menu
BCM - Baylor College of Medicine

Giving life to possible

Baylor College of Medicine News

Looks can be deceiving; read labels for accurate food facts

When reaching for a healthy food option at the grocery store, do you ever wonder if your selection will live up to its label? According to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine, you might not be choosing the best option.

"You still have to look at the food labels to ensure that you are choosing the right foods," said Molly Gee, a registered dietitian with BCM.

Gee said that many people consider butter to be the healthier option because it does not contain trans fats. However, it does contain saturated fat and cholesterol, both known to increase LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol in the blood. LDL is linked to increased risk of heart disease. A much better choice is a margarine produced with no trans fat. Several types of margarine are now made with plant sterols and no trans fat which make them a healthier choice.

Many people believe that artificial sweeteners are not a healthy option. However, if used in moderation, they are safe for daily use.

Another misconception is that sherbet is a healthy substitute for ice cream, but sherbet can contain a large amount of sugar.

"Look at the label to see if the calorie and fat levels are actually lower than regular ice cream," said Gee. "Even low-fat ice creams have high amounts of sugar and fat in them."

When selecting a frozen dessert, compare various products to see which ones actually contain less sugar and fat. Many times, whole fruit popsicles may be the best option.

In the bread aisle, look for options with 100 percent whole wheat flour or whole grains in them, said Gee. Read the food label to be sure that whole wheat flour is listed as the first ingredient on the ingredient list.

When it comes to energy bars, the most important thing to check for is how many calories they contain, said Gee. Some energy bars can contain many more calories than you can actually burn during a workout.

Gee recommends purchasing popcorn kernels and a popcorn popper rather than purchasing microwaveable options that are high in fat.

"Popcorn is a whole grain, so it's really a healthy snack option. If you prefer the microwaveable brands, then choose one that lists fat-free on the label," said Gee. Also, be sure to use salt sparingly when making your own popcorn.

Anytime a food is labeled as "fat free," be cautious of how much sugar is included and whether the calories per serving are actually different from the regular option. Remember that fat free does not mean sugar free, and even 'light' options may have a large amount of calories.