Foods that are “Faking” Healthy

by Baylor Scott & White Staff on September 10, 2013

in Healthy Living

lunchThere are a number of benefits to eating well. We can feel better, maintain a healthy weight and prevent disease. As you try to eat better, there are some foods that are masquerading as healthy, but really aren’t.

Katrina Baca, MD is a pediatrician at the McLane Children’s Scott & White Belton Clinic and helps families uncover some of the secrets behind unhealthy foods.

Fake “Healthy” Foods

With all of the mixed messages out there, it can be hard to know which foods are healthy. To help us, Dr. Baca gives us some unhealthy foods that are commonly mistaken as healthy:

  • Granola bars: these are loaded with sugar, carbohydrates and salt.
  • Chicken nuggets/fish sticks:  often these contain processed meat, are high in sodium and are covered with breading.
  • Muffins:  can be loaded with calories, unhealthy fat, refined flour and sugar.
  • Juice boxes:  a glass of juice may be fine, but Dr. Baca says often we consume more to feel satisfied, or drink juice throughout the day, which can add up to lots of calories and sugar.
  • Canned soup:  contain a lot of sodium and unhealthy fat.  Dr. Baca says a better alternative would be homemade soup, loaded with healthy vegetables and lean meat.
  • Flavored yogurt:  yogurt may seem healthy, but is full of sugar, and often it has high fructose corn syrup.

Do any of these foods surprise you?  As you try to make better choices and find truly healthy foods, it can be hard to know what you can eat.

Dr. Baca suggests parents and caregivers should promote healthy eating patterns by offering nutritious snacks. Some snack ideas are vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains. Parents can also help children regulate for themselves how much food to intake and set appropriate limits on their choices. Most of all, parents can model healthy food choices by setting a good example.

The Less Ingredients, the Better!

If you’ve been fooled by fake healthy foods, you may wonder what to look for.  As you pack your child’s lunch for school or open the pantry, it’s important to know how to outsmart fake healthy foods.

First, the fewer ingredients listed on the package, the better. In fact, naturally occurring foods like fruits and vegetables are best for our bodies.

Dr. Baca says, “If it comes in a package, think twice about eating it. It is best to prepare meals and snacks from fresh ingredients.  This way, you know exactly what you are consuming.”

Another thing to look for on the package is false labels.  Dr. Baca says we may often think a food is healthy because it is labeled “low fat” or “made with real fruit.”

“Often these foods are loaded with sugar or other products to make up for taste, which does not mean they are of better quality,” says Dr. Baca.

Fight Childhood Obesity

As we talk about feeding our children, we are not only giving them food, but setting eating habits for life. Overweight and obese children are becoming a serious health problem. Prevalence in children and teens in the U.S. has doubled in the past two decades.

“The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity is increasing at an alarming rate,” says Dr. Baca.

She says currently, 15.3% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 15.5% of 12- to 19-year-olds are at or above the 95th percentile for BMI on standard growth charts. Even more, children are less physically active and so they are more likely to be overweight or have health risks like higher blood pressure or cholesterol.

In order to fight back, parents can team up with their pediatrician or health provider to plan healthy meals for their children.

Dr. Baca explains her role as a pediatrician is to:

  • Identify and track patients at risk for being overweight and obese.
  • Encourage parents to promote healthy eating by offering nutritious foods and setting appropriate limits on choices.
  • Promote physical activity.
  • Encourage parents to limit screen time with television, video games, etc.

If you want to make better choices, talk to your pediatrician about more ways to eat right.

Have you found foods that are healthy that your child enjoys eating? Please share!

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