When your family bites into a fresh fruit or a steamed vegetable, you know you're serving up something that’s good for them. But beyond that, it's hard to be sure.
Even if the package says that a food is healthy or loaded with all kinds of vitamins and minerals, check the label. It may be full of other things your family doesn't need.
Some foods, like these seven, may not be as healthy as you think.
Even though some kinds can be high in fiber, this whole-grain cereal can be loaded with sugar in part because the raisins often are coated with sugar.
Angela Lemond, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests making your own because raisins are naturally sweet and store-bought versions often add more raisins that you need.
"It's better to buy plain bran flakes and sprinkle a tablespoon of raisins into your serving," she says.
Many cereals, including raisin bran, are also surprisingly high in salt. "People don't realize it because of the sweet flavor," says Lilian Cheung, DSc, RD, director of health promotion and communication in the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Look for cereals that have less than 300 milligrams of sodium and 8 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of sugar per serving.
Better yet, make oatmeal using steel-cut oats. They are a whole grain and have no sodium or sugar that you may find in instant varieties. Add fruit or a teaspoon or two of honey if you like.
Low-Fat Salad Dressing
"Low fat," "reduced fat," and "fat free" processed foods like salad dressings, peanut butter, and snacks like crackers can have added sugar or salt. Why? To make up for a lack of flavor because fats are missing.
You may even gain unhealthy weight eating them. "Sometimes they're actually higher in calories than full-fat versions," Lemond says. Carbohydrates from sugar often take the place of fat in these foods. Your body digests these faster than fats, making you feel hungrier sooner.
Cheung suggests mixing your own salad dressing. Use oils that have healthy fats.
"Don't be afraid of healthy fats," Cheung says. "Olive, canola, safflower, corn, soya bean, and peanut oils are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats."
To make your own dressing, mix olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. Use it to dress up a salad or roasted vegetables.
Ground turkey can be healthy, but some is ground whole turkey, which has more fat than the breast. When shopping, check the label to see that it is ground from either turkey breast or 97% to 99% lean turkey meat.
A surprising alternative? Extra lean ground beef can be healthier even than lean ground turkey. It’s lower in cholesterol.
But extra lean beef can be dry, so it's best for browning and crumbling into foods like tacos and spaghetti sauce. When shopping, look for labels that say 96% lean and less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.