This morning I visited The Early Show to talk to host Erica Hill about healthy imposters — selections that seem nutritionally superior, but really, not so much! Here are a few examples:
Veggie Sticks or Puffed Veggie Snacks
They may look like dried veggies but the first ingredient in many of these snacks is potato flour with veggies far lower in the ingredient list (which means they make up a smaller percentage of each bite). They also tend to have more sodium — up to twice as much — and you only save about 30 calories and 3 g of fat per serving compared to their traditional counterparts. Stick with good old fashioned potato chips, as long as the only ingredients are potatoes, pure vegetable oil and salt. They're much more natural and potatoes are a good source of potassium and antioxidants.
Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
Reduced fat PB can pack the exact same number of calories per serving and usually more sugar than regular PB. That's because they aren't able to take the fat out, so they have to add sugar or carbs to displace the fat content. Plus, the fat in peanut butter is "good" heart healthy monounsaturated fat (or MUFAs), which has been shown to reduce belly fat. Stay true to all natural regular PB or other natural nut butters, like almond, cashew, pecan, etc.
2% Milk (or Cottage Cheese, Yogurt, Ricotta, etc.)
2 percent sounds lean and it is reduced fat from whole milk, but that percent represents the weight of the milk that's fat, not the percent of calories from fat. In reality over one third of the calories in each glass of 2% milk are pure fat, mostly saturated fat, the solid kind that clogs arteries and ups the risk of heart disease. According to the Dietary Guidelines, everyone 2 years and older should be drinking 1% or skim milk, which packs the same amount of protein and calcium as 2%. If you like the creaminess of 2%, look for Skim Plus. It has no fat but it’s thicker and whiter from the addition of 3 extra grams of protein per cup.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.