Praise the marketing geniuses who figured out a way to sell these unhealthy foods that contain more sugar and calories than certain candy bars as “healthy.” If you’re going to eat these surprisingly unhealthy foods, pick ones with “100 to 200 calories, four grams or more of protein, three grams or more of fiber, and less than 10 grams of sugar,” suggests Blatner. “The best bars have minimal ingredients, and those with more fiber and protein and less sugar will be more satisfying.”
Wholesome and humble, bran muffins seem like a breakfast food hero. But while bran itself is a source of fiber, it becomes less—much, much less—nutritious when baked into a muffin. “Bran muffins are typically loaded with white flour, white sugar, and butter,” says Blatner. If you’re really craving a muffin, make them yourself and look for recipes that use whole wheat flour and substitute applesauce for butter.
Words like “multigrain,” “wheat,” and “7 grain” don’t mean all that much. Many breads labeled this way actually contain refined grains, which lack the fiber of whole grains and can make your blood sugar spike faster after eating, leading to cravings. Be a smarter bread shopper! “Check the ingredient list to see that the bread is actually made with ‘whole’ grains,” says Blatner. If the first flour listed on the label is refined (look for “bleached” or “unbleached enriched wheat flour”), it’s not really a whole grain product.
Flavored instant oatmeal
It’s a whole grain, a healthy grab-and-go breakfast choice, and easily topped with other healthful sides like berries, flax, and nuts. So what could possibly be bad about oatmeal? Well, flavored packets have more sugar and sodium than regular rolled or steel cut oats. “Plain instant oatmeal packets are great,” says Blatner. “Make a packet and then stir in natural peanut butter. You can also try adding cinnamon, vanilla extract, cocoa nibs, or unsweetened coconut flakes for flavor without sugar. Mashed berries or chopped banana make it naturally sweet.”
Reduced-fat peanut butter
Repeat after us: The fat from nuts is good for you! A study published in 2017 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that an eating plan that includes nuts, tree nuts, peanuts, and walnuts was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. What’s more, when you compare labels of regular and reduced-fat peanut butter, you’ll see that the calories are roughly equal. The difference is that reduced-fat versions add more sugar to make up for the lack of fat. So choose the regular kind, and stick with 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving.
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