My friend Henry, recently bought a huge box of Yogos, confident that these "yogurty-covered, fruit-flavored bits" were a healthy choice for his kids. No doubt Henry was deceived by the "health halo" effect. Words like "yogurt" and "fruit" positively glow with such halos, since we consider these foods healthy in their natural state. Don't be fooled.
Although most foods can fit into a healthy diet if you know your limits, do a reality check and read labels first. Here are some of the worst offenders:
1. Energy bars
Energy bars usually contain protein and fiber-nutrients that help you feel full-but also may be loaded with calories. That's fine if you occasionally make one a meal, but most of us eat them as snacks. You might as well enjoy a Snickers, which at 280 calories is in the same range as many energy bars.
Lesson learned: Look for a calorie-controlled bar with about 5 grams of protein or try EatingWell's Low-Fat Granola Bars.
Granola sounds healthy. But it's often high in fat, sugar and calories. Don't be fooled by a seemingly reasonable calorie count; portion sizes are usually a skimpy 1/4 or 1/2 cup. Low-fat versions often just swap sugar for fat and pack as many calories as regular versions.
Lesson learned: Stick with recommended portion sizes and try EatingWell's Cranberry Oat Granola.
Most of us could use more vegetables-so what's not to love? Toppings. The pecans and Gorgonzola cheese on Panera Bread's Fuji Apple Chicken Salad (580 calories, 30 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat) propel it into double-cheeseburger territory. A McDonald's double cheeseburger has 440 calories, 23 grams fat, 11 grams saturated fat.
Lesson learned: Before ordering a salad, check its nutrition information or try more than 20 EatingWell recipes for healthy salads and dressings.
Smoothies may seem like a tasty way to get your recommended fruit servings-but studies show that beverages are less filling per calorie than solid foods. Added sugars can make some the equivalent of drinking fruit pie filling: the smallest (16-ounce) serving of Jamba Juice's Orange Dream Machine weighs in at 340 calories, with 69 grams of sugars that don't all come from juice. You're better off with fresh-squeezed juices; orange juice has 110 calories per cup.
Lesson learned: Look for smoothies made with whole fruit, low-fat yogurt and no added sugars. Check out EatingWell's 15 healthy smoothie recipes for ideas.
5. Sushi rolls
There is a wide variety of sushi rolls and the fried tidbits and mayonnaise in some can really tuck in calories. Some 12-piece Dragon Rolls (eel, crunchy cucumbers, avocado and "special eel sauce") have almost 500 calories and 16 grams of fat (4 grams saturated).
Lesson learned: Order something simple like a California roll (imitation crabmeat, avocado and cucumber) or a vegetarian roll which supplies around 350 calories and 6 or 7 grams of fat (mostly heart-healthy monounsaturated) or try EatingWell's Brown Rice & Tofu Maki.
Some premium whole-milk yogurts can give you a hefty dose of saturated fat. Many low-fat versions are every bit as creamy. Enjoy a fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt, but understand that the "fruit" is really jam (i.e., mostly sugar). Or opt for low-fat plain and stir in fresh fruit or other sweetener to taste. My favorite, a tablespoon of Vermont maple syrup (52 calories), provides all the sweetness I need.
Lesson learned: Although they are still good sources of calcium, fat and added sugars make some yogurts closer to dessert than to a healthy snack.
By EatingWell's Dr. Rachel Johnson
Rachel Johnson, EatingWell's senior nutrition advisor, is dean of the University of Vermont College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.
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