As a dietitian I get asked all the time: “Is this healthy?” Guess what the answer usually is?
The answer is “if you have to ask, it probably isn’t." That is where the overrated food idea comes from. Marketing is the reason certain foods are overrated. The idea is of course to be a stealth consumer, which is part of what this segment is about.
Here is a small list of overrated foods, and yes, I too like some of these foods!
Energy/Performance Bars: Many bars are not really healthy food but specifically energy bars seem to be deemed healthy and necessary. However just like sports drinks unless you are participating in high intensity activity or endurance activity energy bars are not really needed. Now they are portable and the ones with out chocolate travel well for hiking and biking and so they do have a place in out diet. But remember that any energy bar or drink is calories! Calories from these foods are not coming from whole foods but highly processed foods. Can you keep a couple cereal bars or granola bars in the desk drawer for emergencies? Of course just try not to get into the habit of using these foods as meal replacers and leave the energy bars alone unless you really need one for activity purposes.
V-8: My main criticism here is the sodium content however the lower sodium variety is 200mg/per can (140mg per 8 ounces) is not too bad. But whole fruit and vegetables are always best. Again, to keep this in your pantry is not a bad thing but to think it an equal replacement for consuming fruits and vegetables is naïve.
Pita Chips: Okay this one hits me where it hurts (as mentioned on far too many occasions I have a chip problem). But these are thought of as being healthier in some way----but in reality they are white flour with added fat and salt and the nutritionals are not far off from the Doritos…so health food they are not.
Now I want to move on to the under-appreciated foods! After all the overrated foods don’t need any additional attention paid to them. I want to encourage you to eat more of these wonderfully nutritious under-rated foods!
Sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds: We hear a lot about nuts, and seeds are sometimes an afterthought, but they should not be. Seeds many times are less expensive than nuts yet have many of the same nutritional benefits (high fiber, healthy fats and phytosterols). Toss some on your salad today.
Garbanzo beans: All beans of course are wonderful, and I only bring up garbanzo beans because they are one of the most popular legumes in the world, just not in the United States. They are great eaten right out of the can (drained and rinsed). Another way to eat them is roasted until crunchy (delicious)! Here is a recipe link for roasted garbanzo beans Click here for a recipe.
Greens: Most people eat some lettuce and many people are embracing spinach more and more as well, but we still need to eat more greens like kale, beet greens, collards, turnips and Swiss chard. Greens are loaded vitamins A, C and K, folic acid, calcium, iron, and fiber! Click here for a recipe.
Watermelon: You might not consider watermelon an underrated food. It is well loved in fact. But it is not something we think of as a nutritional power house. However 2 cups of watermelon is a good source of vitamin C and A. It contains water, and many antioxidants. In addition when watermelon is in season it is a very inexpensive fruit choice. Enjoy some this summer.
Beets: Beets are a beautiful color and we are told to eat lots of color. They are also very simple to cook. Cut the greens off clean beets, rub with olive oil, wrap each with foil and bake at 375 for 25-60 minutes depending on size of the beets.
Brussels sprouts: Probably the most under-appreciated vegetable and definitely deserving of more respect. They are a cruciferous vegetable and contain powerful phytochemicals and a healthy dose of fiber. I love them sautéed or roasted. The key is to NOT over cook them. Click here for the recipe.
I hope a few of these recipes will help you enjoy some under-appreciated vegetables soon!