Home health and wellness tips Food Frauds Presenting The Dirty Dozen With 12 Healthy Eating Tips To Help You Tackle Them

Food Frauds Presenting The Dirty Dozen With 12 Healthy Eating Tips To Help You Tackle Them

by Vidya Sury December 9, 2013 30 comments
healthy eating tips pop corn

Today I want to talk about food frauds and healthy eating tips. In my line of work, I write a lot of press releases for restaurants that advertise “authentic” continental and Italian cuisine. Now, we know how hot those Europeans are. I’ve also read that Italian cuisine is amazingly healthy. Their menu is full of exotic food. This made me wonder, how healthy are these multi-course dinners?

Surely they must put on weight for eating so much? I hear the trick is to eat slowly and savor your food, which we ought to be doing anyway. Yet, people who frequent these eateries and speak so highly of the food, are almost always larger than they should be. And always complaining about how they’re unable to lose those extra pounds no matter what they do – gym-ing, skipping meals, etc.

So a little research, from my keyboard and the ever-obliging Dr.Google’s assistance shows that some of the foods that are labeled healthy are rather sly little diet destroyers. Some of those dishes that woo our tongues and send us to culinary heaven are not as healthy as they pretend to be.

What follows is a list of these food frauds. However. I love my indulgences too, so along with each item on the list, I’ve added a hack that can ease the guilt. No need to cut them from your diet and suffer the pain of parting.

Healthy eating tips to hack food frauds

Here we go!

Caesar Salad

Caesar salad healthy eating tips
I had no idea what this was. But apparently, this is a popular choice in restaurants. A bowl of this pretty Caesar salad contains 300-400 calories and 30 grams of fat. How, you ask? Salads are healthy, right? The offender is the dressing. Oh yes, the best things in life are immoral, fattening and what’s that third thing? Now, the good news is this salad comes in different variations.

How to keep enjoying it yet make it healthy? You could eliminate the dressing but that wouldn’t make it Caesar salad, right? Cut down to one tablespoon of the dressing and two tablespoons of the cheese and go forth and enjoy. You just made a healthy choice.


smoothies healthy eating tips
Ah, the mainstay of most diets. I love the word smoothies. I feel it on my tongue. Gives me visions of fresh fruits swirled into a lovely health-in-a-glass that I can savor. Sadly, though, this blend, when you order it in a restaurant also comes with its own baggage of about 80 grams of sugar (yes!), 350 calories, zero protein, and – am horrified to say this – NO fresh fruit. Hello?

Yes, they substitute fresh fruits with fruit concentrates. Add a sorbet, the ice cream, the sweeteners, and voila! you have nothing more than a flavored milkshake. Let me hasten to tell you I love milkshakes – but since health is a consideration here, we must deal with the frauds in this recipe. Unless you make your own smoothie, make sure you order a small cup. Tell them to add fresh fruit, milk and protein add-ons. Sigh.

Energy bars

energy bars healthy eating tips
These are a major rage now. And were a major rage when I grew up. These went by the name of “chikki” made from jaggery syrup and nuts and cereals. Unfortunately, the shop variety, unless expressly stated is just a candy bar with almost 500 calories. Can you imagine?

Also, the healthy variety is expensive. I often wonder how people are happy with a little energy bar for food – two bites and you’re done?. Oh, but that’s just me. So anyway – if you are an energy bar fan, go for those with 200 calories or less and list at least some fiber and protein so that you can enjoy the energy rush after the sugar rush. Tell me in the comments if you would like an easy recipe for homemade energy bars!


burrito healthy heating tips

Wikipedia image

I like how that sounds. The healthy beans in burritos make them – just that – healthy! So you’d think all is well. But these guys come with lots of saturated fat, 1000+ calories (yes!), cheese, cream, and fat in the tortilla. Grrr! If you order the XXL size, you add to the problem voluntarily. Is there a solution? Yes, make sure you have a friend with you when you must indulge. Share it with a friend. Or ask for soft tacos with fajita-style grilled veg on corn tortilla and low-cal salsa.


Weight loss, the Holy Grail, dictates sugar-free. But if artificially sweetened food or beverages, followed by a “big” order of fries and dessert is simply defeating the purpose. Not only do you add a generous 300 calories to the meal – if you are not working it off, the weight gain is waiting to grab you. Playing the blame game with sugar-free stuff is not the solution. Watching what you eat is.

Milk Latte

So you’re at a cafe with a friend and just ordered a latte with low-fat milk. Then you add whipped cream to it. Not a smart move, because what you just did was add 550 calories and 15 grams of saturated fat. You would do better with a cheeseburger! Hmph!

