Posted by & filed under Healthy Eating.

Pop quiz time! Take a look in your kitchen. Which of these foods do you have in there right now?

– whole-grain bread

– yogurt with fruit

– reduced-fat peanut butter

How many points do you get for each item? Well, I’m afraid the answer is zero. All of these products are common healthful-food impostors.

Don’t blame yourself. Fancy or misleading labels that make foods appear more healthful than they really are line the shelves of grocery stores everywhere. It has become very easy to walk through the checkout line with more (or less, nutritionally speaking) than you bargained for.

Ready to fight back? Become a super-savvy consumer. Read on to learn more about these three common offenders, and even better, the truly good, healthful foods you can easily substitute.

●Health Food Impostor #1: Whole-Grain Bread

Doesn’t that dark-colored loaf (we won’t even mention the nutrient-stripped white kind) look healthful, just as the “multigrain” or “whole wheat” on the label implies? Chances are that product might have a nutritious-sounding name, but it actually could contain coloring to provide a “healthy” hue to lure you over, enriched flours that lack the heart-healthy benefits of fiber, or even processed white flour mixed in. Not what you thought you were eating, is it?

The Good-Health Real Deal

Skip the splashy, marketing-slick front of the package. Instead carefully examine the ingredient list for the words “100 percent whole wheat”—or any other grain—at the beginning. Many processed recipes can call themselves “whole,” but only when it says “100 percent whole” should you believe the label ensures it’s the real deal. That was easy!

●Health Food Impostor #2: Flavored Yogurt

You know the yogurts with a layer of fruit on the bottom that look so wonderfully flavorful and refreshing? Please think again. While plain yogurt does have healthful components, such as probiotics (although I’d suggest that you take them separately to be sure that you are getting enough of that beneficial flora) and protein, most flavored yogurts also have added sugar. Those that are labeled “light” may contain artificial sweeteners. Add “fruit” (that is, a very small amount of fruit plus more sugar and perhaps thickening agents and coloring, too), and you have a very sweet, high calorie dessert on your hands.

The Good-Health Real Deal

Choose plain yogurt (I prefer the Greek kind) and simply add your own fruit or vegetable, such as berries or cucumber. Now you’re getting what’s good about real yogurt plus the additional benefits of natural foods, such as fiber and component nutrients.

●Health Food Impostor #3: Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

Ready to learn the tricky code for more sugar or chemical flavor enhancers added? It’s “reduced fat” or “fat-free.” When the heart-healthy fat in peanuts is removed to make low-fat peanut butter, more sugar is added to compensate for that lost taste. Eating fat-free is part of the “fat is dangerous and makes you fat” craze embraced in the past. However, newer nutritional research shows this idea is not necessarily true. The higher sugar content of fat-free foods can far outweigh potential problems with good fats. Plus, with fewer fats to make you feel full, you often wind up hungry again in a shorter period of time—and eventually that may mean weighing more, too.

The Good-Health Real Deal

Buy regular, natural peanut butter without added sugars or oils. Even better: To get extra vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium, try almond butter.

Bonus Health Tip

This rule applies to more than just peanut butter. Look for the misleading “fat-free” code when buying other food products. Compare the labels of the regular version and the fat-free one. You may be shocked at the difference in the sugar grams.

Learning to eat in a more healthful way isn’t a one-step process, but unmasking these impostors is an important part of it. Start with reading the labels to understand what’s in your refrigerator right now. See some problems? Take note, and you’ll know what to look for—or look OUT for—next time you buy.

The three foods discussed above are just the tip of the imposter iceberg. Join me next time as I expose another handful of sneaky, not-so-healthful foods.

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