Thursday, May 30, 2013

Health Food Imposter #13: Frozen Yogurt

Does frozen yogurt deserve its health halo?  - Copyright 2013 - Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD, CSSD - Go Wellness
Health Food Imposter #13:  Frozen Yogurt
Over the last few years, the rise of the FroYo has been occurring with the growing popularity of frozen yogurt shops and frozen yogurt products on grocery store shelves.  People seem to be flocking to frozen yogurt as a healthier alternative to ice cream, but unfortunately, in some cases, it may not be all that we believe it to be.
  • While frozen yogurts are generally lower in fat and calories than their ice cream cousins, it doesn't mean they are "low calorie".  For example, I decided to compare Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia FroYo with their Cherry Garcia Ice Cream.  The ice cream has 240 calories and 13 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving while the FroYo has 200 calories and 3 grams of fat per serving.  So yes, the frozen yogurt is lower in calories and fat.  However, it is not technically a "low-calorie" food since it does not contain less than 40 calories per serving required by federal labeling guidelines.  Add some less nutritious toppings, like cookies or candy, and you're tacking on a lot of extra low-quality calories and ingredients, too!  
  • Frozen yogurt may generally be lower in fat than ice cream, but it is not necessarily lower in sugar.  In fact, using the Cherry Garcia example again, the frozen yogurt actually contains 1 more teaspoon of sugar than the ice cream, 27 grams vs 23 grams per half cup respectively.  While some of the sugar in frozen yogurt is naturally occurring from the yogurt itself, much of it is added in the form of sweeteners, like sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose.
  • Another reason people turn to frozen yogurt is for the proposed probiotic health benefits.  Because frozen yogurt falls under a different product classification than regular yogurt, it does not have to meet the same standards in terms of the production and final product as regular yogurt.  Unfortunately, not all frozen yogurts contain live and active cultures, which means they do not confer the health benefits associated with probiotics.  In some cases, the yogurt is heat-treated during the production process thereby diminishing the benefits from the probiotics.  Frozen yogurts also may not contain the amount or variety of probiotic strains as some regular yogurts do, and this may affect the potential health benefits as well.  
  • Frozen yogurts may still contain other questionable ingredients, such as artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, that many people are now trying to limit or avoid. For instance, some fruit-flavored frozen yogurts do not actually contain any real fruit in them.  So the health benefits of the real fruit are lacking in many of these frozen yogurt products.  
A better alternative?
Consider frozen yogurts a treat like ice cream.  Enjoy it occasionally, but it's best not to consider it a nourishing everyday meal or snack.  There are higher quality frozen yogurts available.  To make the best choices, read the Ingredient Lists and Nutrition Facts for products on grocery shelves and check out the nutrition information online for versions from yogurt shops.  Look for frozen yogurts with simpler ingredient lists that also include live active cultures.  When opting for FroYo from yogurt shops, stick with healthier toppings, like fresh fruit and nuts, rather than cookies or candy, and consider portion size, especially with self-serve spots.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Foodie Friday: Pineapple Whip Ice Cream

Pineapple Whip Ice Cream -- Copyright 2013 Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD, CSSD -- Go Wellness
The grand opening of summer is upon us as we head into Memorial Day weekend, and I could not think of a better way to kick off the summer than by sharing a special cold and healthy dessert with you.  While I definitely think there's room in the diet for the occasional high quality premium ice cream, I also love to experiment with more nourishing ways to satisfy that same craving for a luscious, creamy, and flavorful cold treat.  If you don't believe me, then please check out my recipes for Banana Ice Cream, Blackberry Sorbet, Raspberry Creamsicles, and Strawberry Banana Ice Cream.  Yes, you just hit the jackpot of healthier summer frozen desserts. You're welcome!  Now, I introduce to you Pineapple Whip Ice Cream.  This is just amazing because it is so delicious that you will not believe it's healthy.  Plus, it's made with only 4 ingredients.  Boom!  My entire fam loves this.  Believe me, it will hit that ice cream craving spot!   Try it and let me know what you think.  Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Pineapple Whip Ice Cream

6 cups frozen pineapple chunks, unsweetened
1/2 cup coconut milk (canned pure coconut milk is preferable)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp honey

1.  Combine all ingredients into a food processor or high quality, powerful blender, like a Vitamix.  (I would not recommend trying this in a regular blender as it may burn it out.  I would also recommend sticking around to make sure the food processor manages this well, too.)  Process until smooth.  Enjoy immediately!  

