You Think It’s Healthy, But It’s Not

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Rice Cakes
Believe it or not, these are still very popular among dieters. They have improved in taste over the years, but to me, rice cakes are still akin to flavored cardboard with calories. The food label of Hain’s Honey Nut Rice Cakes says that 1 cake is 50 calories, 0g fat, and 11g carbs — but how many of them do we really eat? Even though they’re not my favorite, when I’m sitting around and rice cakes are the only snack available, I indulge and I don’t stop at just one.

Don’t get me wrong — if you compare rice cakes to a bag of potato chips, they’re definitely better. The problem is that rice cakes are not nutrient dense, which means you don’t get a lot, nutritionally-speaking, for your consumption, and you will most likely remain hungry.

  • Quaker Nacho Cheese Crispy Mini’s (9 mini cakes): 70 calories, 2.5g fat, 11g carbs
  • Quaker Chocolate Crunch Rice Cakes (1 cake): 60 calories, 1g fat, 12g carbs
  • Lundberg Nutra-Farmed Brown Rice Cake (1 cake): 70 calories, 0g fat, 15g carbs
  • Lundberg Nutra-Farmed Buttery Caramel Rice Cake (1 cake): 80 calories, 0.5g fat, 18g carbs

Frozen Yogurt
Yogurt has been touted as a healthy food for a variety of purported health claims, including improved digestion, prevention of intestinal infection, and reinforcement of immune function. But, regardless of the efficacy of these claims, we can’t ignore the fact that yogurt still contains calories. And since many of us eat way too many calories as it is, any potential benefits from eating too much yogurt may be negated by the increased health risk of being overweight. Frozen yogurt, typically on a dieter’s shopping list, may not have the same health benefits as regular yogurt, and in terms of calories, it is often closer to ice cream.

Nonfat frozen yogurt might seem like a blessing, but just because it doesn’t have fat, doesn’t mean it’s calorie-free. Nonfat frozen yogurt can still contain plenty of calories and carbohydrates. When manufacturers cut fat in a product, they need to come up with some way to keep the flavor, which often means adding additional sugar. Check the labels on low fat products in your supermarket, and you’ll notice the trend.

  • Haagen-Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt (1 cup): 460 calories, 12g fat, 72g carbs
  • Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Frozen Yogurt (1 cup): 420 calories, 7g fat, 78g carbs (a bit better than their Half Baked Ice Cream counterpart which has 560 calories, 28g fat, 68g carbs per cup)
  • Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Low Fat Frozen Yogurt (1 cup): 380 calories, 5g fat, 72g carbs
  • Edy’s Heath Toffee Crunch Frozen Yogurt (1 cup): 240 calories, 8g fat, 36g carbs

Chips, Crisps, and Sticks
Amazingly, some of these snacks taste great — even better than the some of the fattening ones — but there is a reason why. Most of the time you may save a few calories or fat grams, but in the long run, you end up eating types of foods that you would never eat. For instance, I really like Stacy’s Simply Naked Baked Pita Chips, which are only a bit lower in calories and fat than potato chips. However, I would never eat potato chips in the first place, and with these, I always end up eating at least half the bag — about 390 calories, 12g fat, and 54g carbs. That’s the equivalent of eating 3 bananas or 5 apples — but at least with the fruit, you get some real health benefits, and end up feeling more satisfied.

Then there are those Terra Chips. They look so healthy, packaged beautifully, and again are lower in calories than potato chips, but are they REALLY good for you? Just 1 ounce contains 140 calories, 7g fat, and 18g carbs — but haven’t you ever heard that advertisement, “Bet you can’t eat just one?” They’re right.

  • Good Health Veggie Stix (3 oz): 420 calories, 21g fat, 54g carbs
  • Pirate’s Booty (3 oz): 384 calories, 15g fat, 54g carbs
  • Kettle Five Grain Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips (3 oz): 420 calories, 18g fat, 54g carbs
  • Kettle Organic Sweet Brown Rice & Black Bean Tortilla Chips (3 oz): 360 calories, 18g fat, 48g carbs

Okay, anytime you see or hear the word cookie and health together, you should immediately be suspicious. I mean, just when we’re able to avoid the “real” cookies — they start tempting us with supposed healthier choices.

In fact just the other day, I purchased chocolate-flavored animal cookies (for research purposes only — yeah, right!). The packaging looked great, claiming “No Artificial Flavors, Colors or Preservatives” and “Reduced Fat.” I couldn’t even wait until I got to the checkout line to rip open the bag — just for a little “taste.” These cookies were small and seemed harmless, but before I knew it, I had eaten at least 10 of them, and I hadn’t even paid for them yet.

By the time I was home, my low-calorie snack was weighing in at about 350 calories — each 1 of those tiny cookies was about 12 calories. That’s half the calories of a Hershey’s Kiss — and I wouldn’t eat 15 of those.

  • Newman’s Own Organic Low Fat Fig Newmans (2 cookies): 130 calories, 2.5g fat, 26g carbs
  • Newman’s Own Organic Fig Newmans, Wheat and Dairy Free (2 cookies): 120 calories, 1.5g fat, 26g carbs
  • Hain’s Kidz Chocolate Animal Cookies (10 cookies): 120 calories, 2.5g fat, 23g carbs
  • Health Valley Fat Free Healthy Chips Double Chocolate Cookies (3 cookies): 100 calories, 0g fat, 24g carbs
  • Pamela’s Carob Hazelnut Cookies, Wheat & Gluten Free (1 cookie): 120 calories, 7g fat, 15g carbs
  • Mrs. Denson’s Quinoa Macaroons (2 cookies): 150 calories, 12g fat, 14g carbs
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