Common Food Mistakes

Food mistake #1:  You reach for multigrain bread or cereal

Foods labeled 7-grain or multigrain may seem like the healthiest choices—especially with new findings showing that a diet rich in whole grains protects against heart disease, cancer, and other ills.  Studies show documented lower rates of heart disease and stroke among whole grain eaters.  Experts don’t know all the reasons behind the benefits, but they do know that intact grains are rich in fiber and nutrients—including vitamin E, B vitamins, and magnesium—that are stripped away when grains are refined into flour.  Unfortunately, many foods are only posing as rich in whole grains.  When you take a closer look at the labels, you may find there’s not a single whole grain in them.

The reason:

Labels can claim that products contain grains even if they’re highly processed and stripped of most of their nutrients and all of their fiber. White flour is made from grain after all……

Smarter move:

Learn the lingo of food claims.  For example, bread that’s 100% whole grain means just that—it contains no refined flour; cereal that’s made with whole grain may have a little or a lot; crackers labeled multigrain may not contain whole grains at all.  To be sure you’re getting the grains you want, check the ingredients panel.  Whole grains should be the first or second ingredient listed.  Luckily, finding whole grain products is easier now that manufacturers supplying at least 16 g of whole grains per serving (considered an excellent source) are stamping their packaging with the Whole Grains Council’s Logo.

Food mistake #2:  You buy bottled water “fortified” with vitamins

It’s a measure of how health conscious we’ve become that water is now fortified with nutrients and even medicinal herbs.  Unfortunately, many are bloated with unnecessary calories.  The label of one leading brand, for example, reports that it supplies half the daily requirement for some nutrients.  But to get that amount, you have to drink the whole bottle, which contains 125 calories.  And for that you just get 6 of the 40+ essential nutrients provided by most supplements.  And, an entire bottle supplies no more vitamin C than you’d get from eating 2 strawberries.

Smarter move:

Drink plain, refreshing, calorie-free water when you’re thirsty—and take a whole food-based multivitamin daily to make sure you get balanced levels of essential vitamins and minerals.

Food mistake #3:  You choose veggie chips over potato chips

Dozens of munchies are now made from carrots, spinach, kale, and even exotic tropical vegetables.  But scrutinize their ingredients and you’ll find that vegetable coloring is all most of them have in common with produce.  In fact, the label reveals that vegetables are at the bottom of the list in most cases (that means they contribute less, by weight, than ingredients at the top of the list, like oil).  Also, many of these seemingly healthful snacks are loaded with calories and hydrogenated fats.

Smarter move:

When you must have chips, look for brands with vegetables at the top of the ingredient list (Terra chips are a good choice).  A tip-off to a snack’s healthfulness is their fiber content (3 g for example is not bad for a snack food).  However, they’re still loaded with calories.  If you’re counting calories, baked chips are a better choice.  An even healthier alternative would be a handful of nuts, loaded with fiber, healthy oils, vitamins and minerals; they’ll even satisfy your urge to nibble.  And, if you want to be truly virtuous, go for the real thing—raw veggies.