Some foods get all the attention and don’t deserve it. Others are gems that go largely unnoticed. It’s time to set the record straight. What foods are commonly underrated and which of those are generally overrated.


  • Granola

Back in the 1960s, people made their own granola by baking a mix of ingredients like whole oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, oil and honey. Today, you’re also likely to find table sugar and /or corn syrup. And some granolas contain rice flour or “crisp rice” (sweetened white rice).
Granola’s problem: calories. Most brands deliver at least 200 per serving…and for many, a serving is a mere half cup. Tip: Unless you can afford 400 to 550 calories in 1 cup of cereal- or you eat no more than ½ cup- watch out for dense cereals like granola, grape nuts, or muesli. If you’re a granola fan, at least mix it with your favorites whole gran flakes, puffs or squares, which are typically less dense.


  •   Smoothies

It’s fine to make your own smoothies at home with low fat yogurt or milk and fresh or frozen fruit (though it’s better to eat, rather than drink, your calories if you’re watching your weight). But commercial smoothies are a different story, thanks largely to added sugar and giant servings of juice.
To give a few examples: at Cold Stone Creamery, a small Sinless Smoothie (juice, fruit and Splenda) can have as few as 110 calories. But Cold Stone’s Lifestyle Smoothies pack about 200 calories for a small to 600 calories for a large. And Baskin-Robbins’ Fruit Blast Smoothies range from roughly 400 to 850 calories, depending on the size. They’re “made with real fruit”…and a load of sugar.


  • Vegetable Juice

“2 Full Servings of Vegetables,” announces the V8 label. Big deal. V8 is mainly reconstituted tomato juice. How do we know that its other juices are scarce? The most abundant non-tomato vegetable juice in V8 is carrot. ( Then come celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress and spinach) One cup of carrot juice contains 900 percent of a day’s vitamin A. one cup of V8 contains 40 percent. In addition, you get 600 mg of sodium in every 11 ½ oz. can, which is 40 percent of a day’s worth.
Bottom line: Once you strip away the advertising, V8 isn’t much better than watered-down tomato sauce.


  •   Bars

They’re certainly convenient, but many popular brands are high in saturated fat and added sugar, and some contain partially hydrogenated oils and loads of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Plus, they often contain the calorie equivalent of a candy bar. If you’re not active enough to burn off their heavy calorie load, energy bars can actually sabotage your weight loss.  You can get the same mix of carbs and protein by snacking on an apple with peanut butter or a cup of grapes with a low-fat cheese. If you do want a “smart” bar, keep calories under 200 and saturated fat at 2 grams max (2+ grams of fiber is a bonus).


  • Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are propped up by all sorts of marketing, but they’re not as magical as the ads would have you think.  The “lift” they give you comes from caffeine (nothing fancy there), and they typically have the same amount as a standard cup of coffee.  The added B vitamins and amino acids are purely for glitz and glam—they don’t actually help you instantly perk up.  And some varieties are high in sugar, which rushes into your bloodstream and can ironically lead to an energy crash in the long run.  Not to mention they’re an expensive habit to keep up with! You’re better off drinking a cup of coffee or tea to get your caffeine fix, and if you need a little sweetness, use no more than 2 packets of sugar or sweetener.