Courtesy of Independent Health’s Corporate Wellness Department

Nutrition facts

March is National Nutrition Month®, which is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The annual initiative is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating habits. As such, we want to make sure you’re eating wisely.

Whether shopping at a grocery store or dining out at a restaurant, you’ve probably become accustomed to seeing words like “low fat” or “light” assuming it’s a healthy choice. However, just because something sounds nutritious doesn’t mean it is. For example, here are four popular types of food and beverages that are not as healthy as you may think:

  • You have to be very careful when looking for cereal that has good nutritional value. Even though the box may say “whole grain,” it’s the sugar content that will signal whether it is a good choice or not. A great strategy is to check the nutrition label for sugar and fiber. Aim for under five grams of sugar and over five grams of fiber.
  • It sounds reasonable to think a salad is healthy, right? In reality, there are times when choosing a salad off a restaurant menu be the wrong choice. Some salads are served with calorie-dense creamy dressings, bacon bits, noodles, fried chicken strips, and other less-than-healthy food items. Don’t hesitate to ask your server to hold unhealthy food items from your salad, or to substitute your crispy chicken with grilled chicken. In addition, if possible, choose an olive oil and vinegar based dressing. If you decide to use a creamy dressing, order it on the side and just dip your fork into it before each bite.
  • Whole milk dairy products. At one time, all milk products were considered healthy. However, more recently, whole milk has been labeled as unhealthy due to the higher cholesterol content and higher calories. Skim milk is much lower in cholesterol and has less calories and fat. If you currently drink whole milk drink, you may want to consider gradually transitioning to skim by moving to one percent first, due to the change in texture and taste. Also, look for other non-whole milk dairy products, such as cheese made with skim milk.
  • Fruit smoothies. Many people think this blended beverage is healthy because it has fruit in it. However, fruit smoothies often include additional sugar or flavorings that help pack on calories. Also, smoothies usually consist of three to five pieces of fruit. Since a normal serving of fruit is one apple or a small banana, you’re consuming about three to five times the calories you should be when drinking a smoothie.

Just like a car, our bodies need to be properly fueled so that they run at a high level. Therefore, it’s always important to read packaging labels and ask questions so that you really know what you’re actually eating.