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Need suggestions for healthier food choices [moved from General Topics]

I was watching Oprah this week and she had Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen on the program. They suggest you cut out hydrogenated oils, sugars, high fructose corn syrup, enriched flour and bleached flour. They also suggest you only eat food with 4g or less of saturated fat and sugar.

This idea seems great but what's left? I was checking out the labels at the store and it seems like everything contains these ingredients.

I've tried some of these "healthier" choices and many times, they taste gross.

Can anyone share some food finds that actually taste good?

One snack food that I found that is quite tasty is Miguel's vegetable tortilla chips.

Does anyone have other suggestions? Thanks.

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  1. If you eliminate all those ingredients, you eliminate almost all processed foods. You might take a look at Trader Joe's.

    I think you pretty much have to cook most of your own meals to follow that sort of extreme health-food regimen.

    1. Wow - where to begin....I'd recommend shopping at a Whole Foods or similar store as a good 'natural foods' store will usually stock a good selection of food without such ingredients.

      When you make a major switch in eating habits there can be a transition period where you have to get used to what food actually tastes like without all the additives....at first this can be 'gross' as you say but in a short time you'll adjust. For instance, I don't eat refined sugar (I use Sucanat - dried sugar cane juice with intact nutrients - instead) and an apple is plenty sweet while a Snickers bar would be waay too 'artificially sweet' to me. BUT - at first, the candy would've ben normal and the apple bland....ya know?

      You may want to find a good natural cafe or deli to eat at and check out the menu for ideas to use at home...

      So, a short list of ingredients to use in cooking might include:

      Canola oil to sautee at high heat and Olive oil for salads
      Sea salt
      Sucanat - use as sugar -
      Earth Balance - great non-hydrogenated margarine
      good organic vegis and fruit and if you eat meat - hormone free meats -

      For prepared foods I like:

      Rudi's bakery breads
      Amy's frozen products (various)
      Natural Peanut butters without trans-fats
      Light Life Vegi dogs

      Boy, the list could go on...I think the best thing would be to commit a few bucks to a shopping spree at a good natural grocery and look for the 'healthy' versions of the food you know you like...good for you for making this change and good luck!

      1. Canola oil tastes nasty to many of us:


        I use corn oil or rice oil for high heat.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Depending on what kinds of food you enjoy, you might also want to consider safflower oil, grapeseed oil, and peanut oil.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I find canola oil doesn't have much of a taste at all.

          2. In your post you write, "I was checking out the labels at the store"

            The first suggestion would be to check out the produce section instead of the inner aisles -- real food doesn't have labels. There is no saturated fat in an apple, no trans fats in grapes, there is zero HFCS in asparagus, no unpronouncable preservatives in a banana, butternut squash does not contain bleached flour, etc.

            Choosing a healthy alternative to the heavily advertized American snack food industry will take imagination and work on your part. The "Nutrition Action" newsletter from CSPI would be a good first stop. You will need to read widely and make intelligent choices, food choices that do not necessarily have a PR department. Planning snack food into your day will take more initial effort than plugging quarters into the snack machine at work. The rewards will far outweigh the cost.

            Good Luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sherri

              Yes, I'll never forget my physician saying "If you're the kind of person who is very careful about reading all the nutrition labels....you're eating the wrong kind of food"

              As said above "real food doesn't have labels"

            2. personally I don't find eating whole foods to be an extreme diet at all. After all, its food as nature made it to be consumed. We humans got the idea to mess around with it so it would last longer.

              Stay in the outer aisles, learn to cook some tasty meals, and go from there. Once you start eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats if you wish, you'll find your taste buds will notice the difference if you eat 'convenience food' again.

              Just leaving out refined sugars and flours will make a big difference in how you feel. It's really not extreme at all, just different. The key may be, as Robt. says, in cooking your own meals. That's the way to find deliciousness.

              1. First, you are ABSOLUTELY right about checking labels. Even the most inocuous looking thing like yogurt or tuna fish can contain a bunch of junk and additives.

                With all my anti-cooking rants on the board, the best snacks to make are those you make yourself.

                Popcorn ... the plain bagged stuff ... is great and you can get creative with all sorts of toppings and flavorings that you make on your own, controlling salt and fat.

                After reading the ingrediant list, you can make your own tortilla chips using baked tortillas. Some tortillas have a lot of junk in them.

                Plain yogurt (and check to make sure it is just yogurt) can have all sort so interesting ingrediants added to it.

