At the store, we are faced with terms on labels like: Fat-free, All-natural, and Vitamin-enriched all the time! But products that tout nutritional benefits are often anything but good for you. The food industry is given wide leeway to promote their products, so it’s up to us to ferret out the impostors.
That means we must be carefully reading nutrition labels to see what ingredients products actually contain. Some of the worst offenders turn up in foods you’d least suspect. Some of those so-called health bars, for example, may contain some protein, vitamins and minerals, but they’re often also loaded with salt and sugar as well.
And, just because something is seasoned with sea salt, doesn’t mean it’s any healthier.
“It’s going to have the same amount of sodium as table salt,” says Denise Cole, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic.
“But, we need less of it to make our food taste better because it’s a coarser grind than table salt,” he adds.
“So, just remember, we’re still getting the same amount of sodium, it’s just in a different form,” he continues.
And, the next time you reach for that low-fat peanut butter, think again. Often, the healthy peanut fat has been removed and replaced with added sugar to make up for the loss in flavor. That’s actually the case for many fat-free and low-fat products.
Of course, you don’t always have nutrition labels to guide you to the healthiest choices at the market. And when you’re in the produce section, all those greens can be overwhelming. So, in that case, let color be your guide.
“Iceberg lettuce actually has very little nutritional value. It’s mostly water, so if you’re looking to get good vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, you want to look at darker, greener lettuces, like romaine and spinach and kale,” Cole says.
“The darker … a lettuce, the more nutrition it has,” he states.
Here’s another tip from Cole: “Whole grain” and “multigrain” are not interchangeable terms. Whole grains are healthier because they contain all parts of the grain kernel. But multigrain simply means the food contains more than one type of grain.
So, what can we do to ensure we eat truly healthy? When in doubt, just remember to read the type behind the hype.