By Lee Bellinger
I'm going to tell you exactly what to look for to identify fake "health" foods, and I'm going to reveal some of the most common phonies that even savvy shoppers often fall for. This is important because you need to stock up on emergency foods while getting the most nutrition per calorie - and at the lowest cost possible. You see, there are any number of "health" foods out there claiming to be doing you a good turn when really they're just a waste of money - and may even be doing you harm. Oatmeal: Of course oatmeal is healthy. It's a whole grain. It's packed with protein and fiber. It's rich in a variety of nutrients like magnesium and selenium. It has a relatively low glycemic load, which means it won't spike your blood sugar and it will help you feel full longer. It also doesn't trigger a lot of inflammation in your body. However, that's only if you eat natural, plain, whole grain oats... the kind you cook on the stove and add your own raisins and brown sugar to. Unfortunately, a lot of people have been fooled into thinking that 'oatmeal' of any kind is healthy. If you buy flavored, instant oatmeal thinking it's a healthy choice for your heart and your whole body, then you're in for some disappointing news. Most of the calories in flavored oatmeal come from sugar, and the processing that makes it "instant" reduces the fiber content. You're left with the exact type of food you probably meant to avoid. Manufacturers try to pass off those little packets of flavored, instant oatmeal as great for your health, but they're really not. Yogurt: This is another favorite health food. You've probably seen the commercials promising you that if you just eat more yogurt, you'll live longer or lose weight. But, much of the yogurt on the market is packed with high fructose corn syrup, making it high in calories and rough on your body. Yogurt can be a great choice, just opt for the plain kind and mix in a little fresh fruit and honey. You'll get less processed sugar and fewer preservatives while still enjoying a healthy dose of protein, calcium and positive bacteria. Fat-Free Foods and Low-Fat Foods: Stroll down any aisle of your grocery store and you're bound to see a ton of packages with "Fat Free" and "Low Fat" emblazoned on them. These foods pretend that nutrition is measured by fat content alone, which just isn't true. People fall for it though. Often, they end up consuming a bunch of extra calories, unnecessary chemicals, industrially altered fats, and very little in the way of nutrients their bodies can actually use. Avoid "Fat-Free" and "Low-Fat" foods, unless the label says "naturally low in fat" or "a naturally fat-free food." Commercially prepared "fat-free" salad dressings, for example, often come loaded with added sugar and artificial flavorings and colors. For a natural, healthy, pure salad dressing choice, request olive oil and vinegar. Butter Substitutes: These days, grocery stores offer more butter substitutes than brands of actual butter. Butter substitutes, margarine, and "butter spreads" just aren't real foods; that is, they do not exist in nature. They became popular as part of a marketing push in the early part of the twentieth century. Butter is a real food. It is high in fat, but they are natural fats that your body knows how to digest and utilize in moderation. Butter substitutes often contain artificial ingredients that are not particularly good for you. Egg Substitutes: Eggs - real eggs that come from chickens - are a nearly perfect food. They're rich in protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals. They have an excellent balance of amino acids. They contain natural cholesterol, which your body can use to make hormones and other useful compounds. Egg beaters, on the other hand - those "eggs" you can buy in a carton - are made in a factory, not in a chicken. Someone decided that since real eggs contain cholesterol, they must be bad for you. They separated out the yolks, tossed the whites in a carton with some preservatives and seasonings, and billed it as a health food. If you want egg whites, buy real eggs and separate them at home, but don't be afraid to eat the whole egg. It's good for you. Really. Sugar-Free Foods: Too much sugar in your diet is indeed bad for your body. But the way to solve that problem is to eat fewer sweets, not to load up on chemically sweetened foods. Again, food manufacturers label these foods as though the fact they are sugar-free means they are healthy to eat. Don't be fooled. Sugar substitutes can actually cause you to overeat, and in some people they trigger neurological problems or allergic reactions. Fake Olive Oil: Of all the fake health foods, this one makes me the maddest. That's because, in this case, you aren't just being misled... you're being outright lied to. Extra virgin olive oil has fantastic health benefits. Good quality olive oil may help to lower your cholesterol, may prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing (which can, in turn, prevent it from damaging arteries), and lowers blood pressure. But, a study done at UC Davis found that more than two thirds of Extra Virgin Olive Oil imported to the United States is either made from low quality olives that would never qualify for the "Extra Virgin" label or made from other ingredients altogether, like soybean oil. When it comes to olive, even being a savvy label reader won't help you get the real deal. So, here are the brands that passed UC Davis' test: Corto Olive, California Olive Ranch, Kirkland Organic, Lucero and McEvoy Ranch Organic. Microwave Popcorn: I don't know how many times I've heard microwave popcorn recommended as a healthy snack. Unfortunately, it's just not true. Even if you find a brand that doesn't use partially hydrogenated oils, the lining of the package contains chemicals that may cause infertility and have caused a number of cancers in animal testing. Those chemicals leech into your popcorn for you to eat. Even in small quantities, I don't want to eat them. If you want popcorn, whip out a skillet or an air popper, and pop it the old-fashioned way. When you do, you won't believe how much that microwave stuff tastes like cardboard in comparison. Diet Sodas and Fruit Juice: Lots of people think that drinking a diet soda instead of a regular soda is a healthy choice. Unfortunately, those chemical sweeteners used in diet sodas can cause all sorts of problems. Some people have very severe reactions to chemical sweeteners. Another health fad is to drink 100 percent fruit juice. While that's preferable to downing a glass of juice sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, pure fruit juice still packs in a lot of sugar, and that can mess up your blood glucose levels. An occasional glass is fine, but don't consider it a health food. Become a Smarter Shopper When it comes to making healthier food decisions, you really can't rely on fancy packaging to lead you to the right choice. But you can make smarter decisions by taking a moment to read the ingredient list and nutritional label. Watch out for high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fat and fully hydrogenated fat. If a food contains any of these, find a different option. Also watch for lots of hard-to-pronounce chemicals. This indicates a high level of processing, plus additives and preservatives that might harm your health. And, avoid foods that are sweetened with aspartame, neotame, Splenda or sucralose. When you choose foods that have been minimally processed - things like whole grain breads and cereals, fresh and frozen produce, beans, rice, seeds, nuts, butter, eggs, and lean cuts of meat - and build your diet around those foods, you'll feel better, be healthier and have more energy. So, become a more self-reliant shopper...start reading the labels and avoid "health" food scams.
