peanut butter powder to smoothies for taste with fewer calories.

7. Juices

Fruit juices with acai, pomegranate, mangosteen, or passion fruit or a creamed-fill doughnut

Granted, some of the new juices contain fruits known to be high in antioxidants, such as blueberries, acai, and pomegranate. But it is a huge misconception to think these are better than tomato juice or orange juice. Thousands of studies spanning decades of research have shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables lower all age-related diseases and even help premature aging. All those studies were on people who ate regular foods, not exotic fruits of the month. Also, make sure to read the label. If a high-priced fruit drink contains either high-fructose corn syrup or concentrated apple, white grape, or pear in the first 3 ingredients...what you have is a lot of sugar water mixed with some fruit. Some of these bottled juices are only 5% fruit juice, yet a standard 20 ounce bottle can supply up to 300 calories (or as many calories as a cream-filled doughnut).

Instead choose: If you’re choosing between juice or a soda, of course many juices win hands down. However, if you are truly serious about eating healthy and managing your weight, then a piece of fruit, such as an orange, and a glass of water is your best choice. The tried-and-true juices with research to back them up include: 100% orange, grapefruit, prune, tomato, V8, and pineapple

8. Vegetable Substitutes

Juice Plus or a Sprig of Broccoli

Juice Plus may be touted as the "next best thing to fruits and vegetables," but don’t be fooled. Dehydrating produce shrinks it by about 90%, but it still would take 15 capsules to supply the equivalent of a half cup serving of broccoli, while Juice Plus recommends 4 capsules a day. Hmmm, that’s about as much broccoli as you’d get in a small sprig. Yes, the company adds some extra vitamin C, beta carotene, and other nutrients to make up the difference, but you’ll still be missing out on the fiber and 12,000 health-enhancing phytochemicals identified so far in produce., not to mention the cost to your pocketbook.

Instead choose: Just bite the bullet and make a pack with yourself to include at least 2 servings of real fruits and vegetables at every meal and at least 1 at every snack. Period.

 The Bottom Line:

Don’t believe anything you read on the front of a label. Always go to the back to check 3 things: 1) the nutritional panel, 2) the serving size, AND 3) the ingredients list. And, if it sounds to good to be true (i.e., getting vegetables by eating potato chips), then it probably is!

For more information about Elizabeth and her book 10 Habits that Mess Up a Woman's Diet, please click here.


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