Mike Gorski RD, CD
It is hard to know these days what is healthy and what isn’t. Everyone claims to be a nutrition expert and wants to tell you what you must be eating and what you must be avoiding.
To get sound advice you need to seek out an actual nutrition professional – a dietitian, or someone who went to school for nutrition and at least understands the biochemistry and physiology of the human body and how it interacts with food.
Unfortunately, even some credentialed experts will give you the wrong foods for the wrong reasons. Here are the five foods that I have heard recommended by professionals that are overrated when it comes to their health benefits.
1) Breakfast Cereals
Even the multi-colored candy looking cereals have health claims on them now. Just because they are “whole grain,” doesn’t automatically make them healthy. However, some of the less obvious cereals still aren’t that healthy comparatively speaking. Cheerios has launched a “High Protein” version that touts 11g of protein per serving. However, this is including milk (which already contains 7 grams of protein per cup). It also contains 17 grams of sugar per serving – might as well have a Snickers bar for breakfast.
My Recommendation: If you want a healthier whole grain, stick to oats. If you want a higher protein food stick with eggs, Greek Yogurt, or a protein smoothie.
Its not that bananas are inherently bad, its just that they are always talked about being high in potassium which helps with muscle function and cellular signaling. Bananas really aren’t that high in potassium compared to other foods, and they don’t contain a lot of other phytonutrients (things like anti-oxidants, and other natural immune boosters).
My Recommendation: If you are looking for more phytonutrients stick with any type of berry. If you want more potassium, try spinach, it has 3x the amount of potassium!
3) Low Fat Flavored Yogurt
Just because something is labeled “low fat” doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Low fat flavored yogurts (think Key Lime, Pineapple, etc.) still contain a lot of sugar – some as much as a serving of ice cream!
My Recommendation: Use plain yogurt, or even better, Greek yogurt. You can blend up berries in the yogurt to add sweetness without all the added sugar – and with the added phytonutrients of the berries!
4) Gluten-Free/Organic Labels
Like the “low fat” label, just because something is labeled gluten-free or organic doesn’t mean that it is healthy. While these labels might be important to some people, they don’t give anyone a free pass to eat mindlessly. It is crucial to still read labels and know the calories in every food you eat. Interestingly enough, some “gluten free” versions of some foods are higher in calories than the normal version.
My Recommendation: Be aware of the calorie amount in ALL foods, especially if weight loss is your goal. Just because it has a flashy label on the front, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice out there!
5) “High Protein” Non-Protein Foods
By non-protein foods, I am talking mostly about foods that are not meat/eggs. It has been claimed that peanut butter is a great source of protein, or quinoa is a high protein grain, or even that sweet potatoes are a high protein food. Unfortunately, one serving of peanut butter only has 7 grams, and one cup of quinoa only contains 8 grams (brown rice has 5 grams – so not that big of difference) and a sweet potato only has 2 grams.
My Recommendation: Stick to lean meats for your high protein sources. Most have 7 grams per OUNCE. If you do not eat meat, your best sources are cheeses, nuts, and lentils or vegetarian based protein powders.
While this list is not all-inclusive, it covers five of my favorite healthy fallacies that I have still heard being preached by various “experts.” Read labels, do your research, and don’t fall for TV personality or Internet nutrition gurus.