Many people seek out healthier versions of their usual staples and snacks in an effort to improve their diet.
Yet labels boasting “low-fat”, “calorie-reduced”, “made with real fruit” or “all-natural”, for example, don’t necessarily mean a food product is nutritionally superior.
In some cases, making the “healthier” choice may lead you to unwittingly sacrifice nutrients – and consume unwanted ingredients.
Think twice before you add the following foods to your grocery cart – they’re not as nutrient-worthy as they sound.
If you’re looking for a salty snack that’s healthy, Sensible Portions Veggie Straws might tempt you. The company states these colourful sticks are a “smart and wholesome way” to satisfy your craving.
Don’t let the word “veggie” fool you. You’ll be hard pressed to find one whole vegetable on the ingredient list.
The “straws” are made from potato starch, potato flour, corn starch, calcium chloride, cane sugar, salt, potassium chloride, spinach powder, tomato paste, beetroot powder and turmeric. Then they’re fried in vegetable oil and seasoned.
It’s the seasoning – a list of 28 ingredients – where you’ll find a dash of vegetables. Dehydrated red bell pepper, dehydrated carrot and dehydrated green bell pepper are listed as the 21st, 22nd and 23rd ingredients. (Ingredients are listed by weight from most to least.)
Look for veggie chips made from whole vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, plantain, parsnips. Your snack will provide considerably more fibre, vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene.
If you want to cut fat at breakfast, especially saturated fat, turkey style or chicken style bacon is a better choice than regular pork side bacon. But not by much.
That’s because nutrition labels disclose nutrient numbers for raw, not cooked, bacon.
Two slices of uncooked turkey bacon have 72 calories, 4 g of fat and 2 g of saturated fat while two slices of uncooked pork bacon have 200 to 220 calories, 20 g of fat and 7 g of saturated fat.
Cooking bacon renders off fat (and calories), especially so for fatty pork bacon.
Two slices of cooked pork side bacon end up with 86 calories, 6 g of fat and 2 g of saturated fat. Not a sizable difference from two slices of cooked turkey bacon: 60 calories, 4 g of fat and 1 g of saturated fat.
Still, whether made from turkey, chicken or pork, bacon is a processed meat to eat sparingly. A high intake of processed meat is tied to a greater risk of colorectal cancer and heart disease.
Light peanut butter
For peanut butter, the food label term “light” means 25 per cent less fat than the regular product. (For other products “light” may mean 25 per cent fewer calories.)
Sounds like a big fat savings, but not so in this case. One tablespoon of regular peanut butter has 8 g of fat whereas a tablespoon of light peanut butter has six. And per tablespoon, light peanut butter delivers only 10 fewer calories than regular.
Peanut butter is an excellent source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, most of it monounsaturated fat, the type thought to help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
Stick with full-fat peanut butter. Look for products that contain only peanuts and salt (i.e., no soybean oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn maltodextrin, sugar and other additives).
Fat-free salad dressing
Dressing your greens with fat-free dressing can rob your body of their beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. Bone-building vitamin K, beta-carotene and brain-friendly lutein, for example, are fat-soluble meaning they’re best absorbed when you consume them with fat.
Research from Iowa State University found that people who ate salad with fat-free dressing absorbed almost no beta-carotene and lutein. With reduced-fat dressing, more antioxidants were absorbed. Using a full-fat dressing, however, led to the highest antioxidant absorption.
Many vegetables oils (e.g., sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, olive) are also good sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects brain cell membranes from free radical damage.
Don’t shortchange your diet of healthy fats.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.