How Healthy Are Diet Foods?

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Dietitian Amera Varghese of the Mediclinic Welcare Hospital ( tells us if these buys really are as healthy as they look


Nutrition bars make a great go-to snack when you’re on the run, but dietitian Amera Varghese of the Mediclinic Welcare Hospital says, “They are not better than whole foods. There are ingredients that you’ll find in whole foods that are missing from these bars.” To go for the healthiest option she recommends switching chocolate for the plain versions and choosing ones that have less than 5 grams of fat and contain 3 to 5 grams of fibre. Or make your own so you know exactly what’s in them.

Not all cereals are created equal says Amera. While some come packed with added health benefits, others are lacking. “Select cereals that are high in fibre and ones that are made with whole grains,” says Amera. “Recent research suggests those who eat more whole grains are at lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.” If you want to boost your fibre intake even more, add some fresh fruit to your cereal.

Fruit juice comes with great health benefits, but dietitian Amera would prefer you to eat the fruit itself. “Fruit has more fibre, fewer calories, and more phytonutrients than juice,” she explains. However, if you still want to get your vitamin fix from a glass Amera has a useful tip: “When selecting a juice, go for one that is unsweetened and choose the ones where you can see sediment at the bottom of the bottle, which means the skin has been used in making the juice. It’s the skin that has all the healthy properties.”

If you want to keep those hunger pangs at bay, an ice-cold smoothie will do the trick. And the key to making sure your smoothie is healthy, is to keep it simple says Amera. Blends including soy milk, fresh or frozen fruit, skimmed milk, or yogurt, are perfect, but Amera recommends that you avoid “ice cream, peanut butter, sweetened syrups, or chocolate, because you will end up in loading with calories and saturated fat”.

You may feel smug chowing down on a salad, while your guy is devouring his burger. But guess what? He could be having a fraction of the calories, While a burger reaches the 500 calorie mark, a restaurant bought chicken Caesar salad can be closer to 1,000. “Salads are healthy,” says Amera, “but the usual Caesar salad is a diet wreck because it contains loads of dressing. It is the fixings that add all the extra calories. For a healthy Caesar salad avoid the salad dressing, croutons, cheese and top it with grilled skinless chicken strips.”



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