                Nuts are great but as far as I know only planters makes a can of plain mixed nuts without salt so you can add your own spicing. Get nuts in the shell. Cracking them open takes time and slows the snacking. Look for nuts at farmers markets and check the ingrediants.

                And, as other have said, fruit is your friend ... and it doesn't have to be boring.

                We are moving into citrus season ... tangerines ... all sorts of interesting oranges and grapefruit ... and they keep for months in the crisper drawer. If you put grapes in glass jars, they will keep for weeks.

                But if it is possible, go to stores that specialize in produce or go to farmers markets. They sell fruit with flavor, not the tasteless junk at major supermarkets.

                I got into making my own jello this year just using fresh fruit or canned fruit and juice ... most of the time I don't even add sugar and it is SO superior and healthier than boxed jello. Crushed canned pineapple makes a wonderful, lucious jello.

                And don't forget the recent new reports about how healthy wine is ... lots of coffee and red wine ... the secret to me being the poster child for good health.

                But really, don't go for the processed junk. There really is little you can buy on the shelf of the grocery store that is boxed or bagged that REALLY is good for you. If you must have cookies, go to a really good bakery that makes them without perservatives and enjoy one rather than a box of junk.

                If you are into beef jerkey, stop by Mexican markets which make their own just by thin-slicing and marinating usually with lime juice. It is called carne seca. Doesn't come with the chemical list of most beef jerkey and some is amazing with deep roast beef flavor ... others ... not so much. Try little pieces until you find a Mexican market that makes good carne seca. When you do, it is amazing ... and beef jerkey takes a while to eat ... and is good with red wine

                All those processed 'healthy' food snacks never really are ... like you said, usually taste gross. If you must have something like that go for whatever is delicious every now and then and snub the healthy versions.

                1. I also shop at T-Joes because you can't beat the price and they are starting to carry more and more organic products. At home I eat a lot of brown rice, grilled fish and chicken, organic eggs, whole grain breads and cereal, fresh fruit, nuts, odwalla bars, low fat cheese like mozzarella or feta and lots of veggies.I agree with other posters hit a local farmers market.


                  1. Give your taste buds a chance to change. I never enjoyed apples until I started a diet one year ago. Mid-morning snack is now one apple and one stick of low-fat mozzarella string cheese. My husband's nutritionist approves of natural peanut butter. Check crackers. Also watch low-fat products like ice cream (ok, I'm not on a strict diet) which may be lower in fat but higher in carbs. We get Schwan's frozen food home delivery. They have a wonderful frozen "Golden Fruit Blend" which also contains strawberries. Simply pieces of peaches, mango, etc which I have over cottage cheese for mid-afternoon snack. Make your own salad dressings. My simplest (single serving) is 2 T orange juice, 1 T wine vinegar, 1 1/2 T olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp lemon pepper. My salads are 2-3 cups of torn romaine lettuce plus tomatos, 1 slice swiss cheese, 1/2 small onion thinly sliced, etc. Watch what you add to your meals. We rarely eat potatoes upon which we used to load lots of butter substitute. Look for the brown rice mix. We can get Lundberg in our area. They sell different varieties of brown rice but their mix of different varieties is much tastier. Another snack is unsalted cashews and a pear. Add a sliced banana to yogurt.

                    1. As others have mentioned, you need to start w/raw ingredients. i suppose that may mean buying some cookbooks if you don't know what to do w/these ingredients. look through your barnes and noble, make sure the recipes don't call for prepared foods other than chicken broth or cheese, and start cooking. in the meanwhile, get to your local Whole Foods or other natural foods place and buy some real bread and whole fat yoghurt and whole fat cheeses from the cheese section. don't buy anything w/lots of ingredients in it. you are going to need to overhaul your entire concept of food.
                      if you have the time and money, i suggest planning a trip to europe, and staying at least two weeks in one country to see how food should taste. that might excite you into cooking these things at home as well.
                      and i wouldn't worry what type of flour or how much fat is in food, that's besides the point. just focus on minimal ingredients at the time you buy it = minimal processing= maximum nutrition = maximum satisfaction from least volume of food. yes, all of this does compute.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: fara

                        To eat a healthy, balanced diet, you want to keep calories from fat down to around a third of total calories, and make most of the fat monounsaturated (olive or peanut oil, nuts, avocados).

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          it is more important that the food be non-processed than that it be made from monounsaturated fat. naturally occurring fats are not bad for you. especially if this is someone moving from eating a packaged shelf diet to cooking, that's the last thing he/she should worry about.

