You have diabetes, and your doctor advises you to make healthier food choices. What does that really mean? No cake or cookies ever again? Fill the fridge with yogurt, vegetables and diet soda? Buy nonfat cheese?
Sometimes what we think we know about eating right isn’t entirely accurate. And with all the misleading marketing you see at the supermarket, often we may think we’re making the right choices only to find that those “healthy” foods we bought are loaded with hidden sugar, salt and calories.
Take the quiz that follows to test your nutrition knowledge, and note the tips listed to help steer you down the right path.
Pick the healthiest choice:
1. A. The whole-wheat waffle, berries and Greek yogurt are the best option. The egg breakfast includes jam (high in added sugar) and bacon (high in saturated fat and sodium). While plain oatmeal is loaded in fiber and can be an excellent choice (and you can add your own fresh fruit for sweetness), watch out for instant flavored oatmeal. You must read the labels on prepackaged, flavored oatmeal to see just what’s in it – look out for added sugars and other hidden calories.
2. C. The veggie pita sandwich is the best choice. Salads are excellent, of course, but fat-free salad dressings often replace the fat with sugar and sodium for flavoring. Instead, try making your own dressing with your favorite oil and flavored vinegar. And canned soups are typically loaded with extra salt, so look for those that are labeled as reduced or low sodium.
3. A. The beef Stroganoff dish is the healthiest. Fish sticks are typically breaded, and then fried. Ham steaks can be very high in sodium, and potato salad high in calories from a lot of added fat and sometimes even sugar.
4. C. Baked sweet potato fries are an excellent source of Vitamin A and fiber and full of natural sweetness. Just don’t fry them! Baked beans are often loaded with extra sweeteners (and calories), but beans in general are a great choice for a side dish because they contain lots of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. While plain baked potatoes are fine, adding butter or sour cream quickly loads them with fat. Try topping them with non-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt for a healthier topping.
5. B. Iced tea is a better choice than diet soda because of the acid in diet soda. However, a calorie-free caffeine-free drink — such as water — is the best choice. You can try flavoring your water with fresh lemon, lime or orange slices for natural, fruit flavored water.
6. C. The baked cinnamon stuffed apple makes for a naturally sweet treat, and you get a fruit serving included as a bonus. Sherbet and low-fat ice cream provide little nutritional value.
7. B. Rice cakes topped with nut butter are the best option. Nut butters provide you with healthy fats. Watch your portion sizes by spreading a thin layer on your rice cake. Nonfat cream cheese products provide little nutritional value, but they contain quite a bit of sodium. Cookies — whether they’re low-fat or not — usually contain more sugar than their regular counterparts. Make sure to save them for a special, once-in-a-while treat.
NOTES & TIPS
Read the label. In most cases, the fat in “fat-free” foods is replaced with sodium, sugar (often corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup) and carbohydrates, in order to give them flavor. Also, because there is no fat to slow down absorption of the carbohydrate, it gets into your bloodstream faster. Fat-free dairy products, however, typically do not have added ingredients and are, in fact, better for you than full-fat or low-fat dairy products.
Size it up. Portion control is key. If a food is labeled fat-free or sugar-free, you can’t eat as much as you want. These products still contain other ingredients and usually calories. Even the healthiest foods can become poor choices if you are eating a portion three sizes too large.
As a general rule, one fruit serving should be the size of a baseball; one meat serving, the size of the palm of a woman’s hand; a pasta serving, the size of a cupped palm; and a serving of any kind of spread (e.g., peanut butter) about the size of a walnut shell.
Look at the numbers. One serving size does not fit all. Be sure to read the label to see whether a package is meant to be eaten as a single serving or if it is meant to be several servings. We often assume erroneously that one package of cookies, chips or other snack foods is intended to be eaten in a single sitting.