Foods we often think of as healthy can contain ingredients that turn them into unhealthy foods. “Natural” and “healthy” tag lines on the packaging can fool us into making poor choices.
“The best way to decipher good vs. bad foods in your pantry is to read the ingredients list on the package,” says ServSafe Certified Registered Dietitian Samantha Hauswirth. “You may be shocked to find that something you consider a ‘healthy’ food item actually contains a laundry list of not-so-good for you ingredients.”
Ms. Hauswirth shares three seemingly healthy foods you probably have in your pantry right now:
1. Peanut Butter
The only ingredient should be peanuts, and maybe some salt. In some of the major brands, you will find ingredients such as sugar and hydrogenated oil, which is just a fancy name for trans fat. Diets high in trans fats have been found to raise bad cholesterol, clog arteries and cause heart disease.
Try the natural peanut butter and donít be afraid of the inch of oil at the top of the jar. Mix it in well and remember to refrigerate after opening.
These foods are often marketed towards healthy and active individuals, which makes it enticing to just throw it in the cart without doing a little label investigation. Granola and cereal are often high in sugar and low in fiber, which is exactly the opposite of what they should be.
When reading the label, make sure there are more grams of fiber than grams of sugar in each serving, or else it’s not worth your while and will often leave you hungry within an hour of consuming it.
3. Fat Free Foods
Fat often gets a bad rap for being unhealthy, when in reality, we need fat to survive and maintain normal cell function in our bodies. When snack foods offer a fat-free option, of course it’s going to grab the attention of consumers trying to watch their figure. Unfortunately, when fat is subtracted from a recipe, flavor is also compromised. To make up for the loss of flavor, food companies pile in the sugar to make it taste better. Watch out for this tricky substitution!
Looking for some healthy alternatives? Paula’s Healthy Living blogger Paula Meier, who performs grocery store tours and pantry raids for her clients, has a few more tips for how to properly stock your kitchen so when hunger hits, you have more healthy options:
- brown rice
- blended pasta
- reggiano parmesan
- goat cheese
- seasonal vegetables and organic frozen vegetables
- acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash
- boxed or BPA-free canned chopped tomatoes
- black, pinto, white and garbanzo beans
- jarred pickled beets
What to Avoid
Chips and processed boxed dinners, which are high in salt and preservatives.
If you’re concerned about lack of flavor, Ms. Meier offers these seasoning tips:
Olive oil, virgin olive oil (EVOO), flavored vinegar, grape-seed oil, sesame oil, and coconut oil (high in calories). They must be used sparingly.
Add to vegetables, seafood, and salads to add a variety of flavors with few calories.
Cook vegetables with no-salt chicken bouillon. Add fresh herbs and dried herbs to vegetables (raw or cooked) to add flavor with few calories.
Main Post Photo: Jacob Wackerhausen, photographer | iStock | Thinkstock
Food Label: Frank-Boston, photographer | iStock | Thinkstock
Vinegar & Oil: karandaev, photographer | iStock | Thinkstock
Spices: Kryszlof Siusarczyk, photographer | iStock | Thinkstock