Whether you want to lose weight or improve your overall health, a nutritious diet is an important piece of the puzzle. Knowing what foods to eat can be complicated, and sometimes, unhealthy foods can masquerade as wholesome options. Keep an eye out for these sneaky snacks:
Whole grains are an important source of fiber, minerals and B vitamins. But many options that claim to be multigrain or wheat are actually made mostly of refined flours that have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients. Check labels and go for slices that list whole wheat or other whole grains as the first ingredients, and avoid those that list “enriched flour.”
This processed sweetener, made from the blue agave plant, has caught on as a popular sugar alternative. But the syrup actually contains 20 more calories per teaspoon than table sugar, and is about 1.5 times sweeter than regular sugar. If you choose agave over sugar, cut back on the size of your spoonful. And remember that the American Heart Association recommends eating no more than about 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men. That tally includes all added sugars, including table sugar, honey, high-fructose corn syrup and agave syrup.
People frequently equate “organic” with “healthy,” which is sometimes a mistaken assumption, particularly for packaged foods. Choosing organic snacks might even lead to overeating. A study by researchers at the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab found that people who ate cookies labeled "organic" believed their snack contained 40 percent fewer calories than identical cookies without the organic label. Organic or not, overeating any type of snack can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Sliced turkey can be a great source of lean protein, but it can also pack a high-sodium punch. According to the American Heart Association, most Americans consume too much sodium, potentially putting themselves at increased risk of health issues such as stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis and kidney disease. Opt for sliced fresh turkey instead, or go for low-sodium brands. Even if you choose a low-sodium option, don’t forget to pay attention to serving sizes when you heap the slices on your sandwich. The recommended daily value for sodium is less than 2,400 milligrams (mg) per day.
What’s wrong with a frosty cup of fruity goodness? The problem is that many smoothies contain more sweeteners than fruit. Sometimes, they even contain frozen yogurt or ice cream. Instead of buying mystery smoothies that are likely packed with sugar, blend up a smoothie at home using fresh or frozen fruit with low-fat milk or yogurt as a base.
Making healthy food choices is a lot easier when you have all the facts. To explore the nutritional value of your favorite foods, check out our Nutrition Facts database.