Serves: 6
Nutrition Information:
Calories: 141   Carbohydrate:  24 g   Protein:  1 g   Fat:  6 g   Cholesterol:  0 mg   Fiber:  2 g   Sugar:  18 g (2 g added sugar from honey; 16 g natural)   Sodium:  4 mg
Excellent source of:  vitamin C
Good source of:  thiamin, vitamin B6

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Health Food Imposter #12: 100 calorie snacks

Are 100 calorie snacks health food imposters?  Copyrigh 2013 -- Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD, CSSD -- Go Wellness
Health Food Imposter #12:  100 calorie snacks

The 100 calorie snack products are tricky.  The fact that they are portion-controlled and only 100 calories each may make them appear more healthful, but this does not make them high quality, health supportive, and deeply nourishing food.

  • Most of these 100 calorie snack products are made with processed flours, which have been stripped of valuable nutrients, including vitamins and hunger-satisfying fiber.  Most of them also contain a variety of sources of refined sugars, like corn syrup and dextrose, often contributing up to 2 teaspoons of added sugar per serving.  While these may satisfy a craving for something sweet, without the naturally occurring fiber or a high quality source of protein, these may leave some hungry again in no time.
  • Unfortunately, the 100 calorie snack products may also be taking the place of more healthful foods, like vegetables, fruits, or nuts, that could be consumed instead.  This could make one less likely to consume enough essential nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and other health promoting phytochemicals.
  • Many of these products also contain less healthful fats and oils, like trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils.  While these oils may enhance the shelf-life and flavor of a product, they will not  enhance your health.  Because the trans fat content is < 0.5 grams per serving, you will see 0 g trans fat listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel even though the product contains trans fat in the form of partially hydrogenated oils.  Always read the ingredient list.
  • Some of these products do a little health washing by using "yogurt flavoring", but that does not mean they confer the same health benefits as regular yogurt with live and active cultures.  The yogurt flavorings are generally nothing more than sugars and fats dressed up with heat-treated yogurt powders that do not contain live and active probiotic cultures.
  • Some of these products also contain moderate amounts of sodium that could pose a problem for sodium-sensitive individuals.  
  • Finally, some of these products also contain artificial colors, flavors, and other questionable ingredients that many people are now looking to avoid for a variety of reasons.  Again, while these ingredients may make the product taste or look better, they don't necessarily add to your health or quality of life.  
What is a better alternative?
There are many naturally lower calorie snack options that incorporate whole, real foods, so plan these into your diet. Some simple examples include almonds, pistachios, fruit with cheese, vegetable sticks with hummus, or even a hard-boiled egg.  Not only are these foods more nourishing, but they'll also often be more satisfying than the 100 calorie snack products.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Health Food Imposter #11: Smoothies

Are smoothies health food imposters?  Copyright 2013 - Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD, CSSD - Go Wellness

Health Food Imposter #11:   Smoothies
Who isn't a fan of the almighty smoothie, right?  While I think that smoothies can have a place in a nourishing, well-balanced diet, some (especially homemade ones) are better than others when it comes to many commercially-prepared versions.  
  • One of the drawbacks of commercially-prepared smoothies is that the bases often include non-fat yogurt, frozen yogurt, and sherbet, which are typically laden with refined sugar.  For example, the Original-sized Banana Berry Smoothie from Jamba Juice, which is made with bananas, non-fat frozen yogurt, blueberries, raspberry sherbet and ice, contains 82 grams of sugar.  Yes, 82 grams or almost 21 teaspoons.  Yes, some of it is naturally-occurring from the fruit and frozen yogurt, but how much?  
  • Someone thinking these are a healthy “snack” may also be surprised that some of these smoothies can range anywhere from 150 up to 900+ calories. Yes, I said 900 calories!  As a "snack", that could pose a problem for a person trying to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  
  • There are “no sugar added” and “light” versions, but keep in mind that this is usually due to the use of artificial sweeteners, like sucralose.  
  • While “real fruit smoothies” seem to be a trend right now, keep in mind that sometimes the “real fruit” comes in the form of fruit juice rather than whole fruit, so you could be losing out on valuable nutrients, like fiber.  In some cases, I’ve seen so-called fruit smoothies that don’t have any real fruit in them at all.  Buyer beware!
  • Know, too, that  commercially-prepped smoothies may also contain artificial colors, flavors, and other  questionable additives as well.
What is a better alternative?  
Make your own smoothies at home using fresh or frozen, unsweetened whole fruits and vegetables at home.  This way you’ll have more control over the quality, kind, and amount of the ingredients you put into them. Plus, you can personalize them to your own taste.  If you opt for a commercially-prepared version, look for the nutrition information online or onsite to review the nutrition facts as well as the ingredients, when available.  Opt for those made with real, whole fruits and veggies as often as possible.  You may also want to opt for a smoothie with a quality source of protein (at least as best as you can do with commercially-prepared versions), like almond butter or yogurt, to help with blood sugar balance and satiety.  Also, consider choosing smaller sizes for better portion control.  If anything ask questions and see if you can customize your smoothie to suit your needs and tastes.

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