Diabetes Self-Management Blog

This week, we continue to look at so-called healthy foods that may not be as healthy as they seem! And believe me, these foods are everywhere.

Ground Turkey
By now, most people are aware that poultry is generally considered to be a better choice than red meat in terms of calories, fat, and saturated fat. People who are trying to lose weight or lower their cholesterol learn early on that chicken and turkey are leaner protein choices. And that’s true if you’re comparing a 4-ounce skinless baked chicken breast with a 4-ounce sirloin steak. But things become a little murkier when it comes to ground meat and ground poultry.

Like many people, perhaps you’ve switched to using ground turkey in your meatloaf or meatballs, or maybe you even grill up turkey burgers in place of regular hamburgers. Ground turkey can definitely be a good choice, but here is where you need to check out the label. Why? Let’s take first take a look at ground beef:

95% Extra Lean Ground Beef, Broiled, 4 ounces:
193 calories
7.5 grams of fat
3.4 grams of saturated fat

The “95% Extra Lean” refers to the percent of lean meat by weight. But what’s more helpful to know is that extra lean meat, by definition, contains less than 5 grams of fat and less than 2 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams (about 3 ounces).

But, let’s say you’re a health-conscious shopper and you’ve read that ground turkey is much better for you than ground beef. So, standing at the meat and poultry case in the store, you grab a package of ground turkey and throw it in your cart. Is what you put in your cart really a better choice than the extra lean ground beef, above? Let’s look:

85% Lean Ground Turkey, Broiled, 4 ounces:
266 calories
14.9 grams of fat
3.8 grams of saturated fat

Why is this supposedly lean ground turkey higher in fat than the ground beef? While your good intentions were there, what you might not have realized is that this particular ground turkey likely contains dark meat turkey, along with the white meat, as well as the turkey skin. And we all know that the skin is where most of the fat is. But don’t give up on ground turkey just yet. Look for ground turkey breast, instead.

99% Fat-Free Ground Turkey Breast, Broiled, 4 ounces:
120 calories
1 gram fat
0 grams of saturated fat

That’s more like it! The calorie and fat savings are pretty impressive. Even if you choose 93% or 94% Lean Ground Turkey, you’re still making a healthy choice. All it takes is a little detective work, but it’s easy: just check what it says on the front of the package.

Veggie Chips
If you’re going to be enjoying a turkey burger on the grill, why not throw in a handful of vegetable (veggie) chips on the side? Heck, they must be better than potato chips, right? And maybe they “count” as one of your vegetable servings so that you don’t have to steam up that broccoli lurking in your refrigerator crisper drawer.

You’ve likely seen veggie chips in your local supermarket or health food store. Veggie chips may be made from a variety of vegetables, such as carrots, beets, parsnips, yams, green beans, sweet potatoes, and yucca. Brands include Terra, Danielle, and Robert’s American Gourmet. Even Nabisco Wheat Thins has Toasted Veggie Chips. Are these chips really that much better than potato chips? And can they truly count as a vegetable?

Some veggie chips may be made with just vegetables. Terra Chips contain assorted vegetables, canola, sunflower, or safflower oil, beet juice concentrate, and salt. But some brands, such as Robert’s contain added potato flour and potato starch, so they’re not 100% vegetables. Nutrition-wise, here’s how veggie chips and potato chips break down (on average):

Veggie chips, 1 ounce:
120–150 calories
4–9 grams of fat
0.5–1 gram of saturated fat
15–19 grams of carbohydrate
1–3 grams of fiber
110–260 milligrams of sodium

Potato chips, 1 ounce:
155 calories
10 grams of fat
1 gram of saturated fat
15 grams of carbohydrate
1 gram of fiber
160 milligrams of sodium

You can see, then, that veggie chips, at least calorie and fat-wise, really aren’t that much “better” than potato chips. And, they tend to be higher in sodium than regular potato chips.

Where they can offer some benefit is in the vitamin arena: Veggie chips do provide vitamins A and C, as well as iron. But you can get these nutrients easily from other sources. So, if you like veggie chips, fine. Just realize that they actually don’t replace “real” vegetables and the fact that the word “veggie” is on the bag isn’t license to go overboard with the portion.


  1. Thanks for all the down to earth, real information.

    Posted by Roy Forsbeg |
  2. My husband has cancer his doctor told him turkey meat contains iodine and he is not to have this
    what’s your take on this information
    and where can I find some information?

    Posted by evielouise |
  3. Hi evielouise,

    To my knowledge, turkey contains very little, if any, iodine. The main sources of iodine in the diet are iodized salt, seaweed, yogurt, milk, eggs, bread, and seafood. Too much or too little iodine can cause problems with how well the thyroid gland functions. Also, iodine may be protective against radiation-induced thyroid cancer. For more information, read the NIH Office of Dietary Supplement’s fact sheet on iodine at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/.

    Posted by acampbell |
  4. I’ve been diagnoised with Hyperthyroidism. The
    Doc gave me an RX for Methimazole 5mg, to be
    taken once a day. He also told not to eat any-
    thing with iodine in it. Whats your take on this
    advice and medication?

    Posted by claudia arango |
  5. Hi Claudia,

    I’m not too familiar with this medication. It may be best to ask your pharmacist. I do know that it’s nearly impossible to avoid foods that contain iodine, as it’s found in many foods (as you can see from the above comment), so that seems somewhat realistic.

    Posted by acampbell |

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