Good For You? Maybe Not: Some Tricky Foods That Can Be Nutritionally Deceptive

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Black coffee has no calories--but additions like cream, sugar, and flavored syrups start sneaking calories in. Read on to learn about more sneaky foods.

We all know that certain foods are good for us—plain non-starchy vegetables for example.  It isn’t easy to come up with a lot of nutritional negatives to denigrate spinach or broccoli.   But there are some foods that we think of as healthy that can morph into a nutritional nightmare if we aren’t vigilant.

Below are five categories of foods that can get a dietitian’s thumbs up or thumbs down depending on how they are made.

What could be better to have for lunch than a salad?  Full of vitamins and antioxidant-containing greens, low calorie, packed with fiber, salads are often the lunchtime choice of thousands of Americans.  When made with an eye to color, nutritional content and flavor, they are an excellent selection.  The problem starts when instead of healthy greens and possible a lean source of protein, they contain mayonnaise-laden starches such as pasta or potato salad, are overloaded with sweetened dried fruits and heavy cheeses, and are drenched in cream-based dressings.  Now you have taken a less than 250 calorie meal and suddenly turned it into a 900 kcal waist expanding splurge. So instead of reaching for that Caesar salad, try instead a garden salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, peppers, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Smoothies can be another deceptive nutritional downer.  They seemingly have all the right ingredients: fresh fruit and milk or yogurt.  They, therefore, should come packed with vitamin C, some fiber and calcium at least.  When made with just these ingredients and limited to a six to eight ounce serving they come in under 250 calories and 25 grams of carb.  But many smoothies made outside the home are closer to 16 to 24 ounces, have added honey or other sweeteners and pack quite a calorie and carbohydrate punch.  For example, a 16 oz Peach Palm at TCBY is 300 calories, 67 grams of carb, 54 of which come from sugar and 3 grams of fiber.  It also contains 3 grams of saturated fat from the whole milk frozen yogurt they use.

Instead try the following – 1 small banana, 4 strawberries, 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, ½ cup of skim milk and 7 large ice cubes.  Put in the blender and blend until smooth.  Makes two servings with 68 calories and 14 grams of carb.

Granola is a great topper for yogurt, but be careful--hidden sugar and honey in some kinds of granola can make it more caloric than you'd expect

Granola with its whole grain crunchiness can be a breakfast boon or a snack time calorie buster.   Traditionally it is made from rolled oats, dried fruits and nuts.   Some granolas unfortunately are packed with calories, carbs and saturated fat from chocolate, nuts, sweeteners and oil.     Stop and Shop’s Granola Oats and Honey Natural contains 230 calories, 31 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fat for only a one-half cup serving.   You are better off either making your own granola (recipe below) or adding a small handful of nuts to your oatmeal.

Granola Recipe
110 calorie  14 grams carb 5 grams fat

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup of chopped walnuts
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet  ingredients in another
Combine the two.
Press the mixture into the baking sheet
Bake for  15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cool before serving.   Makes 24 servings

Turkey or Veggie burgers in restaurants can pack more calories and fat than you think.  Unlike the small patty and same-size whole grain bun you may make yourself at home, restaurants often supersize their offerings so you are getting an 8 oz burger and a 4 oz bun.  Add to that heavy sauces and an accompaniment of French fries and you would have been better off with a small broiled sirloin steak and baked potato.

Flavored coffees can be a nice change of pace, but not all of them are “guilt-free”.  Each pump of syrup comes with 20 calories, and who do you know that is satisfied with only one or two.  Grande café mocha at Starbucks is 232 calories, not bad until you remember that plain old everyday coffee hasn’t any calories (before you add your cream or milk).

Can you name other Jekyll and Hyde foods?

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