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Six Foods That May Not Be What You Think

Many times we think we think we are making healthier choices when in realty we are not gaining any nutritional benefits. These seven foods are some of the biggest "healthy" imposters.

Fitday Editor

Sometimes looks can be deceiving especially when it comes to food. You might think you are making a “healthier” choice, but in realty, you are not gaining any additional benefits and sometimes are just switching one macronutrient for another. Since I am a big proponent of all foods being part of a healthy eating plan, there is nothing harmful or “wrong” with the following seven foods, but if you are eating them because you think they are better for you, think again.

1. Multigrain/Wheat Bread

You might think that the words multigrain and wheat mean more vitamins, mineral and fiber, but that is usually not the case. Whole grains contain all the essential parts grain seed, and it is these parts that provide extra protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Processing removes most of the essential grain parts so if your label says wheat flour, enriched wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour or unbromated wheat flour, you are just eating a product made with white flour. You want the first ingredient to start with “whole” to ensure you are getting a 100% whole-grain product.

2. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter

Peanut butter can be part of a healthy eating plan. It provides lots of protein, vitamin E and the "good" monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. So, why would you trade that for added sugar? If you look at the labels of both regular and reduced fat peanut butter, you will see that they have about the same number of calories, but the reduced fat will likely have more sugar. By eating regular PB, you will find yourself feeling more satisfied and have better blood sugar control. When choosing PB, look for one that contains peanuts only without added sugar or oil.

3. Vegetable Pasta

Can you think of a better way to get your veggies in than by eating a big bowl of pasta? Unfortunately, vegetable pastas contain very little vegetables. Freeze dried vegetable powder is usually used, which results in a nice color but not any real nutritional benefits over white pasta. Since portion size is key and many people feeling cheated with just a cup of cooked pasta, try adding some some steamed frozen vegetables to add volume, nutrients and color to your pasta dish.

4. Energy Bars

Ever wonder why that energy bar tastes so good and gives you a quick boost of energy? It’s because most energy bars are candy bars in disguise filled with added sugar and saturated fat. But needing an on-the go snack is part of reality so look for bars that have less than 8 grams of sugar, at least 3 grams of fiber, between 5 and 10 grams of protein and don’t contain more sugar than protein.

5. Veggie Chips

You might think that chips made from vegetables are a healthier choice than regular potato chips, but most contain very little vegetables and are mainly made from potato starch or corn flour. In fact, veggie chips usually contain the same number of calories and fat grams as regular chips. And because most people think they are healthier, they tend to eat more of them. Your best choice is to make your own chips by baking thinly sliced potatoes, sweet potatoes or even kale. And don’t forget to check out the carrot section in the produce section for carrot chips.

5. Gluten-Free Products

Unless you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, going gluten-free is not going to be your golden ticket to a healthier lifestyle and diet. Actually, you may end up eating more calories and sugar than if you just focused on whole foods. Remember to remove the gluten, the food has to be processed.

6. Frozen “Ice Cream” Desserts

Many frozen desserts replace the fat with added sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, leaving you less satisfied. This translates to you eating more of the “fake” stuff which in turn ends up adding more calories, fat and sugar to your diet than if you had just had a small portion of the “real” stuff.

Remember a healthy diet is one that includes all foods that are eaten when you are hungry and can be enjoyed.

Joanne Perez, MS, RDN, LD is a Savannah-based dietitian who, after 20 years of food service and clinical dietetics, made the switch to nutrition communications and all things tech. She doesn't believe in diets and thinks that life is too short to be anything but happy and healthy at any weight. Read her blog, Real Bite Nutrition, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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