Eating well can be confusing at the best of times. Foods can contain ingredients that are healthy, such as bran or fruit, but this doesn’t necessarily make the food healthy itself.
To make matters more challenging, marketing can also make some foods sound healthier than they really are. Here are some common foods that sound healthy but may leave you surprised…
Store bought fruit and/or bran muffins
A blueberry bran muffin looks healthy – it’s brown and bursting with fruit, so it must be good right? Unfortunately not. For a start most muffins you buy at cafés and supermarkets are super sized, which translates to massive levels of calories and fat. If you love muffins the best option is to make your own and freeze them. This way you can pull them out whenever you need them, and you can be sure of what’s in them. Look for a low-fat bran muffin recipe and add your own fruit.
They are found in the health food isle at the supermarket, health food stores and sports shops – so they must be healthy right? Unfortunately, as with a lot of foods you need to be a bit of a label detective in order to distinguish the healthier options. For example, a HPLC protein bar contains 390 calories, 14.9g fat as well as 45g protein. This is a huge 100g bar, so eating one of these after doing a gym work out will do more harm than good unless you are an elite athlete.
EAS Myoplex Carb Sense Bar is another example. A bar contains 270 calories and 8g of fat. There are fewer calories in a chocolate Fling bar and only 1.6g of fat less. In saying this, however, the protein bar does have more nutritional value but as a snack many protein bars are too high in calories and fat for most of us. If you do like a protein bar every now and then, make sure you read the labels to check it is not too high in energy and fat. Remember, almost all of us get enough protein each day without trying.
While you can get healthy muesli bars, you can also get some that are more of a treat than a snack. For example a Tasti Snack Log (Carob Coated apricot flavour) contains 185 calories (778kj), 9.5g of fat and 15.9g of sugar! Definitely not an every day snack, even though on their web page they call it a healthy bar.
A healthier choice for every day would be a Nice and Natural Multigrain muesli bar. These have 2.5g fat per bar, 117calories (486kj), no added salt and are a source of fibre.
Do your label reading when buying muesli bars. Unless you are very active, aim for one that has under 600kj a bar. Also look for a bar with under 5g of fat, less than 2.5g saturated fat and under 9g of sugar per bar. Some bars are very sugary and are by weight 40-50% sugar!
Chicken Caesar Salad
I once had a client who couldn’t understand why she wasn’t losing weight, when all she ate for lunch was a salad. On divulging further I discovered her salads were Caesar salads. While a big pile of salad vegetables looks healthy, the creamy dressing, lashings of Parmesan cheese, deep fried croutons and streaky bacon p
ieces are not.
In fact, a Caesar salad has a whopping 75g of fat and 800 calories (3362kj) -not the healthy salad that most people anticipate. If you do order any kind of salad, ask for the dressing on the side and just use a little. You can still get a taste and get away with using much less than what you are given. Creamy dressings are like pouring liquid fat onto your salad. As an alternative ask for a wedge of lemon too as this is nice squeezed over the salad.
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