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Are these healthy foods really healthy?

Last Modified: 10/03/2018

The health food industry is big business for today’s consumer. But are the labels telling the full story? Ciersten Deardorf, MS, RDN, CD, registered dietitian, Parkview Cancer Institute, runs through some popular options, and the truth about their nutritional value.


For the past few years, I have been noticing an increase in hummus on dishes such as salads, wraps and sandwiches, and as a dip or spread. It is promoted as a healthier option, packed with more protein than other dips and spreads, like ranch. Is it really as healthy as the media claims it to be? In short, yes and no.

Most hummus is made with chickpeas, tahini and olive oil. It is packed with vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium and folate. It does indeed contain protein, with 2g of protein per 2-tablespoon serving. That 2-tablespoon serving also contains around 70 calories, 5g of fat, and can be loaded with sodium, so it can be easy to overdo it. In addition, hummus is often paired with chips, pitas, breads or crackers, which can be high in calories and sodium. I would recommend being mindful of portion sizes and pairing with vegetables such as carrots, celery, bell peppers or broccoli if you are craving that crunch!


Juices are full of fruits and vegetables, which makes them a great healthy option to help lose weight and get a ton of nutrients, right? Wrong! The truth is, juicing for weight loss is not the best option. Yes, juices do have some vitamins and minerals from the fruits and vegetables, but many of the nutrients and fiber are removed in the process of juicing. The majority of the fiber and nutrients are located in the skin and peel of the produce. Fiber is important to help keep us full and bowel movements regular.

Plus, if you are mainly consuming juices, you can be lacking in calories that your body needs to function properly. Since juices are comprised of fruits and vegetables, it is considered a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are important for our bodies healthy but so are protein and fats. Our body needs all three to be at its optimal health. I recommend eating the whole fruit or vegetable instead of juices and include lean proteins and healthy fats. You will feel more satisfied. Remember, your body wants whole foods. Juicing is usually done for a short while, and therefore, is not a sustainable diet.

Protein and nutrition bars

Protein and nutrition bars can be a quick and healthy snack option on the go, which explains the increase in the industry. While we think all of these bars are tasty and nutritious, there are a few things to keep in mind when picking one.

There are many bars out there that are packed with fat and sugar, making them equivalent to eating a candy bar. This can affect weight loss goals. When picking out a protein and nutrition bar, make sure to pay attention to the label. The food label tells the whole story of what is in the item and in what amounts. Try to pick bars that are lower in fat, especially, saturated fat, and added sugar. Also watch out for sugar alcohols. Often when something is lower in sugar, sugar alcohols will be added to make the product sweeter without all the calories that sugar adds. Sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal issues, such as bloating, discomfort and possibly even diarrhea when consumed in large quantities.

Look for a bar that has dietary fiber to help keep you full longer and keep bowel movements regular. Protein can also keep you full longer, so varieties with extra protein can be beneficial. Just remember, the body can only absorb about 30g of protein in one sitting, so the higher protein bars (30+g per bar) may not be beneficial. Ultimately, these bars are not bad, you just have to spend a few extra minutes looking at the food label to pick out the right one for you!  

Bottled health drinks (vitamin-infused water, sports drinks)

Water with vitamins, what can be wrong with that? Nutrition drinks bottled with vitamins and minerals promoting good health can be found at every gas station, convenience store and vending machine. These drinks are often not the best choice for several reasons. One reason is budgets. They can be quite expensive. Another reason is that our bodies may not be able to absorb all the vitamins and minerals. Often, our bodies need small amounts of fat and fiber to help absorb the vitamins and minerals.

Lastly, many of these drinks have more sugar than pops/sodas and other sugary beverages. Sports drinks are also full of sugar and are often not recommended for daily consumption, unless you are working out longer than 60 minutes. These sugars are quick-absorbing carbohydrates that aid the muscles for energy to help the body last through the activities. Remember that sugar contains calories and when you’re not burning it off, those calories can really add up! This might make it hard to reach your weight loss goals. I would recommend consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins to ensure your body is getting adequate nutrition.


These are only a few popular “health” food items in the industry right now. If there are any other foods that you see and would like the nutrition experts to talk about, please let us know through social media.  









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