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10 healthy foods that aren’t so healthy

Carolina Diaz-Bordon
Healthy or not healthy - that is the question. It's hard to tell these days. While you may be aware that banana splits or double bacon cheeseburgers are not the best choices when you are watching your waistline, it's really the foods that you least suspect that sneak up on you.

When good things turn bad, your health pays the price. The growth of portion sizes, sodium levels and added sugars in foods have transformed healthy meals into unhealthy, nutrient-deficient diet traps.

Fortunately, not all good things must always come to an end. It is possible to eat healthily without forgoing taste and flavour. The key is to find out exactly what you are putting in your mouth. The best way to do this is by reading the nutrition labels. This is a good indicator of what each food contributes to your daily nutrient intake.

It's not just what you read on the label that matters. How you prepare it is another extremely important factor. For instance, imagine you and your friend go out for dinner. You both order a chicken burger and tell the waiter to skip the chips and replace it with a much healthier option, such as soup.

What if I told you that your meal contains almost double the amount of fat and calories as your friend's? You both ordered the chicken, and that’s a lean meat, right? You had soup, and that’s much better than chips, right? WRONG! Your friend ordered a grilled chicken burger and a tomato soup, and you ordered the fried chicken burger with cream of potato soup.

There is a huge difference between the meals. Understanding these distinctions is the pivotal factor in keeping your health in check.

Too often when you are trying to do the best for your body, you don’t take a close enough look at what you are actually eating. Minor modifications can transform most unhealthy foods into healthier counterparts. The problem is that what may seem like common sense when it comes to healthy foods could be misconceptions that you have accepted to be true.

You think you know, but you have no idea. It’s time to tap into the wisdom of an expert and shed some light on these food fallacies once and for all.

Fortunately nutritionist Susan Burke does know, and she has uncovered the truth about the top 10 foods that can actually derail your diet if you're not careful.

1. Olive oil: Although rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and healthier than butter and margarine, olive oil is still … oil. More is not better, especially if you’re watching your weight.

2. Honey: Sigh... how many times I have heard, "it's natural," as a reason for eating something sweet. It may be natural, but it's still sugar. There's not enough redeeming nutritional value to make it "healthy."

3. Juice: Orange juice. Apple juice. Cranberry juice. To me, juice is the quickest way to gain weight I know. It takes less than a minute for most people to drink 150 calories. Gulp. Gulp again. Watch your thighs expand.

4. Brown bread: Too vague. Think it’s healthy just because it says “brown”? It’s not. Only wholewheat counts or wholegrain - any other type has the fibre and germ and all the good nutrition removed in processing.

5. Milk: Whole milk, that is. The old dietary guidelines recommended dairy, at least three servings a day. They didn’t differentiate between semi-skimmed and skimmed milk, and the whole milk dairy that contains quite a bit of diet busting fat.

6. Cheese: Many people think that if you don’t eat meat, then you can eat cheese for your protein source. This is another quick way to overweight. Cheese, especially full-fat cheese, is full of saturated fat and calories. Compare 30 grams of whole milk mozzarella (80 calories/6 grams of fat/4 grams saturated fat) to 30 grams of turkey breast (30 calories/less than 1 gram of total fat). Treat cheese with caution.

7. Wine: It is now widely accepted that wine and alcohol in general may have some health benefits, but they end at one drink per day for women and two for men. Drink more than that, and the benefits are wiped out by increased risk for disease and addiction.

8. Fish: Most fish are very healthful - low in saturated fat and a good source of protein. But some fish are less-than-healthful in this country and world-wide because of environmental contamination. It's sad but true. Some of the fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, also are risky because they may be high in mercury.

Farmed salmon is less healthy than wild salmon; fish caught in local waters may be contaminated with PCPs, so check with your local fish and game advisories. Good choices include fin fish like wild salmon, sole, flounder, bass and snapper. Shellfish is a good choice, as are canned sardines and mackerel; marlin, swrodfish and shark are the ones that might be high in mercury.

9. Low-fat: Just because a biscuit is “low-fat” doesn’t mean it’s healthier than the original version. In fact, low-fat biscuits contain MORE calories than the original because the manufacturer increases the sugar to make up for the flavour and texture lost with the fat. Have a biscuit if you want one. ONE is the operative word.

10. Chicken: Chicken is a very lean meat ONLY if you remove the skin and don’t fry it. I laugh when people tell me that they’re eating healthier when they go to a fast-food restaurant for a chicken burger. If they choose the Crispy Chicken sandwich at McDonald’s, for example, they get 500 calories and 23 grams of fat; compared to a plain hamburger that only has 260 calories and 9 grams of fat... almost half!

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