Fact: any sweet frothy drink is a beast. How to do damage control? Go for skim milk and say a big NO to the whipped cream. Tough. I love cream too, but to think that it adds 150 calories and two-thirds of the bad fat, I’d be happy to say no.


muffins healthy eating tips
Lovely little fellas. Big frauds though. I live opposite a bakery and I know how it feels to inhale each time I step out of my place. Sometimes I think they caused the permanent flare in my nostrils. Oh well. Those muffins are big frauds in a small package.

Not the ideal breakfast snack, because unless you monitor the ingredients and make the healthy ones, they are sugary cakes made of refined flour, stripped of their nutrients. A ready-made muffin from your bakery is 500 calories + ten teaspoons of sugar. Really! So read the labels and make wise decisions. Go for whole-grain stuff. Want a muffin recipe? Ask!

Multigrain myths

 multigrain bread healthy eating tips
That multigrain can be a real scam you know? If you buy your bread and pasta like I do, and assume that they are healthy just because they claim “multigrain” read the label. Most of these are made of refined grains and that means you are deprived of fiber and other important nutrients. The fix? Read the label carefully and pick the ones that say 100% whole grain. It means more fiber. More health.

Iced Tea

healthy eating tips iced tea wiki
Refreshing, wonderful iced tea! I love it! Full of antioxidants, right? Sadly, there’s too much added sugar to qualify it as health food. In fact, this is a downright health hazard with its pile of calories and added sugar. Am I telling you to skip the iced tea altogether? No way.

All am saying is, skip the sweet tea. Choose unsweetened iced tea. Add a dash of lemon and taste the zing, lose the calories. While at it, think of herbal teas without sugar. They naturally taste pleasant. Do make your own. The pleasure is worth it.

Microwave popcorn

healthy eating tips pop cornWhile I love popcorn, I don’t make it in the microwave. I prefer to use my pressure cooker to pop the corn. But branded microwave popcorn is popular and these are likely to contain both bad fat and trans fat. Should you feel guilty? No. As with the multigrain issue, when you pick a pack, read the label. Go for low fat, low sat, and zero transfats. Enjoy cheese? Sprinkle it on the low salt version and you just did yourself a fat-free favor.

Salted toppings

Salads, snacks, and a lot of healthy stuff come with loads of salt. The first thing to remember here is, if it is canned, it is a salt bomb. Can’t avoid it? Rinse the canned food and use it for a little relief. Or – do as I do. Go for fresh.

Banana Chips

healthy eating tips banana chips
Ah, my all-time favorite. Just writing this makes me drool. But sadly, deep-fried bananas are not healthy. They may not look greasy, but an ounce of chips means 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 8 grams of saturated fat. So steel your heart and eat a fresh banana instead. You just chose four times more nutrition, zero fat, and at the most, 100 calories of the healthy type. You’re welcome! Can’t stay away from those banana chips? Oh well – at least don’t eat out of the bag. Very dangerous.

With food we love,  the advice “don’t” always looks inviting. Why give up on your favorites? You’ll only set yourself up for binge eating. So eat in moderation by making the small healthy changes I’ve recommended. They work.

If you always eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight, congratulations. Keep doing it!

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Jyothi Nair December 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

There goes about half of the food I enjoy from the menu! 🙁 I am sure if I avoid all these and follow your instructions, I can reach size zero in two months time. Maybe 2014 is the year.:D
Jyothi Nair recently posted…On the Menu

Pratikshya Mishra December 9, 2013 at 9:05 am

i love almost every item you have mentioned above… it’s sad to read this…
Pratikshya Mishra recently posted…Eat, Pray and Love

Jairam Mohan December 9, 2013 at 9:19 am

Now, that was quite some take on today’s prompt. While you managed to destroy all my favorite snack items in one single post, I have no choice but to appreciate the fact that you have done your research well and have put up this post with good intentions only 🙁
Jairam Mohan recently posted…The Confession – Chapter 2 – Food

Shalini Surendran December 9, 2013 at 9:22 am

Sadly, I love them all. I don’t think i can give up on half the things mentioned 🙁
Shalini Surendran recently posted…The Barter Deal

Roshan R December 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I’m afraid Im with SHalini on this one 😀
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Usha Menon December 9, 2013 at 10:04 am

Very informative post. Vidya, you have cautioned against the food items which are very popular with the younger generation. I will tell my grand children to read this post. I hope good sense will prevail. It is really frightening to see the youngsters love all this stuff.Thank you for sharing.
Usha Menon recently posted…Write Tribe 2nd day of Festival of words # Food

Rachna December 9, 2013 at 10:17 am

Oh yes, well healthy as is labeled is not really so. Great that you wrote about them.
Rachna recently posted…Punishment vs. lesson

Sandra Pawula December 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

You really did bust a lot of frauds in this article. I find the amount of sugar in the “smoothies” mind blowing. A good burrito is so delicious though. Better have half of one!
Sandra Pawula recently posted…A Simple Way to Relieve Holiday Stress

kalpana solsi December 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

Our grandparents always ate home-made food and that’s the reason they were healthy. We spend a handsome figure on the ready made foods with extra fat, salt and preservatives . your post is an eye-opener.

