There's a disparity between the foods nutritionists and ordinary Americans deem healthy

By By Moira Lawler
July 05, 2016

We all can agree that apples, oranges, and oatmeal qualify as healthy. But when seemingly healthy foods like orange juice enter the picture, things get a little fuzzy. To see just how fuzzy the average American is on what's healthy versus unhealthy, the New York Times teamed up with the polling firm Morning Consult to survey 2,000 Americans and nearly 700 nutritionists from the American Society for Nutrition. Each survey respondent was asked to rate 52 common foods as good or bad for their health.

The majority of respondents correctly placed soda, white bread, and cookies into the unhealthy group (phew!), but the public and the nutritionists didn't agree on everything. Take granola bars, for example. Over 70 percent of the public marked them as healthy, while only 28 percent of the nutritionists surveyed did. That was the widest gap between the two groups.

What gives? On paper, granola bars sound nutritious. Oats, nuts, and dried fruit? Nothing bad about that.But once pieces of chocolate and other types of sugars are added to the mix, the sugar count skyrockets. A KIND Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants bar, for instance, has 14 grams of sugar, which is 5 grams more than a serving of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Other foods that had a significant gap between what Americans deemed healthy and what met nutritionists' standards-like frozen yogurt and SlimFast shakes-also have loads of added sugar that the average consumer likely isn't aware of.

The good news is the added sugars will soon be hard to ignore. In May, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new food label that'll feature calories in large, bold type and serving sizes that actually reflect the way Americans eat (because no one really sticks to just a half cup of ice cream). These new labels will also clearly mark which sugars were added to boost the food's flavor versus those that occur naturally.

The bad news? These changes aren't required to be on all packaged foods until July 2018. Until then, brush up on other food label lies and stick to the American Heart Association's recommendation of consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars a day. And you don't need to swear off granola bars altogether. Just take note of the sugar content or control the amount of added sugars by making your own bars at home.

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