Healthier living … check your labels

Published 4:47 pm Friday, December 10, 2010

As a society, we are inundated and bombarded with a myriad of advertisements and commercials, pushing so called healthy food alternatives.

Lets explore some of these, and see just how healthy or unhealthy they happen to be.

1) Light ice cream. Just because ice cream has the word light on the label doesnt guarantee it has fewer calories. Also, some light ice creams are less satisfying, so you end up eating more.

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Instead: Try dairy-free ice cream. Soymilk ice creams have fewer calories, and theyre really satisfying.

2) Baked potato chips. These chips are lower in fat, but are still high in calories, and low in nutrients.

Instead: Try popcorn. Youll get all the crunch of potato chips, and around 65 percent fewer calories. I recommend oil-free or air-popped corn.

3) Diet soda. Diet sodas have been linked to metabolic syndrome, whose symptoms include belly fat that puts you at greater risk for heart attack. Also, the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas are by their very nature, several, sometimes hundreds of times sweeter than sugar.

These sweeteners satisfy your mouth, but not your brain. In other words, your brain is all dressed up with no place to go. This makes you crave sugar, and creates an even bigger sweet tooth.

Instead: Try flavored seltzer water. Its refreshing and has 0 calories. Make sure there are no artificial flavors in your seltzer water. If you want to flavor your seltzer water even more, use fruit juices.

4) Non-fat salad dressing. These dressings may have no fat, but that doesnt mean they have no calories. Most fat free dressings are loaded with sugar. Also, you want a little fat with your salad. Without any fat, you cant absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.

Instead: Try olive oil based dressings.

5) Calorie-free spray margarine. Even if your margarine claims to be calorie free, it may not be.

Labeling laws allow products with fewer than five calories to claim to have zero calories, so using several sprays could really add up the calories. Also, margarines contain trans fats, which tend to clog arteries.

Instead: Try an olive oil spray. It contains monounsaturated fats which help relieve inflammation, and are good for your heart.

6) 100-calorie snack packs. People tend to eat more food when presented with smaller portions. In fact, in one study, participants didnt feel the need to regulate their intake, and ate more than one portion before they felt satisfied.

Instead: have a small serving of almonds. Almonds contain healthy monounsaturated fat, and the fiber and protein will help tide you over until your next meal.

Fitness or nutrition question? Email me at or visit

David Crocker of Landrum has served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., strength coach, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team,

USC-Spartanburg baseball team, and Converse college equestrian team. He taught four semesters at USC-Union. David is also a regular guest of the Pam Stone Show. David also served as lead trainer to L.H.Fields Modeling Agency.