Avoid the Deception of Healthy Choice Meals

A Healthy Choice product may seem like the quick fix needed for dieters with no time to cook, but the name of this brand inaccurately reflects its actual content. Rather than filling your belly with nutritious vitamins and minerals, Healthy Choice meals fill it with sodium, sugar and plenty of starch.

Some popular Healthy Choice items I’ve watched dieters purchase include “Fresh Mixers,” which offer a variety of pasta flavors boasting about their whole grains and low calories.

For example, the microwaveable dish known as “Rotini and Zesty Marinara Sauce” does contain 28 grams of whole grains. But when I flipped the package over to peek at the nutrition facts, I noticed it also packs a whopping 500 mg of sodium.

The Problem with Sodium

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the recommended amount of sodium people consume per day should not exceed 1,500 mg. Do you think one-third of that maximum recommended amount should come in one 300-calorie packaged product?

It makes sense that the AHA also said processed foods (like this one) make up 77 percent of the sodium we consume.

According to AHA, our bodies only need small quantities of sodium to replace the amount we lose throughout the day. Reducing sodium intake leads to numerous health benefits like lower blood pressure and the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Hidden Added Sugar

Healthy Choice “Fresh Mixers” also contain unnecessary added sugar. Although nine grams may not seem incredibly alarming, consider why it exists in the food at all. Do noodles and pasta sauce really need that many grams of added sugar to boost the flavor?

According to added sugar guidelines by the Mayo Clinic, eating too many of these sweeteners hiding in processed foods can lead to problems like tooth decay, poor nutrition, weight gain and increased triglycerides (which may cause heart disease).

The Mayo Clinic also offered tips to reduce sugar in our diets. One particular tip stood out to me: “Eat fewer added-sugar processed foods, such as sweetened grains like honey-nut waffles and some microwaveable meals.

Carb Overload

Another problem with this Healthy Choice product includes its abundance of starch and lack of vegetables. Yes, whole grains make up the pasta, and the company did sneak some tomato paste in there, but what kind of health food consists of carbs, carbs and more carbs?

Many of us already know the Food Guide Pyramid suggests we consume three to five servings of vegetables each day. Does eating a bunch of sodium, sugar and carbohydrates really amount to a “healthy” choice? How will you keep yourself healthy when your diet lacks some of the most essential nutrients?

Shop Smart

Although we love the convenience, we should try to steer clear of packaged “health foods” as much as possible. There are worse products than Healthy Choice items lurking among those supermarket shelves, so stay informed when shopping for on-the-go meals.

Keep an eye on nutrition labels. Remember to pay attention to amounts of sodium and added sugar, and make sure to fortify your body with plenty of fruits and vegetables.