Health's Angels Lose Their Halos
Blinded by the health halo
I did a little informal survey of a few friends and my colleagues here at Health magazine and found that more than a few of us are blinded by what I call health halos, letting ourselves dive deep into good stuff: Brownies made from fat-free mixes; bags of low-fat, gluten-free, baked cheese curls; and entire pints of low-fat fro-yo.
It's not the food itself that's wrecking our diets—it's the amount we munch. Yep, even the healthy stuff needs to be portioned. Here are a few guilty pleasures that even the most astute health editors can't resist.
The heart-healthy buzz around wine can make you believe the stuff is a corked cardiac surgeon. One staffer emailed me: "I'm bad about this, but some of my friends are worse. Someone told them wine was good for their hearts, and they haven't stopped drinking. I told one male friend, 'Y'know, one or two glasses of red wine a day is good for men—not the whole bottle!' He said, 'Well, the bottle is glass...'"
One glass of wine is about 122 calories. The whole bottle? 619 calories.
Seems like there's no end to the stream of chocolate's benefits, from cancer-fighting antioxidants to heart-healthy flavanols and more. Recent research suggests half a bar a week is enough to protect your ticker.
And more than a few people confessed a love for dark chocolate. An editor I work for—whom I won't dime out for precisely that reason—confessed to eating large 3.5-ounce bars of dark chocolate in one sitting. That's about 550 calories and 42.5 grams of fat (300 calories more than a single serving).
Kimberly, the young lady who researches and writes the
7 Under 70 page, is another chocolate lover. She nibbles on truffles: "I think, 'Well, they're just 52 calories each, so two won't hurt. ...But then when I'm on the elliptical, those 'Well, this won't hurt anything' moments come back to get me."
Frozen yogurt and sorbet can be great stand-ins for ice cream. An editor at Southern Living told me she loves mango sorbet—by the pint. It's definitely fat-free, but a pint is 480 calories and 144 grams of sugar.
And one of my colleagues, Susan, sometimes dives into fro-yo the same way—by the pint. One serving is a cool 180 calories. The pint? A diet-wrecking 720.
Alternative chips may have the most blinding health halo—a lot of us tripped up here. These days, chips are made out of all sorts of grains. There are even chips with flaxseeds, which are a source of omega-3.
One coworker says, "Oprah and I are so on the same page with the organic-blue-corn-chips-and-salsa obsession. They may be better nutrition-wise than French fries with ranch dressing, but not when you dig in to the whole bag!" She's right—half of a 16-ounce bag is 1,120 calories. One serving is 140.
And Lisa, one of our editors, likes pita chips. She says: "I buy them thinking they’re better than potato chips. When I get home from work I just inhale them. I tried switching to the low-fat ones, but they taste like cardboard, so I switched back." One serving of plain pita chips—about 14—isn't so bad: 130 calories, and a little fiber to boot. A 6-ounce bag is 780 calories.
You just can't shake the healthy profile of yogurt—calcium, protein, and probiotics, which support your gut health and immune system. Some research is being done now to see if probiotics can help with weight management, too.
freelance writer Alison eats creamy Greek yogurt as a substitute for top-of-the-line ice cream. It can be a good swap: 1/2 cup of ice cream is 240 calories, while 1/2 cup of whole milk Greek yogurt is 150. But Alison occasionally works her way to the bottom of a 17.6-ounce container. "And, of course, I'll add sugar to sweeten it. Oh, and maybe chocolate chips, too. But at least they're dark-chocolate chips..." An entire container is 660 calories and 50.6 grams of fat.
Nondairy sugar-free coffee creamer
Seems like a good sub for real cream and sugar, right? Staffer Jackie told me her morning cup of Joe has more creamer than coffee: "I overpour my sugar-free French Vanilla creamer—my coffee looks more like a melted milkshake than coffee." A tablespoon has 15 calories and 1 gram of fat.
But her creamer is made with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, so those fat grams add up. Jackie measured her creamer while making her coffee this morning and said she poured a half cup—that's 120 calories and 8 grams of fat. She could have two teaspoons of real sugar and two tablespoons of real cream for less fat and a third fewer calories.