So often we're led to believe that certain foods we consider healthy are also "diet" foods. For example fruits, vegetables, olive oils, lean protein, yogurts, marinades or anything labelled low fat, low calorie or low sugar have to constitute a healthier diet. But just don't take these foods at face value. You have to be careful of how you consume them.
• Olive oil
When we buy EVOO -- extra virgin olive oil -- it has been labelled the best oil to consume. Now that seems to make us believe that not only is it healthier than other oils, but it's probably not fattening. Think again! Virtually most oils, butters, margarines and vegetable shortening have similar calories and fat. For example one tablespoon of butter has 100 calories and 11 grams of fat. One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil has 120 calories and 14 grams of fat! The benefit of the olive is that it isn't saturated like butter and won't clog your arteries. But it won't help in weight loss. Watch the amounts carefully. Try putting your olive oil in a pump bottle where you can spray your food with a minimal amount.
Raw, steamed, grilled or boiled vegetables have so few calories that you could never eat enough to gain weight. They're filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But once you start dunking those veggies in high fat dips or dressings, the calories can add up to a complete meal. A typical serving of dip is about a quarter cup which adds an extra 250 calories and 14 grams of fat to a food you probably don't even count in your day's calories. A better substitute would be Greek yogurt, hummus or salsa.
• Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain antioxidants, beta carotene and are only 100 calories when baked or steamed. They are healthier than white potatoes and the newest craze are sweet potato fries. But deep frying adds considerably to the calories and fat. A side order can tally up to 450 calories with 23 grams of fat. Not such a healthy vegetable any more. And studies show you lose some of the antioxidants when deep fried. Next time try mashing a baked sweet potato with light sour cream, some maple syrup and cinnamon.
We now have been given permission to drink up to four cups of coffee daily without any ill effects. Studies are showing that those drinking coffee may have fewer cases of cancers, heart rhythm problems, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's and dementia. Not bad for a product once considered poor to consume. But remember we're talking about black coffee. Once you start ordering "double doubles" (double cream and sugar), or whipped cream and chocolate with coffee beverages, those benefits will never counteract the effects of the artery clogging cream and calories of the sugar which can account for obesity leading to type 2 diabetes. Stick to adding lower fat milk and stay away from the sugar or artificial sweeteners. Also try different flavoured coffees for more flavour.
At this point in time we realize that salads are no longer those healthy meals we thought. They actually can have more calories, fat and sodium than a steak dinner. Most salads today have excess dressing, cheese, croutons, fried tortilla strips, nuts, dried fruit and mayonnaise based grains, rice or pastas over top. This no longer is a healthy low fat or low calorie meal. Certain salads can come in with over 900 calories and 60 grams of fat. Close to three quarters of your daily nutrients! Be selective in what your salad comes with and always ask for the dressing on the side. Try to add no more than three tablespoons and always ask if there is a light version.
The classic cooking staple, EVOO -- extra virgin olive oil -- is believed to be the healthier choice among oils, but it has more grams of fat per tablespoon than butter. While it isn't saturated like butter and won't clog your arteries, it won't help in weight loss. Make sure to measure carefully, or try putting your EVOO in a pump for sparing use.
While raw veggies are always a healthy choice -- great for any time of day to fill you up without adding calories -- it's the dip that you need to be weary of. Classic ranch dressing is the main culprit, with tons of fat per tablespoon. And the worst part, you probably feel pretty good about yourself eating raw veggies, so you eat more! But the veggies are merely a vehicle for trans-fatty dip! Try Greek yogourt, or hummus instead.
It's good for us. It's not. It's good again. No, it's not. Well... it all depends. Black coffee -- what experts are referring to in the "it's good for you" reports -- is actually not too bad. It's the added sugar, cream, milk (double-double, anyone?) that hits you in the waistline. Not to mention whipped cream, chocolate syrup and caramel sauce. C'mon now!
Salad, when it consists of spinach, protein and veggies -- pretty good! Salad when it consists of fried taco chips, steak, fatty dressing, mayonnaise, cheese, croutons, pasta and a whole whack of other things that never used to be considered salad ingredients -- not good. If you're out at a restaurant, and trying to go the healthy route, simply ordering a salad isn't good enough. Study the ingredients -- it's worth it!
Sure, they're better than white potatoes, but anything fried in hot oil is...not great for you. Definitely a healthier choice on the side of a burger, but an even better choice would be sweet potatoes, boiled, mashed, or baked with a little cinnamon. Mmmm.
Follow Rose Reisman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@rosereisman