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Can junk foods be good for you?

TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer on the new 'healthy' snack foods. Can doughnuts and ice cream actually be good for you?
/ Source: TODAY

They’re everywhere these days — whole-grain, low-fat, low-cal, trans-fat-free, organic versions of things that used to be considered “junk food.”

The question is: Does substituting whole wheat flour for white make a doughnut healthy if everything else about it stays the same? And, if you take the trans fat out of a cookie, does that make it as nutritious a snack as a piece of fruit?

TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer has some answers.

Can junk food really be health food?
No, junk food will never be a substitute for wholesome fruits and vegetables. And as consumers, we cannot be fooled into thinking an unhealthy food product — with a small shot of added nutrition — becomes a health food that we can eat in unlimited amounts.

Krispy Kreme Whole Wheat Doughnut
Kudos to Krispy Kreme for becoming health conscience; however, the new whole wheat version is still a decadent doughnut. It’s almost exactly the same as the original glazed, except for the whole wheat flour. That substitution gives it 2 grams of fiber, BUT the whole wheat version still has 3.5 grams of trans fat (that’s a whopping amount!). Also, their whole wheat version provides 180 calories ... compared with 200 calories in the original glazed — that’s only a 20-calorie savings.

In my opinion, Krispy Kreme doughnuts (plain or whole wheat) are a decadent (and delicious!) occasional treat — don’t be fooled into eating them regularly just because the new version contains whole grain. In fact, eat the version you prefer, just do so sparingly.

Original Glazed KK                  Whole Wheat KK

200 calories                              180 calories

12 grams total fat                      11 grams total fat

4 grams trans fat                       3.5 grams trans fat

22 grams carbs                          19 grams carbs

Vitamin C fortified ‘Fruit By The Foot’
This is a sugary treat that should be counted towards a sweet snack or dessert for your kids (not towards their Vitamin C allotment). Certainly encourage your kids to get their C from citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli and peppers. In fact, your kids will get more Vitamin C from eating five strawberries.

Stoney Creek Dairy - Naturelle Plus Omega Enriched Ice Cream
It’s impressive for regular ice cream — reasonable number of calories (120 calories per half cup), and all natural ingredients. But the omega-3 content is minimal — and because it comes from a plant source, it’s nowhere near as powerful as fish oil. You’d literally have to eat hundreds of calories'-worth to get the equivalent amount of omega 3’s in one 10-calorie fish oil supplement. Eat this ice cream because it’s yummy — NOT for the omega 3 benefits!

While not exactly health food, the following are healthier snack alternatives:
These snacks do not contain any trans fat, and the saturated fat content (if any) is low. Some have built in portion control, which is a great way to keep calories under control.

  • 100% Whole Grain Fig Newton’s
  • Flat Earth – baked vegetable/fruit chips
  • Kid-Didits (available at Walmart supercenters)
  • Pepperidge Farm ‘whole grain’ Gold Fish 100 calorie pouches
  • 100-calorie packs – Oreos and Chips AHoy

Bottom Line: I'm a big believer in snacks as part of an overall healthy diet, and the more nutritious a snack the better. But no matter how many vitamins, minerals, and whole grains are added to a doughnut (or cookie, or candy bar), they're still meant to be occasional treats —not something to indulge in several times a day.

For more information on healthy eating, visit TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer’s Web site at