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Healthy Food Choices
Avoid the Top 10 Food Imposters

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Have you been duped by health food hype?

A recent chat about the nutritional value of a certain vegetable got us here at eDiets thinking that some foods are surprisingly less healthy than their reputations might have you believe. As a result, we set out to debunk some nutritional myths.

You may be shocked and amazed at how slim the benefits are for some of these traditional health foods. Some of our picks have lots of nutrition, but the added ingredients counteract those positives. Others are just devoid of the good stuff.

So if these 10 were on your "most-hated" list, you can stop feeling guilty about not eating them. However, if you do enjoy them, we’ve provided suggestions for boosting their benefits to make them worth keeping in your repertoire.

1. Celery -- It’s the quintessential diet food and often labeled a “free food” on many weight-loss programs. So you might guess it is one of the healthiest veggies around. But the real reason it’s so commonly paired with a carrot for that anytime snack is that it has only 27 calories. The crunch keeps your mouth busy so you’re less likely to eat something more fattening (i.e., potato chips). Other than that, there’s not a whole lot else to it. Extra-Nutrition Addition: If you’re looking for a low-cal snack and you like celery, go ahead and munch on a stalk, but pair it with other veggies, like carrots and bell peppers, to fill your vitamin and mineral quota.

2. Fruit roll-ups -- You know they contain sugar, but you probably also thought that they had at least some nutrition perks. After all, they are made from fruit, right? Unfortunately, most don’t pack the same vitamin punch as their whole-fruit counterparts. Extra-Nutrition Addition: Fill those lunch boxes with whole, fresh fruit or for a similar texture, unsweetened dried fruits, such as plums or apricots, for natural sweetness and a variety of nutrients and antioxidants.

3. Cucumber -- You might as well be eating water since that’s about all you get from the pickle’s precursor. Of course, cucumbers are more filling than H2O. Extra-Nutrition Addition: Go ahead and add them to salads to boost the satisfaction factor. Just be sure to include more nutrient-dense ingredients such as peppers, tomatoes and broccoli so you get some vitamins and minerals.

4. Fruit-flavored yogurt -- Flavored yogurts, especially those with fruit on the bottom, can be super-high in sugar (think nine teaspoons per serving!), which not only boosts the calories, it also cancels out the infection-fighting powers of the live and active bacteria in the yogurt. Extra-Nutrition Addition: Plain, low-fat yogurt has fewer calories than flavored versions (approximately 143 calories instead of 225 calories). Just add your own fresh fruit or seeds and nuts for extra sweetness and fiber without all the sugar. Be sure the brand you choose contains live and active cultures (it's listed on the side of the package). This simple form of yogurt also has more calcium and protein and provides iron and vitamin A.

5. Vegetable juice -- Ads for veggie juice offer it up as a healthful alternative when you’re too busy to eat your "five-a-day." While it’s better than not eating any veggies -- it is loaded with nutrients, including vitamins A and C and heart-healthy folate -- many brands are ultra-high in sodium. One small 6-ounce can of the average vegetable juice contains 491 milligrams. That’s more than a third of the recommended daily limit. Not to mention that when you drink your produce, you miss out on heart-healthy, satisfying fiber. Extra-Nutrition Addition Look for a low-sodium version of the juice or, if you have a juicer, make your own sodium-free concoctions. Better yet, eat your veggies whole and leave nothing to chance. This way you’re sure to get the benefits of fiber as well as the nutrients.

6. White rice -- While it’s versatile enough to serve with chicken, fish, Chinese food or even in pudding, and it is low in calories, the process of refining rice strips it of many of its vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber. Extra-Nutrition Addition: Anything white rice can do, brown can do better. The darker variety has heart-healthy fiber and is higher in trace minerals. Steam it and serve with mixed veggies and lite soy or teriyaki sauce or stir into tomato soup to bulk it up.

7. Eggplant -- This veggie’s utter lack of nutrition doesn’t mean you should stop eating it if you like it. It’s extremely low in calories (just 13 per half-cup serving) and its consistency makes it a good stand-in for meat or chicken in some of your favorite dishes. Extra-Nutrition Addition: Combine eggplant with tomatoes and spinach in Italian dishes to create more nutritious, but equally filling meals. Just be careful not to use a lot of oil, which gets soaked up easily by sponge-like eggplant and can increase the fat content of your meals.

8. Yogurt-covered raisins or pretzels -- They sound like a health nut’s ideal low-fat snack. But the fact is, the "yogurt" on these snacks is more like a candy coating. This means it’s high in sugar and lacks many of the active bacteria that give yogurt its health benefits. Extra-Nutrition Addition: Stick to plain raisins or low-fat pretzels stirred or dipped into plain, low-fat yogurt for a healthier snack.

9. Iceberg lettuce -- It has next to no calories and practically nothing else, which means when you use it as a base for salads, you miss out on the opportunity to reap valuable nutrients. Extra-Nutrition Addition: Add power to your salad by tossing it with a darker lettuce, such as Romaine (for vitamin A) or other greens, like watercress or mesclun. Even better, use spinach leaves, which also contain heart-healthy folate, iron and lutein, a substance that offers eye protection.

10. Dried pineapple -- While it sounds healthy, pineapple is the one dried fruit that is typically coated with sugar. As a matter of fact, it’s so high in the sweet stuff, you might as well be eating candy. Extra-Nutrition Addition: For a sweet treat, serve juicy, fresh pineapple rings dipped into low-fat yogurt mixed with fat-free whipped topping, or try unsweetened dried fruit. Most are sweet enough as they are, such as apricots or apples.

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