5 healthy foods that are actually messing up your diet
As a personal trainer and nutrition coach, I can’t tell you how many times I hear clients complain about gaining weight despite their super-healthy kitchen game. “All I eat is smoothies and salads. WTF?” The problem is, we’ve been inundated with nutrition information that is simply flawed. Words like “healthy fats,” “whole grains,” “superfood” and “organic” are thrown around too often, giving us a false sense of caloric security. The truth is, if we don’t look closely, or consider the quantities we take in, many of the diet-approved foods we eat could be making us fat. Here are the most popular dishes that are sabotaging our waistlines:
Most of us assume that salads are the slam-dunk healthiest choice on the menu. Add in the word kale and, well, it’s in the bag. Unfortunately, we often become so blinded by the superfood that we can’t see the mountain of calories on our plates. Case in point: McDonald’s just came out with a new line of kale salads that are actually more fattening than a DOUBLE Big Mac. Ouch. Toppings like dried fruit, nuts, seeds, croutons, cheese, not to mention the dressing (yes, even oil-based vinaigrettes) have many restaurant salads clocking in at 700-plus calories. So whether it’s kale, spinach or any other mix, check all the ingredients and remember that the greens don’t always mean a green light.
It’s easy to see why smoothies have become so popular among health nuts: They can pack a seriously nutritional punch. From frozen fruit to flax seeds, almond butter to coconut oil, and chia seeds to protein powder, the list of good-for-you ingredients goes on and on. But when you throw them all together, you could have a glass that is no better for you than a milkshake (we’re talking those heavy on dates, a few tablespoons of nut butters and high-cal protein). Plus, studies show that we are hungrier faster after drinking a shake than after eating a meal, causing us to consume more calories throughout the day. If you’re a fan of smoothies, try buying protein powder that has “all-in-one nutrition.” These products will contain all the healthy fats, greens and fruit that you need without adding all the extras. If you’re looking to keep your smoothie low in sugar and around 300 calories or so, try one cup of fruit, a scoop of protein, water and spinach. The greens have no taste but add tons of good nutrition and thickness.
Everyone from Jen Aniston to Ashley Graham swear by juicing. Well, here’s the cold- pressed truth: Juicing isn’t the healthy hack it’s cracked up to be. Some experts are even calling it “as bad as Coca-Cola.” Yikes. A cup of juice can rack up the same number of calories as a can of pop, ranging anywhere from 150 to 400 calories. Many who use it’s nutrient content to defend the calorie count have been misled. Actually, the process of juicing takes away much of the important nutrients from the fruits and veggies. Much of their “goodness”—from vitamin C to fibre to antioxidant power—is significantly reduced once the fresh ingredients hit the juicer, though masticating juicers tend to be better at retaining nutrition than centrifugal ones (the spinning, metal type). The high sugar content of juices also cause our insulin levels to spike, which can cause our bodies to store more fat. Experts advise us to swap a glass of juice for real whole fruits and veg.
For those who are so over the smoothie, the latest trend that’s taking over is the breakfast bowl. Essentially, they’re deconstructed smoothies (and then some) that you eat with a spoon. A typical bowl usually consists of a bed of blended superfruits (like açai berries), a trendy grain like oats, granola or quinoa, and then a plethora of healthy toppings like coconut chips, goji berries, chia seeds, avocado purée, nut butters and more. It’s basically, fro-yo made in Goop heaven. But despite being full of Gwyn-approved goodness, the nutritional stats are a bit surprising. On average, the bowls sold at popular chains range from 400 to 600 calories and can accumulate up to 100 grams of sugar and carbohydrates. The best way to reduce the amount of starch, sugar and fat in the bowl is to build your own at home. Use a small amount (half a cup) of grains, a conservative amount of fruit to keep the sugars in check (about a cup) and keep the fats to one option (like avocado, coconut or nut butter). We can have it all, just not all at once.
Gluten-free has become a buzzword for dieters—even I’m guilty of using the “gluten-free equals healthy” excuse. For most of us, the GF label creates a health halo, causing us to eat more of something we wouldn’t normally indulge in, because we’re convinced it’s good for us. Pre-packaged sweets like GF cookies or brownies are highly processed and filled with artificial ingredients in order to make them edible. In this regard, trendy “homemade” options, like dessert balls, are far better for us. But that doesn’t mean they’re good for our diets. Usually made with natural ingredients like figs, dates, nuts, coconut, cocoa and seeds, these treats are high in natural sugars and fats. Weight loss experts agree that we should treat these indulgences like any other dessert—i.e. indulge in moderation. Sorry!
Tahini is a hot new condiment found on the tables of many organic restaurants. Made with sesame seeds, it’s rich in minerals like magnesium, iron and potassium, and is packed with more protein than most nuts. But it’s also packed with calories—about 100 per tablespoon. So whether you’re using it as a topping on your salads or as a dip for your pita, the calories will rack up quickly (of course, it’s way more nutritious than mayo). Don’t ban the spread for life, just be aware when you’re serving it up.