Just because a food is labeled sugar-free, cholesterol-free or low fat doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Check out this list of foods that are commonly mistaken as nutritious, along with some quick alternatives.
Boxed rice Rice is good fuel for your muscles, if you choose the right type, like brown rice that’s not straight from a box. Generally, most packaged products are high in sodium and low in fiber and protein. Even Rice-A-Roni Savory Whole Grain Blends Spanish Rice contains 760 milligrams of sodium per serving. A simple, quick alternative is frozen 365 Organic Long Grain Brown Rice from Whole Foods. The only ingredient is cooked organic whole grain brown rice, which has just one milligram of sodium.
Muffins Muffins are often high in both fat and calories. A blueberry muffin from Starbucks, for example, delivers a shocking 420 calories and 20 grams of fat, but has only one gram of fiber and five grams of protein. For an easy and healthy breakfast, make oatmeal using raw oats, water and a half scoop of protein powder. Microwave it for a few minutes to get the consistency you want. And don’t forget to add a piece of fruit!
Fast food salads You might think you’re making the right choice by ordering a salad at a fast food joint. However, many are high in fat, even before adding dressing. Case in point: McDonald’s Asian Salad with Crispy Chicken has 380 calories and 17 grams of fat. A healthier way to get your greens is to buy bagged baby spinach, add some dried cranberries and a 1:1 ratio of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Chicken sandwich Not all chicken is lean, particularly fast food chicken. McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Club sandwich is loaded with 660 calories and 28 grams of fat, making it less healthy than a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Opt instead for the Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich, which has 420 calories and 10 grams of fat.
Energy bars Many energy bars have mile-long ingredient lists full of words that are hard to pronounce. Read your food labels and aim for energy bars with ingredients you are familiar with like almonds, cherries and apricots. Some of my personal favorites include Clif Nectar, Lara Bar and Raw Revolution.
Wheat bread If the ingredient list shows enriched flour as the first ingredient, put it back. Look for 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain bread as the first ingredient.
Dulan is the team nutritionist for the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals.
Learn nutrition secrets the pros use and discover what it takes to fuel your body properly in the DVD, Fuel Like a Champion: A Young Athletes Guide on What to Eat [www. fuellikeachampion.com], created by sports nutrition experts Mitzi Dulan, RD, and Dr. Chris Mohr.