How to Make 9 Healthy Foods Even Healthier

Posted July 24, 2009 in Your Questions 6 Comments »
Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

From now on I want to take a more proactive approach to answering Your Health Questions by posting them separately in the blog. This way we can be sure that everyone benefits from the Q & A.

Tracy wrote:

“I was wondering if some of the things that i normally eat on a regular basis are healthy or not.. I’m 19 years old and do not get good home-cooked meals anymore.. I’m now living on my own so I try and make things that are fast and easy.

Here is a list of some of things that I take in:

  1. Special K strawberry cereal
  2. salad mix (packaged) with non-fat thousand island dressing
  3. unsweetened luzianne tea with 2 pkgs. of sweet n lo
  4. 100% orange juice (Tropicana)
  5. grapefruit juice ( do not want to give up)
  6. lean cuisine meals (all)
  7. granola and Nutri-Grain bars

What should I be substituting these with?

And also are rice cakes and real fruit smoothies good for you?”


You aren’t doing that bad. Let me reflect on your menu.

  1. Special K strawberry cereal – Special K isn’t that bad for you, but I would switch to Total if I were you. Total cereal now comes in like 10 different flavors and has way more vitamins and minerals than Special K. Be sure to use 1% or skim milk with your cereal.

    Click here to compare any of your favorite cereals to total. Also look for the link to get a free sample of the newest Total cereal flavor, Blueberry Pomegranate.

    Total Cereal
    Total Cereals

    Add fruit where appropriate; consider sliced banana, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, sliced apples, and raisins.

    If you really feel brave one day you could try adding your cereal to low fat yogurt, I prefer Activia. Or if you really want to turn your world upside down, add a handful of Total to a thick protein shake, but drink/eat it before the cereal gets too soggy or it will be gross.

    Click here to get yourself some Optimum Nutrition protein powder.

  2. salad mix with non-fat thousand island dressing – I am skeptical of the prepackaged salads because I can’t tell how clean those veggies are. That being said, salad is definitely a low calorie meal choice.

    Consider adding meat to your salad. Anything from sliced turkey, ham, chicken, roast beef, and any of the various flavors of cheese can work. Also consider adding a serving of flax oil to your salad. It might take some getting used to the flavor but I like it.

    Also consider that your non-fat salad dressing might be full of sugar to replace the lost fat. I don’t really trust fat free dressings. Be sure to choose a healthy salad dressing that contains neither too much sugar nor too much fat, unless that fat comes from olive oil.

  3. unsweetened luzianne tea with 2 pkgs. of sweet n lo – Gross! You like Sweet ~N~ Low? I wouldn’t use that saccharine based artificial sweetener if you paid me… wait, yes I would, but I would hate every minute of it. Switch to Splenda instead. It causes far less cancer in lab rats and tastes WAY better.

    Also consider drinking green tea once in a while, as it is full of antioxidants.

  4. Tropicana 100% orange juice – Pulp or no pulp? Orange juice is great, but it does contain a butt-load of sugar. If you are trying to lose fat, limit your OJ to 1-2 servings a day and always look for the words “Fortified with Calcium” on the packaging.

    Always try to get 100% fruit juice. If you see the words “High Fructose” or “Corn Syrup” anywhere in the ingredients, don’t buy it.

  5. grapefruit juice – Same as OJ: limit to 1-2 servings a day because of the sugar content. Never accept anything less than 100% fruit juice.
  6. Lean Cuisine meals – I am up in the air on this one. Some Lean Cuisine meals have way more fat, carbs, and protein than the others. Try to find the ones with the highest protein, and the lowest fat and carb content.

    Also watch out for sodium! You will get bombarded with sodium if you eat these things, which is not good for blood pressure, cardiac health, or for looking good. Sodium will make you retain water like nothing else.

    A couple times a week, consider replacing your Lean Cuisine meal with a tuna sandwich made with white albacore tuna mixed with light mayo or miracle whip on whole grain bread. Also consider Starkist Tuna Creations; flavored tuna that you can eat right out of the package. Sweet & Spicy is my favorite.

    You might say tuna is dangerous due to the mercury content, but honestly I’d rather have you eat tuna a couple times a week than that highly processed Lean Cuisine food stuff. Processed food is, after all, linked to cancer… but then again so isn’t everything else. =\

  7. granola and Nutri-Grain bars – What can I say, I like granola bars too! However, I would recommend avoiding granola based cereals for the most part as they tend to be extremely high in calories.
    Cereal and Fruit

    Natures Valley puts out the best granola bars, although they have recently expanded their line to include all kinds of sweet, sticky, sugary granola products. I would just stick with the standard Oats & Honey, Cinnamon, and Peanut Butter bars.

    Also consider replacing your granola and Nutri-Grain bars with protein bars. I prefer Chef Jay’s Tri-O-Plex and Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe bars.

    Click here to order some Chef Jay’s Tri-O-Plex bars.

  8. rice cakes – They are low calorie, taste pretty good, and easy to grab on the go. They are also a white starchy food item. I would definitely not gorge yourself on rice cakes, mainly due to the fact they are a low protein, high glycemic index (GI) food, but certainly rice cakes are not bad for you. Unless of course you are getting caramel flavored rice cakes that are smothered with high fructose sugary caramel flavoring.

    Consider having some protein with your rice cake. Perhaps add 1 tbsp of all natural peanut butter to the top.

  9. fruit smoothies – Smoothies can be good or bad for you depending what you put in it. If you stick to fruit and yogurt you are golden. If you start adding 10 or 12 ingredients including high calorie foods like peanut butter or cream, you will get yourself into a high calorie, high fat, high sugar smoothie rut.

    Stick to half a banana, a couple handfuls of berries, light or non-fat yogurt, skim milk, and a scoop of protein powder for a healthy, moderate carb, meal replacement smoothie.

    Check out my post on the Good Morning Protein Shake, which also doubles as a fruit smoothie.

You are doing a great job eating healthy. Make some adjustments along the way to decrease sugar, fat, and calories, while also increasing protein, and you are good to go.

Tracy, if you get chance to read this, please give me some feedback.

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6 Responses to “How to Make 9 Healthy Foods Even Healthier”

  1. Fortified cereal – I wouldn’t recommend this. Research shows that vitamin supplements are useless for people with varied, somewhat healthy diets and with everything being fortified these days, you risk getting far too much of these manufactured vitamins (when you should be getting them from whole foods)

    Tuna – one of the most dangerous fish in terms of mercury content, which is linked to Alzheimer’s. also, lean cuisine has taken the preservatives out of most of its meals. while fresh food is obviously better, i think lean cuisine is healthier than tuna

    Splenda – could be just as dangerous as sweet and low, we don’t know. better to use honey, agave, or even a little bit of real sugar

    I also think you are over-emphasizing protein. Most americans get much more protein than they need anyway and the meat that most people eat is full of antibiotics and all kinds of things we shouldn’t be putting in our bodies

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