Monday, May 24, 2010

FFF Diva Article Research: "How to Avoid Common Diet Traps"

"How to Avoid Common Diet Traps"

By David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding
Women's Health

Walk into any big grocery store and you're in for a sensory onslaught: a blinding array of packaged edibles, each one designed to send you into a food coma before you ingest a single calorie. Emblazoned on nearly every box, bag, and bottle is a multitude of nutritional claims, essentially screaming, "Buy me! Buy me!"

Thing is, those claims? They're not exactly what they seem. They're a marketing ploy, pure and simple. For instance, you might notice a label on a package of cookies that proclaims "fat-free!" But what you don't see (at least not until you examine the tiny print on the Nutrition Facts panel) is that those cookies are loaded with sugar and additives.

In Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide, we reveal the packaging tricks and messaging gimmicks that make you think you're buying the best foods for your health but instead lure you into spending your hard-earned cash on junk. Learn how to decode the labels, and the next time you head to the supermarket you'll be able to sort out the bad from the good — and save yourself a bundle in the process.

Numbers Can Be Deceiving

On the front of a box of reduced-fat Keebler Club Crackers — in big yellow letters, no less — you'll find the following claim: "33 percent Less Fat Than Original Club Crackers." The math is accurate: The original product does contain three grams of fat per serving, while the reduced-fat version has two grams. It is a 33 percent difference — but we're only talking about one gram of fat here! And what you won't see advertised on the box is that this version has 33 percent more carbs. To add flavor, they replace that one gram of fat with three grams of refined flour and sugar — hardly a healthy trade-off.

Eat this Buy whole-wheat crackers that pack at least three grams of filling fiber per serving. They'll leave you less likely to start noshing later.

"Healthy" Logos Are Bought, Not Just Earned

Many instant oatmeals wear the American Heart Association seal like a badge of honor, yet they have more sugar than a serving of Froot Loops. If you read the fine print below the logo, you'll see that it simply meets the AHA's "food criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol." In other words, it could contain a pound of sugar and still qualify. How is this? Companies pay for a product to bear the AHA sign. Which explains why the AHA check mark might appear on one product but not on another, even when both meet the guidelines.

Click here for Women's Health top 125 best foods in your supermarket.Eat this Choose unsweetened oatmeal and other cereals to prevent a sugar high (and a calorie binge), and then sweeten them yourself with just a touch of honey, almond milk, or cinnamon.

"Good Source" Claims Are Questionable

Don't be fooled by labels touting foods as "good" sources of vitamins and minerals: A serving needs just 10 percent of the recommended daily value of a specific nutrient to be considered a "good source." Take Nabisco Honey Teddy Grahams, a "Good Source of Calcium." You'd have to eat 10 servings — that's the entire box and then some — to get the amount you need for the day. If you're plowing through boxes of cookies to get your daily requirement, a lack of calcium is going to be the least of your health problems.

Eat this To get any of your nutrients, stick with nature's multivitamins: fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. Whereas with fortified cookies your calcium comes with only sugar, when you eat the bone-builder in low-fat milk and cheese you also get a healthy dose of fat-burning, muscle-making protein.

Health Benefits May Be Exaggerated

If you drink bottled green tea, you probably think it's teeming with antioxidants. But some brands may not be as packed with free-radical killers as manufacturers would like you to believe. An independent food laboratory analyzed 14 different bottled green teas for their levels of catechins, the antioxidants in tea that are thought to fight disease. The finding: Catechin content varied widely among brands. Honest Tea Organic Honey Green Tea topped the charts with an impressive 215 milligrams, but some products barely registered on the antioxidant scale. Ito En Tea's Tea Lemongrass Green had just 28 milligrams, and Republic of Tea Pomegranate Green Tea had a meager nine.

Eat this You know you're safe with Honest Tea, but you can also boost your catechin levels by brewing your own and letting it steep for at least five minutes.
"Lean" Meats Are Usually Full of Sodium

When you remove fat, you lose juiciness. To prevent virtuous cuts of meat from tasting like shoe leather, some manufacturers enhance their poultry, pork, and beef products with a solution of water, salt, and nutrients that impart flavor. This practice can dramatically boost the meat's sodium level. For example, a four-ounce serving of regular turkey tenderloin contains a mere 55 milligrams of sodium, while the same amount of a low-fat enhanced version packs 840 milligrams. You're swapping one evil (fat) for another — belly-bloating and blood pressure-hiking sodium.

Eat this Stick with regular turkey and other naturally lean meats; just watch portion size. All you need is one or two paper-thin slices to satisfy your taste buds. And if it says "enhanced," walk on by.

Adapted from Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding (Rodale, 2009)

For more tips on choosing the best foods in your grocery store, pick up a copy anywhere books are sold or at


  1. That is really interesting about the AHA label. HHHHMMMMM!? I think I need to look at things more carefully!

  2. Shoot. gotta pay more attention!

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