Friday, January 28, 2011

Bursting a Few Healthy Bubbles

- This is another article I wrote for my health and fitness colunm in our local paper -

Bursting a Few Healthy Bubbles

What comes to mind when you hear words like, salad, bagel, smoothie, bran muffin, and granola? I’m guessing you think something along the lines of, “health food”, or “diet”, or maybe the word “tree-hugger” or “vegetarian” pops into your head. Possibly it reminds you of your health-nut sister-in-law, Mrs. All-Natural.

Well, your sister-in-law may eat all those things, but if she does, I’m here to tell you she isn’t the “health-nut” you think she is. If those foods are your idea of healthy eating, brace yourself, because I’m about to burst a few “healthy” bubbles.

Let’s start with the easy one. Salad…it’s rabbit food, it’s like a garden just sprouted on your plate. It’s what all dieters live on, and it’s a health food. When you want to lose a few pounds you start ordering a salad whenever you eat out. Well STOP!!! Most salads at restaurants are a heart attack waiting to happen. You’d be better off ordering a burger. What started as something good (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc…) gets slathered with fat, sugar, and way too many calories. Let’s break it down real quick: the basic salad (lettuce and veggies) about 50 calories, great so far.

Now add some chopped egg – 50 calories, bacon bits – 70 calories, croutons - 75 calories, 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds – 100 calories, a few candied nuts – 120 calories, a sprinkling of cheese – 100 calories, and then to top the whole thing off ¼ cup of Salad Dressing – 300 Calories. YIKES! A 50 calorie bowl of salad is now over 850 calories. And that’s on the low end; Applebee’s Grilled Steak Caesar Salad has 1,191 calories… That’s a hefty salad considering a person’s daily calorie intake should range from 1,200 to 2,400 calories (a short-hand way to figure your needed calorie intake is to add a zero to your desired weight). So much for salad being a part of your diet. If you ditch all those toppings you can keep that bowl of healthy veggies on your guilt free list, otherwise, stay far away from it.

Muffins and Bagels. They sound healthy, and they seem like a better alternative than a donut. Well, they’re not. When you break a muffin down it is made of sugar, flour, and butter. Maybe some fruit was thrown in, but throw a little frosting on top and it’s really a cupcake. Eating a muffin for breakfast is a nice way of saying, “I like to have my cake for dessert and eat it for breakfast too.” Now, a small plum sized muffin that your grandmother makes is one thing, but most bakeries turn muffins into small planets loaded with unhealthy fats, refined flour, and tons of added sugar. They may even start with the word “bran” or “blueberry” but don’t be fooled, they are not healthy.

So you say, “I’ll opt for the bagel.” Hold up one moment. Some bagels equal 4 servings of bread. Most of us don’t eat 4 pieces of toast for breakfast, but we’ll pick up a bagel on our way to work. Along with being dense, bagels offer little else in terms of nutrition. You’re better off eating 2 slices of toast with jam. Skip the bagel!

Moving on to granola. It’s gotta be healthy. I mean really, “granola” is even what we call people who are vegan, environmentally aware, eat only organic foods, and buy only fair-trade goods. Actually granola starts out with healthy oats and nuts, but then gets gooped together with fat and sugar. Hikers carry granola because a few tablespoons are enough for a meal. Most people however eat it by the bowlful. A cup of granola has nearly 500 calories and 13 g of fat. Check the serving size on back of the box. If it says, ¼ cup = 140 calories, realize that filling your bowl with it for breakfast is close to 600 calories, and you could have just eaten 3 bowls of regular cereal instead.

Ok, the last health hoax – smoothies and juice! Smoothies are thought to be fruit based creamy cups of health. Juice is like drinking your apple or orange, right? Both are completely wrong. Smoothies are a good way to fit 4 pieces of fruit, 2 servings of milk, and tons of sugar into 1 cup. Most smoothies have close to 500 calories in them and 100g of sugar. Juice isn’t much better. 1 8oz. cup has about 130 calories and 30 grams of sugar. That’s as much sugar as a candy bar. Eat the fruit, don’t drink the juice. You’ll get ½ the calories, ¼ of the sugar, and tons of good fiber.
Hopefully now you won’t let the stereotypical “health food” fly past your radar without giving it a second thought. Read the nutrition label, look up nutrition facts online, bake your own foods, eat the real thing, not a substitute, and don’t assume that just because it sounds healthy, it really is.

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