Alzheimer's Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Alzheimer's Support Group meeting is at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at LifeCare at Lofland Park's first floor Resident Lounge, 715 E. King St., Seaford. This group provides support and information about Alzheimer's and dementia to families, caregivers and anyone who is affected by this disease. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact LifeCare at Lofland Park at 628-3000, ext. 8302.
CPR classes offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform the basic skills of CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child or infant who is choking and use of the AED. This classroom-based, video and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friends and community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants 12-years-old and up. This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. The target audience is those who have a duty to respond to a cardiac emergency because of job responsibilities or regulatory requirements. Cost is $40. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations may be accepted if seating is available. To register and to obtain a listing of class dates/times, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.
Run to the Plunge 5k The Run to the Plunge 5K to benefit Special Olympics Delaware is Saturday, Feb. 4 at 1 p.m., at Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach. Entry is $20 ($25 day of). Amenities include long-sleeve t-shirts and refreshments. Awards to the top three overall male and female champions, top male and female masters, and top three in 5-year age classes. For more information, call 302-831-4653 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Register online at www.plungede.org.
Stroke Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 1:30 p.m., at the Seaford Library. The support group is for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. Modeled from the American Stroke Association, the hospital is engaging with speakers to provide education, community resources, and emotional support to those who have been affected by this life-altering event. The two-hour support group meetings consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors meet in groups to discuss concerns, provide support, and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 8626.
Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. To learn more, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.
Tobacco relapse support group Bayhealth Medical Center is pleased to offer a new support group for individuals who recently quit using tobacco products. The "Tobacco Relapse Prevention Support Group" will meet from 5:30 to 7 p.m., on Jan. 25, March 20, May 22, July 24, Sept. 11 and Nov. 8, 2012. The group will meet in Bayhealth's BETT Conference Room at 208 W. Water St. in Dover. This support group is designed to help individuals focus on relapse prevention and provides networking opportunities for participants to share their unique experiences and success stories with others. There is no need to register in advance for this support group For more information, contact Bayhealth Educator Terry Towne, MSN, RN-BC, NE-BC, at 302-744-6724.
NAR-ANON support group "Take Heart, Be Strong" is a support group available to those family members and friends who are concerned about the drug/alcohol addiction of a loved one. We find people in NAR-ANON who understand what we are going through and are ready to share their experience, strength and hope to help us. This group meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the Youth Room at Crossroad Community Church, 20684 State Forest Rd., Georgetown. If you are interested or know someone who might be, call Beth at 302-745-0466. This is an anonymous program and there are no obligations. Attendance is welcome with no prior arrangements. For more information and other meeting locations, visit www.nar-anon.org.
Relay for Life fundraiser Dr. Marie Wolfgang is again sponsoring a 12 night Winter Getaway Cruise to the Southern Caribbean as a fundraiser for Relay for Life, sailing from Cape Liberty, N.J. on Feb. 10. The itinerary includes St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Johns (Antigua), St. Lucia and St. Maarten (Philipsburg). Transportation to and from the dock is available. For a brochure, call or visit Dr. Wolfgang's office at One Cedar Ave. in Seaford, 629-4471. Space is limited.
Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospice's "New Beginnings" bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program. The location rotates each week of the month throughout Sussex County. "New Beginnings" luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required. There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Midge Dinatale or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.
New depression support groups If you have been diagnosed with depression, are currently receiving treatment and need extra support, join the Mental Health Association in Delaware's newest depression support groups. The support groups provide a safe and comfortable environment for adults who may be struggling with depression to find others who may be going through similar experiences, learn coping skills and take back control of their life by being proactive. A support group meets in Seaford every Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The location of the meeting is provided only to registered members. To register, contact the Mental Health Association in Delaware at 302-654-6833 or 800-287-6423. These new groups are made possible due to a grant received from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware's BluePrints for the Community program.
Black & White Gala is Jan. 21 It will be an evening of elegance and entertainment to benefit the central and southern Delaware communities. The 2012 Black & White Gala will be held on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Dover Downs Conference Center from 6 to 11 p.m. The Kent General Hospital Junior Board will donate its proceeds from this event towards the construction of new welcome areas at the Kent General Hospital Cancer Center, while the Milford Memorial Hospital Auxiliary will donate its proceeds towards the purchase of new ventilators in the Milford Memorial Hospital Respiratory Therapy Department. The gala will feature entertainment by the Funsters, hors d'oeuvres, cocktail hour, dinner and a cash bar. A live auction will include a 14 karat yellow gold Citrine quartz and diamond pendant donated by Sayers Jewelers and Gemologists in Smyrna. Cost is $100 per person. Sponsorships are also available. Tickets may be purchased online at www.bayhealthfoundation.org or by calling 302-744-7015.