Eat Clean

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Think these “healthy” foods are helping you lose weight or eat better? Here’s why they’re not as nutritious as you think.

Package Turkey:

Yes, turkey is good lean protein, and on a sandwich with whole-grain and lettuce, tomato, and other veggies isn’t a bad lunch choice. The problem here is sodium; a two-ounce serving of some brands has as much as nearly one-third of your recommended limit. Try to buy low-sodium slices (look for less than 350 mg sodium per two-ounce serving) or roast and slice your own meat.
Energy Bars:

If you’re going to eat them, pick ones with fewer than 200 calories and 20 grams of sugar per serving. Also key: Read labels to choose bars with as few ingredients as possible. Some bars from brands like KIND and Larabar contain just nuts, dried fruit, and seeds.


Bran Muffins:

Many bran muffins have more calories and sugar than a donut. While bran itself is a healthy whole grain source of fiber, it becomes less nutritious when baked into a muffin with heaps of sugar, flour, and fat. If you’re really craving a muffin, make them yourself and look for recipes that use whole wheat flour and substitute applesauce for butter.

Flavored Instant Oatmeal:

Flavored packets have more sugar and sodium than regular rolled or steel cut oats. A better option: Dress up regular oatmeal with fresh fruit or a small amount of honey.

Reduced-fat Peanut Butter:

The fat from nuts is good for you! The reduced-fat versions add more sugar to make up for the lack of fat. So choose the regular kind, and stick to 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving.


Trail Mix:

Most nutritionists will advise you to snack on a combination of carbs, protein, and fiber for sustained energy—and trail mix seems like a perfect example. Try to avoid the versions with yogurt-covered raisins, deep-fried banana chips, sesame sticks, or salty nuts or make a healthy mix yourself with mainly nuts and seeds and a little high-cacao dark chocolate and dried fruit.

With fewer calories and fat grams than most chips, pretzels seem healthy. But nearly every brand of pretzels is made from the same basic nutrition-less ingredients: white flour—wheat flour that’s been stripped of its nutrients and fiber—yeast, salt, and maybe some vegetable oil or corn syrup. Try looking for a brand made with whole wheat flour or eating whole grain crackers, soy crisps, or popcorn instead.


Spinach Wraps and Pasta:

Don’t let the green color fool you. The actual amount of spinach in these green tortillas and noodles is trivial compared with what you would get if you added your own spinach leaves to your wrap or pasta dish.

Bottled Green Tea:

Many brands of bottled tea sold in stores contain almost no ECGC, the potent antioxidant linked to cancer prevention and weight loss. If you are drinking tea to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and a whole list of other degenerative conditions, brew your own.