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“Health” Food Snacks May Not Be Healthy

If you’re one of the millions of Americans hoping to lose weight by buying fat-free, cholesterol-free, or all-natural products, you may be surprised. Experts at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Texas say it’s those so-called “healthy” foods that often sabotage diets.

“These are the foods we naturally look to as we try to lose extra pounds; however, they are the ones that we need to be careful about,” says Dee Rollins, PhD, R.D., dietitian with Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine.

Case in point—granola. “Everyone thinks granola bars are wonderful and yet if you turn it over and look at the ingredients you’ll see that it has high fructose corn syrup and a lot of sugars,” adds Dr. Rollins. In fact, the average granola bar contains more than 300 calories and 10 grams of fat - usually inflammatory omega-6 fats from vegetable oils—not a healthy snack at all.

Now what about some of those bran cereals? “You’ll find that there’s a lot of hidden sugar, perhaps even some hidden salt, even a little fat in those cereals that you don’t anticipate finding,” says Dr. Rollins.

The meat aisle is no safer—a pound of ground turkey can really ruffle a dieter’s feathers, sometimes containing more fat grams than a pound of ground beef. “If you flip that label over and read the ingredients, you’ll see that it’s high salt, maybe they added some fat, maybe they added some sugar and those products might not be as healthy as you think they are,” explains Dr. Rollins.

And don’t look down the bread aisle for any less deceptive packaging. “Multi-grain, honey wheat, seven-grain…we’re looking at all of those names and inside that brown bread wrapper we think it’s going to be a really good product,” adds Dr. Rollins. But experts say it’s actually ‘whole grain’ that’s the only indication that it’s a truly healthy buy.

And the ultimate in diet deception—“low-fat.” “When they take the fat out they almost always put the sugar in so check the calorie count. There’s probably more calories in a low-fat or low-carbohydrate product than in a regular product,” says Dr. Rollins.
And here are some other “healthy” foods to watch out for:

  • 100 percent fruit juice—it’s still full of calories
  • all-natural potato chips—made from real potatoes, but still loaded with fat and sodium
  • ‘cholesterol-free’ anything—if it’s not an animal product it doesn’t have cholesterol in it at all so keep in mind that usually when you see the label ‘cholesterol-free’ it means nothing.

So what exactly should you look for when reading labels? According to Dr. Rollins, concentrate on three things—sodium, fat and total calories. Then read through the ingredients and make sure things like salt, sugar, corn syrup or vegetable (corn, safflower, sunflower, etc.) oils aren’t at the top. Consider unlabeled foods such as fruits and vegetables.


For more information about Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine, visit http://www.BaylorHealth.com.

Key concepts: food, healthy snacks