You’re trying to lose weight so you decide to only buy ‘healthy groceries.’ Your 3 pm snack craving hits, and next thing you know you’ve devoured an entire container of hummus with those multigrain pita chips. We’ve all been there.
Just because foods are nutrient dense (full of stuff that’s good for you), doesn’t necessarily mean that they are low calorie. Calories are the measure of the amount of energy in foods we eat. If we’re taking in more energy than we’re using, that energy gets stored as excess body fat.
A common weight loss mistake is thinking that just because a food is healthy, you no longer need to watch your portion sizes. Many ‘healthy’ foods are slightly higher in calories, but only because they are packed with nutrients our body needs. Portion control may actually be the BIGGEST factor when it comes to successful weight loss or maintenance. That’s not to say these foods need to be exiled from your diet, but rather enjoyed mindfully.
Guacamole (or avocados in general)
Avocados are a fabulous source of ‘healthy fats’. Unsaturated fats help keep us satisfied and can actually help our heart health. However, they are not any lower in calories than saturated ,or unhealthy, fats that are found in french fries or a greasy steak. 2 tablespoons of guacamole will run you about 50 calories. This isn’t the worst dip you could eat calorie-wise, but I know I’m guilty of shoveling guac purely because I am in the ‘it’s healthy’ mindset.
Here is another case of a healthy fat that may be weighing you down. Two tablespoons of peanut butter is about 190 calories. Now, for those calories you are getting fat to help you feel satisfied and protein to help fight off hunger, but keep in mind that it is a rich food.
Whole grains are more satisfying because your body has to work harder to break them down. Fiber is not digested inside our bodies, but rather just moves along through our system. Because of this, we tend to stay feeling full for longer. Whole grains like brown rice are reccomended over their white counterpart for this reason. Unfortunately, dieters tend to think that because whole grains are healthier that they are lower calorie- which is just not true. 1 cup of brown rice is about 225 calories.
This probably tops my list of health foods to be cautious with. The purpose of trail mix is to pack as much energy as possible into a little handful of food. This is great for hiking a mountain, which requires a lot of energy (obviously). It’s not so great, however, when sitting on the couch mindlessly munching. 1/2 cup of trail mix typically carries about 350 calories.
Blending healthy foods down into a drinkable shake makes it super easy to get the nutrients your body needs. The downside, is that it is also super easy to overdo it. Fruit has great fiber and nutrient content, but unfortunately is accompanied by sugars. Add fruit juice and sweetened yogurt to that mix and before you know it you may have created a calorie-laden sugar bomb. A banana alone packs about 115 calories, and that’s typically just the base ingredient. Beware of the 500 calorie ‘snack’ smoothie.
The moral of the story: just because something is packed with healthy ‘stuff’, doesn’t mean it’s ok to go overboard. Remember the things that make healthy food ‘healthy’, typically carry some calories along with them. On the other hand, focusing simply on calories and eating foods with little nutrition will leave you feeling hungry and (in my case at least) irritable.
Moderation is our key word here.