Harley Pasternak Blogs: 10 Seemingly Healthy Foods to Avoid

Diet Tips from Harley Pasternak's People.com Blog
Harley Pasternak
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

updated 08/22/2012 at 12:45 PM EDT

originally published 08/22/2012 01:15PM

Last week, one of my clients walked into my gym with a giant yogurt parfait. As the client proudly listed the ingredients of what they believed was a healthy breakfast, I calculated how many hundreds of calories and grams of sugar and fat that this far-from-healthy meal contained – and how much extra cardio I was going to make them do as a result – and broke the news. This parfait is a CALORIE BOMB!

Between the high-fat yogurt, sugar and oil-laden granola, my client was shocked to find out they had just consumed close to 1000 calories, most of which were from unhealthy fats and sugars.

This client is not the first person I've met who has been misled to believe that certain foods are healthy, when in fact, those foods are far from it.

I've compiled a list of 10 foods you may as well strap to your thighs – because that's where they'll be going otherwise!





Granola
Though typically paired with words like "organic," "harvest," or "natural," almost all granolas are fattening. One tiny serving can have 420 calories, 10 grams of fat and 26 grams of sugar.

A better choice:
Muesli is made without added oils and is usually sweetened with berries and fruit, not sugar. Try soaking mueseli in skim or almond milk overnight.

Pretzels
People are often lured in by the "fat free" aspect of pretzels. But a 3-oz. serving of pretzels can contain 320 calories and 1720 mg. of sodium – and little else.

A better choice:
Try air-popped popcorn. It has a fraction of the calories, tons of fiber and hardly any sodium.

Couscous
Couscous is not a grain. I repeat, it is not a grain. Much like its brother spaghetti and its sister ravioli, couscous is pasta.

A better choice:
Bulgur and quinoa contain exponentially more fiber, protein and flavor!

Tuna salad
Most of us don't eat enough fish, so I'm not going to hate on any fish in particular. Most tuna salads however, are not very healthy. Usually smothered in mayonnaise and made from albacore tuna, 4 oz. of this classic sandwich filler is filled with fat (10 grams), calories (212), and it rates sky-high in mercury. So, it's not going to get you any into your skinny jeans any quicker.

A better choice:
Try using light (not white) tuna, which is lower in mercury (more information on choosing the right tuna here). Combine with herbs, lemon juice and yogurt to create a tasty, healthier version of a tuna salad!

Brown sugar
For some reason, many people perceive brown sugar as being healthier than white sugar. Unfortunately, it's not fiber or any other useful nutrient that gives brown sugar its color; it's molasses, which doesn't offer any nutritional benefits. Consequently, when it comes to calories and health benefits, brown and white sugar are equals.

A better choice:
Try experimenting with agave, honey and maple syrup, all of which are a little sweeter, therefore you don't need to use as much.

Canned fruit (and other canned foods)
I used to love eating canned fruit. Once I learned how to read a food label, I learned that canned fruit is arguably the least healthy form of fruit consumption. Lacking most of the nutrients that make fruit so healthy, canned fruit is loaded with added sugar and void of fiber. A medium peach has 8 grams of sugar, while one serving of canned peaches has more than 24 grams of sugar – three times as much!

A better choice:
Be smart about choosing fruit. Opt for fresh fruit with edible skin (apples, pears, peaches) or seeds (strawberries, raspberries, kiwis) or citrus (oranges, grapefruits), or certain dried fruits. Choose dried fruits with skin when possible and don't eat too many, as they can be pretty calorie dense.

Muffins
Last month, my wife and I walked into a Dunkin Donuts out of sheer curiosity – and I'm sticking to that story! While deliberating my weekly cheat/treat, I was shocked to learn that the donut I was considering had nearly half of the calories of a low fat bran muffin. When you actually break down a muffin into its ingredients (sugar, flour, butter/margarine, etc.), you realize that if it came in a slightly different shape with some frosting, it wouldn't be called a muffin. It would be called "cake!"

Most of the bran muffins I've seen exceed 400 calories and ooze with over 20 grams of fat plus lots of sugar and other additives. They may also contain trans fats – those nasty fats that raise your bad LDL cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol (HDL). Bran muffins are also often served with sides of butter only adding insult to injury.

A better choice:
My wife makes these healthy muffins that are not only delicious but actually a healthy treat. Try making a batter of non-fat greek yogurt, egg whites, natural peanut butter, dried cranberries/blueberries, and a touch of a sweetener of your choice! Create a texture similar to that of cookie dough, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and dole out on a sprayed pan. Bake for 30 minutes and you have an amazing, fibrous, protein filled treat!

Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
First, reduced-fat is not the same as low fat. Ever heard the saying, "Robbing Peter to pay Paul"? Well, most commercial peanut butters are made with the same type of sugar that cake frosting is made with. Reducing the fat makes it even worse because even more sugar is added and they contain less healthy fat.

A better choice:
As with peanuts, choose almonds or all natural organic peanut butter instead. Just remember to pour off half of the top layer of oil.



Fruit-flavored yogurts
With more than 30 grams of added sugar and 80 calories of fat per serving in many of these yogurt desserts, you may as well be eating a chocolate bar.

A better choice:
Try non-fat greek yogurt and add some fresh berries. Greek yogurt is essentially lactose free and is packed with high quality metabolism boosting protein. Try brands like Chobani, Fage or Oikos.

Turkey Bacon and Turkey Sausage
I've never seen or heard of a healthy sausage or bacon of any kind. Most are loaded with fat, sodium, and nitrates. Just because they are made from turkey rather than pork doesn't make them any healthier. In fact, there are many versions of pork bacons (i.e., Canadian bacon) that are leaner than turkey bacons. And sausage is usually made with the lowest quality "leftovers" from butchering. When I was 12, my father took me to a meat and poultry-processing factory – and I'm still traumatized.

A better choice:
Try smoked salmon, veggie bacon, and bresaola. They all have incredible flavor and are far healthier than traditional breakfast meats.

Check back every Wednesday for more insider tips on Hollywood's hottest bodies – and learn how to get one yourself! Plus: follow Harley on Twitter at @harleypasternak

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