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 the 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 tongue 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!
I had no idea what this was. But apparently this is a popular choice in restaurants. A bowl of this pretty looking 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.
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.
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 thats 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 home made energy bars!
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 the 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.
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.
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!
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 the fiber and other important nutrients. The fix? Read the lable carefully and pick the ones that say 100% whole grain. It means more fiber. More health.
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.
While 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 transfat. 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 transfat. Enjoy cheese? Sprinkle it on the low salt version and you just did yourself a fat-free favor.
Salads, snacks and a lot of healthy stuff comes with loads of salt. 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 a little relief. Or – do like I do. Go for fresh.
Ah, my all-time favorite. Just writing this makes me drool (yes, C, I am looking at you). 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 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. 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, “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!