NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, December 29, 2015, 2:20 PM
Experts weigh in on which so-called “health foods” are not as nutritious as they purport to be.
If making the number on the scale drop is your New Year’s resolution, be wary of stocking up on so-called healthy foods that are anything but.
The health food industry is projected to rake in a record-breaking $ 1 trillion by 2017, according to Euromonitor International. And with that trend comes hordes of impostors looking to cash in at consumers’ expenses.
But keeping a watchful eye will help you stay on the right track.
Here are seven foods billed as healthy that experts say are mere junk food in diguise:
Nutritionists say that smoothies are often filled with ingredients other than fruit that add an exorbitant amount of sugar and fat to the beverage.
Consuming fruit pulverized into a sweet, liquefied confection sounds far more palatable than chomping on a whole banana.
But nutrition experts say that the superior taste of smoothies is a result of packing them with non-nutritive ingredients.
“Often times, smoothies have hidden sugars in the form of too much fruit, juice, frozen yogurt, agave, honey or dates, and smoothie recipes often include rich foods like almond butter, nuts and coconut,” said Amy Shapiro, founder of Real Nutrition NYC.
“A lot of ingredients can fit into that cup! I recommend sticking to one serving of fruit, unsweetened almond milk or low fat milk, chia seeds, greens, vanilla extract or cinnamon for natural sweetness and protein powder for staying power.”
2. Protein Bars
Some protein bars contain up to 350 calories and experts suggest opting for snacks with no more than 150 calories.
Health pundits proclaim that many of the protein bars lining the grocery aisles are mere glorified candy bars injected with whey or soy protein.
“Some have 350 calories or more with lots of fat and sugar. Why not eat a nice lean steak for the same number of calories and less fat?” said Maria Bella, founder of Top Balance Nutrition in New York City.
“If looking for a snack, select one with fewer than 150 calories, at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar or so — every 4 grams of sugar on the label equals one teaspoon.”
She suggested sticking to real protein sources when selecting snacks — like 10 nuts, accompanied by a fruit.
3. Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are intended to replenish athletes after a strenuous workout and are loaded with sugar and sodium.
Sports drinks are designed for athletes and fitness buffs who engage in rigorous exercise.
They are loaded with sugar and sodium to replenish nutrients lost from excessive perspiration — so if you’re not a serious gym rat or training for a marathon, steer clear of these beverages.
“Unless you’re exercising for an hour or longer, these deliver a lot of unnecessary sugar and calories,” said Karen Ansel, a nutritionist in Syosset, New York.
“Just 12 ounces packs 80 calories and about 5 teaspoons of sugar. For workouts under an hour, water is still the best fluid for hydration.”
4. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is filled with sugar and is deficient of the water content in fresh fruit that leaves you feeling full.
Don’t be deceived by this saccharine snack.
“There is a reason why it is called nature’s candy, because it is simply loaded with sugar,” Shapiro said.
“Each raisin used to be a grape, each prune used to be a plum. Would you ever sit down to eat 10 plums? Didn’t think so.”
Shapiro recommended noshing on these sweet treats sparingly and to consume them as a dessert rather than a snack.
Still, she favored sticking to fresh fruit over their dried variants, since they have a ton of water content, which will leave you feeling satiated from consuming much less.
Granola is brimming with sugar and just a cup of the cereal can equal up to 600 calories, so experts say to consume this crunchy treat in moderation.
Granola has somehow managed to make its mark in the health food industry — but this scrumptious cereal is loaded with calories and sugar.
“This healthy-sounding breakfast staple is very high in calories,” Bella said.
Just one cup of granola can contain up to a whopping 600 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Bella said if you crave a little crunch in your breakfast, keep a measuring cup on hand to ensure you don’t go granola-overboard.
“Measure carefully, leveling the measuring cup and use as the yogurt topper instead of pouring into a huge cereal bowl,” she said.
6. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is full of trans fats, which are linked to heart disease and elevated cholesterol.
This rich, American staple started out as a wholesome snack for the affluent back in the late 1800s.
Today, the protein-packed product is making a comeback in the health food world, but experts aren’t buying it.
“Many popular peanut butter brands contain hydrogenated oils — also known as trans fats — which help increase shelf-life and keep the creamy mixture from separating. Trans fats are extremely dangerous to the heart as many studies show a strong connection to heart disease and spiking bad cholesterol levels,” said Lisa Moskovitz, founding dietitian at NY Nutrition Group.
“Look for ‘all-natural’ on the front of the label or flip over to the back and make sure there are no ingredients that read ‘hydrogenated oil,’ or even ‘partially hydrogenated oil.’”
And Bella warned consumers not to be fooled by “reduced fat” labels on the creamy spread either.
“JIF reduced fat peanut butter has the same number of calories as regular peanut butter, with more sugar and sodium,” she said.
“When manufacturers remove the healthy fat, they replace it with sugar.”
The average 12-inch tortilla can be equivalent to consuming four small slices of bread.
Nutritionists and dietitians are giving this bread alternative a bad rap — and for good reason.
“They look thinner than bread or bagels, so they must be lower in carbs, right? Wrong!” Moskovitz said.
“The average 12-inch tortilla is actually equivalent to eating four small slices of bread. Whole wheat or not, ordering your sandwich wrapped in this seemingly healthy choice, is anything but, especially for those watching their weight or blood sugars.”
What’s more, Bella dissuaded consumers from being bamboozled by so-called “spinach wraps.”
“Those advertising ‘spinach’ may have less than 2% of the actual ingredient,” she said.
Moskovitz suggested opting for regular thin sliced sandwich bread that is 100% whole wheat, which will provide you with additional fiber and nutrients.