                          1. re: fara

                            A diet high in saturated fat increases your risk of heart disease, even if the foods containing them (meat, seafood, whole-milk dairy products, poultry skin, egg yolks) are all unprocessed. Moderate amounts of those foods can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.


                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              are you trying to win this point or what? if you eat those foods (foods w/animal fat) it is better than eating lowfat processed foods, of course eating these foods along with fruits and vegetables is just about a perfect diet. at some later point, the OP can move to more olive oil. but there is not point in jumping to a vegan lifestyle -- when you yourself cannot even accomodate this kind of diet (and none of should have to):
                              "you eliminate all those ingredients, you eliminate almost all processed foods. You might take a look at Trader Joe's.I think you pretty much have to cook most of your own meals to follow that sort of extreme health-food regimen."

                              And as for the Harvard nutrition website, I think we are all well aware of what pushing a "low fat" diet has done to our country.

                              1. re: fara

                                What's wrong with a low fat diet? I lowered my cholesterol by eating a lot less fat and also lost weight. However, I did it NOT do it by scarfing down boxes of low-fat Snackwells cookies and other such junk but by eating actual vegetables and fruits and reducing the proportion of fatty stuff like meat and fish and desserts. Why bash something that actually works?

                                1. re: choctastic

                                  ask robert lauriston, he says it is an "extreme health food regimen." i applaud you for eating low fat w/out eating snackwells. most people are none too bright/were brainwashed into believing low-fat cookies were healthy in the 90's.
                                  i was just making the point that for someone coming off the shelves, pushing a veganesque diet would be unrealistic and unfair.

                                  1. re: fara

                                    oh okay. i hate to say this but i agree that a lot of people are not too bright about their food choices. i guess one problem is that stuff like broccoli just is not sexy. i can see that people would flock to snackwells stuff because it's new and different. too bad cause broccoli can be really good. i really like kale too, esp homegrown. at first it tasted too healthy but then i got used to it and i really loved the cholesterol numbers going down.

                                    But actually i had a really low fat, radical diet from the start and while it was shocking change, i actually adapted to it pretty fast. They say it takes a month to change habits. well anyway, worked for me.

                                2. re: fara

                                  The Harvard School of Public Health's not pushing a low-fat diet. To the contrary:

                                  "'Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.' Most of us have heard this simple recommendation so often over the past two decades that we can recite it in our sleep. Touted as a way to lose weight and prevent cancer and heart disease, it's no wonder much of the nation - and food producers - hopped on board. Unfortunately, this simple message is now largely out of date. Detailed research - much of it done at Harvard - shows that the total amount of fat in the diet, whether high or low, isn't really linked with disease. What really matters is the *type of fat* in the diet. ..."


                                  Limiting your consumption of saturated fat doesn't mean adopting a vegan or even a vegetarian diet.

                        2. Remember also that moderation is key. You don't have to swear completely off white flour; just don't eat a pound of it at every meal. And take a look at the bread you buy: if it's got more than four ingredients in it, put it down and get the stuff that's made from flour, water, yeast, and salt.

                          Same with sugar; sugar is not poisonous, but drinking five liters of soda a day IS. A half-teaspoon in a cuppa isn't going to hurt you. In fact, it will help, because the most important health benefit from food is not nutrients, but JOY. The great nutritious food combinations, like beans and rice, were devised by cooks, not nutritionists. And nutritionists are TERRIBLE eaters.

                          Do lay off the junk, though. If you really need a snack, make some popcorn or melt some real cheddar on some brown bread or something.

                          As fara points out, fat is fine -- it's terrific, in fact! But use butter or olive oil instead of Crisco. It doesn't have to be the pricey $60 oil, either. For high temps, use canola or peanut oil.

                          Most importantly, as others have said, get out of the industrial food aisle! What's wrong with most of these ingredients is not themselves but how and why they are used. No one has ever used High Fructose Corn Syrup in real food. Meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, real bread. Learn how to cook again. It's not about heaping grey mounds of brown rice and lentils; it's about good fresh food.

                          If you're not comfortable in the kitchen, get a book of basics by a popular chef. People here hate her, but for a beginner, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Rachael Ray. Or Jamie Oliver's earlier books. The goal is not to impress anyone with your scintillating gourmet discernment, but just to cook decent basic food that's fresh and tastes good.

                          1. I would like to note that you don't have to go to Whole Foods to eat decently. They have fresh food at Safeway. And a lot of the "natural" food at Whole Foods is about as natural as Cool Whip.

