Deceiving labels: What are you really eating?

Deceiving labels: What are you really eating?

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - When you browse the grocery aisles, you may be unconsciously selecting items that appear to be healthy; but, in actuality, they are not.

Nutritionist Amanda Heringer showed us how labels on certain items—including cheese, smoothies, cereal, fruit juice, granola bars, and peanut butter--can be deceiving to shoppers.

When it comes to juice, Heringer suggests eating the actual fruit instead of drinking the juice.

"You're getting the added fiber, less calories, and you're actually getting to eat something instead of drinking your calories away," Heringer said.

She said families often consume double the amount of the suggested serving size.

"A 2 year old that's drinking apple juice out of a 12-ounce cup and they're drinking it 3 or 4 times a day, we're talking 4 or 500 additional calories that they really don't need," Heringer said. "Plus, it's bad for their teeth. It's full of sugar. It's going to rot them."

Low fat items may seem like a good idea but Heringer said that's not always the case.

For example, mozzarella is typically a lower fat cheese.

"When you take the fat out, you have to replace it with something else to make the flavor profile the same or similar," Heringer said. "They're putting more salt or sugar in place of the fat to make it taste good."

If you're watching your sodium intake, Heringer suggests looking for a cheese that has less than 180 milligrams per serving.

If you're one of those who prefer to have breakfast on the go, you may reach for a smoothie.

Many people are hopping on the green juice or green smoothie trend right now, with hundreds of recipes available in the palm of your hand, but you'd be surprised at what's actually in those drinks.

Heringer looked at the nutrition label of one popular brand and discovered it was primarily made with apple juice.

"It's not crushed up apples, it's pure apple juice," she said. "Ten ingredients in you've got the broccoli. That means there's not very much put in here, maybe enough to give it a little tint so they can say there's broccoli in here, but these green vegetables, not a lot of them in there."

Granola bars are also popular for those on the go. Heringer suggests you pick one with plenty of fiber.

"Fiber is very important not only for heart health, for stomach health, it's also really important to keep us full and keep us satisfied," she said. "Grab a fiber bar in the morning just to give your day a kick start and a glass of skim milk, you've got a meal."

For those who prefer a more traditional breakfast of oatmeal, Heringer says you're better off with plain original oats rather than those flavored packets.

"When you're getting one of these flavored oat meals, you're getting added sugar and salt," she said.

Instead she suggests you add fresh fruits and other toppings to your bowl of oats.

"It's going to give you an extra fiber boost, plus some good antioxidants which we've all been hearing about," she said. "They fight off cancer and free radicals."

Peanut butter is another household staple and there are many with natural labels on store shelves.

When it comes to selecting the best jar for your family, don't be confused.

"Natural is a lot of the time confused with organic," said Heringer. "The term natural is not defined by the FDA. It's one of those trendy health words that we're going to see on foods but there's no clear cut process for making products that are natural."

Comparing a jar of "natural" peanut butter to a regular one, Heringer pointed they they were "pretty much the same thing with different labels."

If you are going to buy a natural peanut butter, Heringer suggests getting one that only has peanuts on the ingredient list. Also, look for the oil separating from the peanut butter.

Stopping by the salad bar may seem like a good idea for a quick lunch or dinner, but Heringer said that can turn into a fat-filled meal if you don't watch how load up your salad.

"Depending on what you're putting on it, you can have a salad that ends up having as much fat and calories as a quarter pounder," Heringer said.

She suggests skipping anything that looks creamy.

"There's probably some kind of mayonnaise base in there and mayonnaise has a lot of fat, a lot of calories, a lot of salt," she said.

As for eggs and cheese, Heringer said they are okay but only in moderation. The same goes for nuts and other proteins, including chicken.

"If you're going to do 1, pick it," Heringer said. "Whether it's nuts, eggs, chicken or ham, don't do all 4 because you'll start adding a lot of calories."

Instead of meat, she suggests you use cottage cheese as your protein.

She also said fresh fruit is always a good addition.

If you're a fan of creamy dressings like ranch or blue cheese, it could be part of what's making your salad not so healthy. Heringer suggests using salsa as an alternative.

"It's low in calories and it's going to get you some good flavor without the added fat," she said.

She advises people steer towards vinaigrette dressings instead of creamy dressings, even if it's a light version.

"The creamy adds the calories, the fat, and a bunch of salt, things you don't need in your diet," said Heringer.

If you choose to use oil, Heringer said you still need to watch how much you put in there, even if it is olive or canola oil.

"With too much of a healthy fat, you still get fat," said Heringer.

If a salad bar has to-go cups for dressings, Heringer suggests using those instead of pouring the dressing over your salad.

Finally dessert.

Some of you may have a big sweet tooth and enjoy ice cream for dessert.

There are some varieties that appear to be geared towards health conscious people but Heringer said they aren't that great.

One of the packages we looked at had a large banner on the front of the box that said it was a great source of calcium. Heringer discovered there was only 10% in there.

"What I consider a great source of calcium is a glass of low-fat chocolate milk," Heringer said.

While you may not be able to take a nutritionist with you every time you head to the grocery store, there are a few things you can do to make sure you are getting the best, most nutritious food for you and your family.

First, check the ingredient label on every packaged food item before you put it in your cart.

Another great way to make sure you find the foods that meet your dietary needs is to use a healthy eating app.

Click our slideshow to see 7 free apps that can help you make the right eating choices at the grocery store, home and when dining out.

Have a healthy eating app you count on but is not on our list? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

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