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Spot health food imposters at the market

January 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Plenty of foods in the grocery store claim to be healthy, but don't let them fool you. If you really want healthy foods you need to spot the imposters and put them back on the selves."The front of the label is really designed to catch your eye and make you think that the product is healthier," said registered dietitian Allison Krall.

Here are seven ways you may be fooled at the grocery store.

Reduced-fat peanut butter has the same amount of calories as regular. To make up for less fat it has more sugar.

Blueberry and pomegranate juices are high in antioxidants, but you're not getting much benefit if they're not listed as one of the first three ingredients.

The nutrition in honey and sugar is about the same.

Look out, wheat can mean refined wheat flour, not whole wheat. Post Select Cranberry Almond Crunch, a seemingly healthy cereal, has just as much sugar and twice as many calories as Cocoa Puffs.

The first two ingredients in Fruit Crisps are rice flour and potato flakes. Reduced fat and regular Oreos are the same.

"The food manufacturers are very savvy and they can market foods in a lot of different ways," said Krall.

The front of the label is marketing for the manufacturer. It's what's on the back of the label that really matters.

Rather than throw up your hands in confusion, brush up on a few nutrition rules that can help you make smart choices.

For instance, for every 100 calories in a food, you want 3 grams of fat or less per serving. That way you know your food will have no more than 30 percent of its calories from fat.

Here are 7 more ways to navigate the grocery aisles with ease:
(Based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet)

1. Calories: Keeping a meal to 600?700 calories is a good rule of thumb if you are eating three meals a day.

2. Protein: Look for a meal that has at least 15?20 grams to keep you satisfied.

3. Sugar: To find out how many teaspoons of sugar in a food, divide the sugar grams by 4. Example: 12 grams of sugar in 1 cup of cereal means there is about 3 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

4. Salt: Stay under 2,200 milligrams of sodium -- 1,800 mg if you have high blood pressure. A food that contains no more than 480 mg is considered a smart choice.

5. Fat: Again, for every 100 calories in a food, you want 3 grams of fat or less. Check for the TYPE of fat. In a perfect world, it would be better to have no trans-fat, and minimal saturated fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the best fats.

6. Cholesterol: Choosing foods with minimal cholesterol is advised as a rule. Aim for no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day when possible.

7. Fiber: 25 grams a day would be great, as fiber helps keep blood sugars regulated and provides a feeling of fullness for longer. A food with more than 5 grams of fiber is considered a high fiber food.


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