                            I was just reading in the paper about their big new contract with a "natural" salmon farm here in Puget Sound. "Natural" in this case means Atlantic salmon in Pacific waters, feeding on such "natural" salmon food as corn, soy, wheat, and anchovies, discharging 13 million pounds of concentrated waste annually into the already almost-dead waters of the Sound. They are aggressively destroying the real natural habitat of the disappearing fish. It's so "natural" that Whole Foods can't sell it in their Washington stores, as customers here won't buy it; they ship it all out of state. Whole Foods is the biggest con going.

                            Just stay away from the processed stuff and you'll be fine. You don't have to turn into Mahatma Gandhi overnight. Just start buying and eating mostly real food.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fnarf

                              "Natural" is an undefined term, anybody can slap that label on anything they want.

                              For impartial information on which fish are healthier for you and for the environment, check the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guide for your region:


                            2. The Harvard School of Public Health's Healthy Eating Pyramid offers some simple, straightforward recommendations on choosing healthy foods based on current nutritional knowledge.

                              * whole grain foods (at most meals)
                              * plant oils ... good sources of healthy unsaturated fats include olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and other vegetable oils, as well as fatty fish such as salmon
                              * vegetables (in abundance) and fruits (2 to 3 times daily)
                              * fish, poultry, and eggs (0 to 2 times daily)
                              * nuts and legumes (1 to 3 times daily)
                              * dairy or calcium supplement (1 to 2 times daily)
                              * red meat and butter (use sparingly)
                              * white rice, white bread, potatoes, white pasta, soda, and sweets (use sparingly)
                              * multiple vitamin
                              * alcohol (in moderation)

                              http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutrition... (scroll down to "Building a Better Pyramid," halfway down the page)

                              1. we could all use less fruit roll ups and more fruit leather. Good for you for trying and looking for advice instead of giving up.

                                Toodie jane is makes a good point about shopping the outer aisles at the store, where you'll usually find the produce on one end and the dairy at the orther, meats and fish in the back of the store.

                                However, not all "processed" food is evil. Keep in mind fresh frozen vegetables and fruits, as well as certain canned vegetables and staples, like tomatoes packed in their juice (no sugar/salt added), as well as beans, lentils, peas...

                                And everyone who's mentioned moderation is certainly giving good advice. I don't cut all the fat from our family's diet, but I don't get all Paula Deen about the stick of butter per serving, either.

                                Good luck. You have options, but you need to give yourself time.

                                1. Shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joes are a great way to go. But mostly I would suggest to ease into it if its a radical change for you. Add more organic fruits and veggies to your diet together with using grain dishes with your meals. There are a lot of recipes out there.

                                  1. I agree with the poster who stated that "low-fat" icecream usually is higer in carbs- the reason usually is the addition of extra corn syrup to keep the smooth texture. Personally I find the taste to be overly sweet and I for someone on a diet you probably would be better off eating a little of the real thing anyway- at least you will satisy your craving. As for Whole Foods, I haven't found too many "frankenfoods" there- but you do have to watch out. Just because something may be organic or lack a gazillion additives does not mean that it is dietetic. (Beware the delicious whole wheat biscuits) Eat like a man- eat when hungry, stop when full. That is the best diet ever:}

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                      Good advice, but stop when you're sated but not what most of us consider "full" and you'll do even better. Give the food some time to hit your stomach, have some water or tea, and be surprised how stuffed you feel ten minutes after you stop eating.

                                      Better yet, get up and go for an after dinner walk. By the time you get home you probably won't be hungry at all.

                                    2. When you go to the grocery store-regardless of the chain/brand of the store only shop the outside aisles (usually only 3 the 4th is the registers). These typically tend to be the fresh produce-meat/fish and dairy and you will automatically avoid most of the processed foods that cause our obesity. You can even be selective and order from the deli if you absolutely must but make sure you do low sodium LEAN Turkey meats-staying away from the cheeses. If you eat fruits/veggies and lean meats in small portions 4-6 times a day you will not be hungry AND you will loose weight. Toss away all soda/tonic even if it is diet and replace with WATER-Black teas and black coffees. Even juices will put tons of weight on you - your better off having the orange and not the orange juice- more benefits.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: MeffaBabe

                                        Studies have found conclusively that eating more whole fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of heart disease, though why that's so is a still matter of conjecture.

                                        From the limited studies done to date, it seems that drinking juice does not provide the same benefits.

