Make Sure Your Snacks Are Healthy … Not “Healthy”

I feel like I’m constantly having the conversation with my parents about foods being actually healthy, or just appearing that way. My dad is usually the main offender – he’ll be convinced something is “healthy” because the front label is screaming “low fat” or “only XX calories.” What I always need to explain is that low fat doesn’t necessarily equal healthy … especially when there is extra sugar and empty carbs used to make up for the taste.

Keep in mind that a little fat is not bad for you – as long as it’s the good kind of fat – and that sugar (often used to replace the fat to keep taste), though naturally fat-free, is like any other calorie – if it doesn’t get used, it will be converted to fat. And let’s be honest … as a society, we eat WAY more sugar than we should (and yes, I’m guilty of that one, too … you’d be AMAZED how quickly you consume more sugar than you should eat in a day). But sugar isn’t the only culprit: there are plenty of chemicals, food dyes, and empty, stripped down carbs that contribute nothing to our diets, but potentially do contribute to our waistlines.

Here are a few things to think about as you’re doing your weekly grocery shopping. Bottom line? Make sure to actually read the entire label to see what you’re actually eating … without the flashy marketing trying to convince you that junk is actually good for you.

 

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Chocoholics Rejoice! Study Claims Chocolate Keeps Us Thin!

I came across an article earlier that I couldn’t help but stop to read. “Chocolate keeps us thin,” it heralded. I’m sorry, what? Yes, I am an extremely healthy eater. But I’m also a raging chocoholic. So this may be the best news ever heard.

A study of more than 1,000 U.S. participants found that, on average, those who indulged in chocolate on a regular basis had lower body mass index (BMI) than those who consumed chocolate only occasionally. It was also noted that chocolate’s catechins – antioxidants shown to eliminate free radicals in the body –  especially those in dark chocolate, may be able to increase lean muscle mass, while at the same time decreasing body fat.

Coupled with other benefits found in previous studies – including heart health as well as decreased insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels – chocolate has started to gain recognition as a healthy part of a normal diet (in moderation, of course).

Granted, yes, the type of chocolate of going to have an impact – the nutritional value of dark chocolate considerably outweighs that of white chocolate, and even of milk chocolate. As a general rule, the higher cacao percentage (ideally at least 70%), the better the health benefits – and, of course, a small piece of high-end dark chocolate is going to be less calorically costly than, say, a King Size Snickers (which, side note … I think I read that they are doing away with the King Size Snickers … which is a good thing, considering it can cost you more than 500 calories).

As much as I hate to admit it, this is still not an excuse to go out and find one of those giant chocolate Easter bunnies that are all over the place this time of year. Despite its nutritional value, chocolate is still high in fat, sugar and overall calories – so you do still want to limit it to a reasonable (i.e. 1 oz.) serving size.

Read more about the study here.