chaipakoraandgupshup December 9, 2013 at 11:02 am

That was one heck of an informative post. However, I believe in moderation even these foods can make an appearance in our life on a regular basis
chaipakoraandgupshup recently posted…Food

Shilpa Garg December 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Half of the foods you mentioned are my favorites!! 😛
But thanks for sharing about these food frauds. Will think twice before picking them now!
Shilpa Garg recently posted…Food War

Sheethal December 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Now what am I going to eat if I give up all these 🙁 but I too appreciate your research ability 🙂

Corinne Rodrigues December 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Some very sly guys hiding around – it’s a good thing you outed them! These days, it’s quite fashionable, here at least, to have huge salad bars at weddings. But I avoid having salads out precisely because of the dressings. In fact, I can safely say, I avoid most of the stuff you mentioned, except the last one – my favorite – BCs! 😉
Corinne Rodrigues recently posted…More Memories, Less Perfection

Obsessivemom December 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm

This is so depressing. We really need to be vigilant. Thanks for that eye opener Vidya.

vishal bheeroo December 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm

The taste of junk may be good but it’s too fattening. Anyday, gimme ma healthy Indian Thali:) They are smart guys and kudos for coming with this one.

Seeta December 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Imagine my guilt, was eating a Goli Vada pav when I started reading it… good one, esp. the bit about popcorn, that was a bit of a surprise for me.
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Sid December 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Vidya, you have just shattered my dreams. Just kidding. I knew they were bad ….try to avoid them when I can 🙂 Another amazing post. On a separate note, research does say that chewing each mouth of food over 20 times each makes sure you eat less 🙂 Not sure how….need to research more

Pixie December 9, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Thank you for this very informative post!!
I try not to eat any of the foods you have mentioned because my dad also says its not very healthy. (he being a food scientist.)
But I love muffins and banana chips!! 😀
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Hiten December 10, 2013 at 2:26 am

Hi Vidya,

Wonderful post, indeed!

I like all the foods you listed! It never ceases to amaze me how those foods that taste the best, are the most unhealthiest. The ones you explained in your post certainly are sneaky! I never knew multi grain bread had such low fibre content. Thanks for sharing.
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Shiva December 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

This is of great help to me in my new found regime of weight loss!!! And I do follow the iced tea tip …
Shiva recently posted…Beads of nature

Suzy December 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Eating in moderation is the trick. Even healthy food in large quantities is bad.
Suzy recently posted…My Personal Journey with Books

Nischala December 10, 2013 at 11:00 pm

And again, that post was such an eye-opener, and very timely as we approach a new year :).. Thanks for sharing
Nischala recently posted…Why read books?

Zeenat(Positive Provocations) December 11, 2013 at 10:03 am

Hi Vidya,
You know I am a foodie and make no excuses for it. But yes, I am a mindful foodie.
Thank you for busting some myths here…. the pressure cooker popcorn is my favorite snack. I use a bit of olive oil and get the dried corn seeds to make them instead of the ready branded packs.
So glad you are back.
Love and Muahs!
Zeenat(Positive Provocations) recently posted…5 Ways to End this Year on a Superbly Positive Note

Betsy/Zen Mama December 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

Thanks for all the great tips here. It’s always good to read a post like this during the holiday when we can eat a little excessively.

PS Caesar salads are my speciality! We have them at least once a week with either chicken or shrimp.
Betsy/Zen Mama recently posted…Want To Be Happy? Try Gratitude – 7 Ways to Practice Gratitude and Be Happier

Richa Singh December 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I feel happy telling you that I knew about each one of these. A couple of years back I gave up packed juices, slush and also caeser salad because I started to notice I was putting on weight because of them. I was almost as good as addicted to them and the moment I took a break my weight returned to normal..

Rekha December 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm

That’s a great lot of useful information out here. Honestly, I do not check the label for calories before I eat anything. But this post makes me worry. The good part is outside food (restaurants or packed ones) is just occasional at my place, we mostly prefer home-cooked food. Chappatis are the safest (I hope so). But weight is something I have stopped worrying about now. I realized the more I worry about, the more weight I gain. So, I just go about with my three meals and two fruit breaks and the weight stays as it is. Neither up nor down. Walking definitely helps, but I am not that regular. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
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Sunita Prasad December 16, 2013 at 1:02 am

Omg! this really scared the hell out of me 🙁 i eat whatever is available.I never check the calorie label.I am in a mindset now to go for GM diet 😛

Max Arthur January 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Oh really? Too bad because I love Caesar salad and smoothies.
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Vidya Sury January 11, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Me too, Max. But as you can see – we can still enjoy them by tweaking them! 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

Damyanti Biswas June 13, 2022 at 7:34 pm

Nice! A very informative post Vidya 🙂
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