                                      2. Since it's pretty much covered that whole foods are the healthiest way to go and making your own is the best, sometimes we get busy... As snack foods go, Kettle baked chips have a good flavor. They're a little hard and crunchy for me (cuts up the inside of my mouth) but most people I know swear by them. Pirate's Booty is a good cheesy snack--kind of puffy cheese curls. Most Morningstar products are pretty good. I like the fake meats--like bacon, sausage, various burgers, corn dogs/hot dogs (keep in mind that some products do contain GMO corn). You won't save on calories but will reduce saturated fats. Trader Joe's sells Nirvana burgers which are vegetable burgers which are probably one of my favorite, not pretending to be meat. You can see the corn, peas, carrots in them. They're the same as the Dr. Praeger burgers at Costco. If you have kids, Annie's whole wheat mac and cheese is pretty good but nothing like Kraft so it might be an adjustment. They also have cheddar bunnies which are whole wheat crackers, non-trans fats. Amy's frozen foods are good for a quick lunch. I have the brown rice bowl w/ tofu and veggies, or their indian entrees (like palek paneer, matter tofu). Celentano's eggplant roulettes are also good. These are probably way off the charts on the sodium and they're not low calorie but better than alternatives which are higher in sat fats, trans fat, preservatives.

                                        I try to make my own food but won't cook 3 meals a day. These are decent fall backs as taste goes that I will use on those days when I don't feel like cooking and don't have leftovers. There are better choices (healthier) but sometimes I just want quick and easy. From your post, I got the feeling you were't so much looking for diet advice as much as alternatives to what you're already doing. If you need advice on making healthier foods, I think there are some.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: chowser

                                          Chowster: You're right. I was asking for alternatives rather than diet advice. What I really wanted was suggestions for healtier snack choices. Sometimes, you just want a salty, crispy snack. That's why I was so excited about the Miguel tortilla chips and the Triscuit thin crisps. Neither of those contain hydrogenated oil, sugar, fructose corn syrup, enriched or bleached flour. And they are pretty tasty. I've tried other products that are suppose to be healthier choices but what's the point if they taste like cardboard? So, if anyone has any other ideas, feel free to chime in. Thanks.

                                          1. re: bearzie

                                            Trader Joe's has some Triscuit knockoffs that I thought tasted better than the originals. Whole wheat, safflower oil, salt.

                                        2. In my opinion, it's all about portion control.
                                          Also stick to Asian food which has tons of flavors.
                                          This diet craze of eating and buying low fat stuff(especially frozen food, eww), i think, is overrated.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Monica

                                            Be careful with chinese food, which is often swimming in oil even when not deep fried.

                                          2. Chowster: You're right. I was asking for alternatives rather than diet advice. What I really wanted was suggestions for healtier snack choices. Sometimes, you just want a salty, crispy snack. That's why I was so excited about the Miguel tortilla chips and the Triscuit thin crisps. Neither of those contain hydrogenated oil, sugar, fructose corn syrup, enriched or bleached flour. And they are pretty tasty. I've tried other products that are suppose to be healthier choices but what's the point if they taste like cardboard? So, if anyone has any other ideas, feel free to chime in. Thanks.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: bearzie

                                              As snackie foods go, some ideas: nuts, veggies and hummus, turkey breast slices and fruit, trail mix (but be really careful w/ these because most commercially prepared have partially hydrogenated oils), pb on whole wheat bread, chestnuts (you can buy these vacuum packed in Asian stores), baked chickpeas (surprisingly good--drain can and bake w/ seasoning at 350 for about 20 minutes until dry), shrimp cocktail.

                                              For prepared snacks, I'll get Annie's whole wheat cheddar bunnies (taste like wheat thins to me), pirates booty, both mentioned above. Tostitos multigrain tortilla chips are good, too. I've liked almost everything I've tried from Newman's Own Organics snack line, but not the pb cups. Spelt pretzels have a lot of flavor--I like them better than plain white ones but have plenty of water. Luna bars are really good (chocolate peppermint stick is like girl scout thin mint cookies), as are Lara bars, though a little on the sweet side for me.

                                              If you're near a Trader Joe's, you'll have a lot more options. The soy and flaxseed tortilla chips are good (but the flaxseeds aren't ground so it doesn't add any nutritional value). The snapeas crisps are addicting so I stopped buying them years ago. If you tell us what you normally eat, we can give you good alternatives. Over the years, I feel like I've tried them all and the hard part has been finding ones that are acceptable to my family who are really picky.