How healthy are you really eating?

May 24, 2008

Read between the lines and you’ll discover that what you’re munching on may not be the best choice.

Low fat. Reduced calories. Vitamin enriched. Walk down any aisle of your grocery store and you’ll be bombarded with foods boasting of their benefits. Okay, so wheat bread is better for you than white bread, but is that loaf you have in your hands really the best choice? Sometimes you have to step back and see what you’re buying to really know if it’s healthy.

Here’s a grocery store list of products you should be careful of:

Multigrain Cereal or Bread
You may think that anything that’s labeled seven-grain or multigrain is the best choice. Studies have shown that whole grain eaters have lower rates of heart disease and strokes. Many foods that claim to be rich in whole grains actually aren’t because the fiber and nutrients are stripped away when grains are refined into flour. Make sure you’re getting whole grain by learning the lingo of food claims. Bread that’s 100 percent whole grain contains no refined flour while cereal that’s made with whole grain may have a little or a lot. Always check the ingredients panel. Whole grains should be the first or second ingredient listed. Plus, products that have at least 16 grams of whole grains per serving are stamping their packaging with the Whole Grains Council’s logo, making it easier for you to find whole grain products!

Bottled Water and Vitamins
We’re supposed to drink lots of water and take our vitamins daily, so why not put the two together? Along with being loaded with nutrients, the bottle of vitamin water may be loaded with calories. Some brands boast that they supply half the daily requirement for some nutrients. However, you would have to drink the whole bottle. To top it off, you may only get six of the 40-plus essential nutrients provided by most supplements. There is an easy solution: drink plain, calorie-free water and take a multivitamin daily!

Veggie Chips
Chips made from carrots, spinach, kale and exotic tropical vegetables sounds healthier than potatoes. Take a closer look at the ingredients though, and you’ll discover that vegetables often appear at the bottom of the list while oil is close to the top. Some bags even pack the same amount of calories as your classic potato chips! If you really want chips, you’ll have to do your homework. Look for brands with vegetables at the top of the list of ingredients. If you’re counting calories, baked potato chips are a better choice, or try a handful of nuts, which are loaded with fiber, healthy oils, vitamins and minerals.

Made With Real Fruit” Snacks
You know how they say don’t judge a book by its cover? Don’t judge a snack by the picture of fresh fruit on the box! The manufacturers can brag that their snacks contain real fruit, but they don’t have to specify, meaning the snacks can contain the smallest amounts of fruit. Plus, many of these snacks pack lots of calories that come from added sugar. You don’t have to give up your fruit snacks, but you should eat them sparingly. Try a single-serving box of raisins or any type of dried fruit for a healthier alternative.

Low-Sodium Products
The recommended maximum adult serving of sodium is 2,300 mg a day, but we Americans consume an average of 3,375 mg daily! While manufacturers are producing low-sodium alternatives of our favorite foods, many still contain a lot more salt than we should have in a single serving (140 mg). A product is labeled “less sodium” if the sodium level is 25 percent less than the original product. When you’re shopping, look for products marked “low in sodium” to make sure you’re getting 140 mg or less of sodium per serving.

By taking an active step to be more aware of what you’re putting into your body, you can improve your health! Always read the ingredients, and when in doubt, do your homework.

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