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Are You Really Sure These 5 Foods Are Healthy?

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Is granola healthy? What about hummus? Or popcorn? The New York Times surveyed nutritionists and everyday Americans to find out their opinions, and while the usual suspects were categorized pretty easily—apples, spinach, and oranges were all deemed healthy while soda, french fries, and chocolate chip cookies were categorized as unhealthy—there were more than a few foods in the middle of the pack. Here's the real deal on a few of them. 

Frozen Yogurt

The general population in this survey picked frozen yogurt as a healthy choice, but there's a reason why Greek yogurt is considered a healthy part of a meal or snack but frozen yogurt is not. One container of Fage plain Greek yogurt contains 100 calories, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of protein, probiotics, and 20 percent of your daily calcium. On the other hand, an original-size regular flavor of frozen yogurt at Red Mango contains 190 calories, 43 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein. That's double the calories, six times the carbs, and less than a quarter the protein—and that's before you add any toppings. Even added probiotics can't bring this treat to the level of regular yogurt.

Granola

It's full of oats and nuts and is used to top yogurt. How could it not be healthy? More everyday Americans than nutritionists had this on the healthy list, but you have to be careful. While oats and nuts provide healthy fats, vitamins, and fiber to your diet, the calories from added sugars, dried fruit, and sweet add-ins like chocolate can raise the calorie count into unhealthy territory before you know it. (Not quite sure how to choose a balanced granola? Check out these healthy recipes.)

Hummus

With new flavors coming out all the time, hummus is trying to be your new favorite snack. Ranked higher on the healthy end by nutritionists, this all-purpose favorite sounds healthy, seeing as it's made with chickpeas or other beans and contains healthy fats. The drawback: Hummus has a pretty high calorie content—a two-ounce Sabra snack pack has 150 calories—unless you carefully monitor portion size (and we all know how hard that can be). Combined with the pita chips you may or may not be using for dipping, your snack can become more of a mini meal. That doesn't mean you can't have it at all though. Squeeze some into your meals with these healthy hummus recipes.)

Popcorn

Is popcorn healthy? The short answer: It depends! It can quickly fall into the fries-and-soda area if you're loading it with butter, cheese, or bacon. On the flip side, three cups of air-popped popcorn contain less than 100 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber, which is 15 percent of the daily recommendation. Keep it on the healthy side by flavoring it with a hint of salt, herbs, and a sprinkle of Parmesan for a savory snack. (Or try these easy popcorn recipes.)

Steak

The debate about red meat continues on the research end, as studies have shown there conflicting reports about the upsides and downsides to consuming it. While I wouldn't recommend a weekly 32-ounce porterhouse, a lean 6- to 8-ounce piece of steak can fit into your week once or twice. Why? A piece of lean meat provides protein and iron, two important nutrients for keeping you in top shape. Just be sure to trim off the fat.

 

Deborah Tagliareni MS RD

Deborah Tagliareni, a Registered Dietitian and Founder of Milestone Nutrition, received her bachelors degree from Northwestern University and Masters in Clinical Nutrition from New York University.  More →

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