In life, often if it seems too good to be true, it is, and unfortunately this can be said for some of our favourite ‘health’ foods. Despite something looking, sounding and even tasting ‘healthy’, sometimes the actual nutritional profile of the food means we still need to be mindful of the amounts we’re eating. So if you’re eating healthily and the scales aren’t budging, here are some of the popular health foods that we regularly overeat to be wary of.
You may enjoy it in baked goods such as protein bites and balls, as a base to healthy cooking, or as a sweet snack to team with your favourite trail mix. But what is rarely mentioned is that dried fruit is packed full of calories and concentrated sugars.
While a fresh piece of fruit will clock in at 15-20g of natural sugars along with 2-3g of dietary fibre, just 30g of dried fruit — roughly a small pack of sultanas or 3-4 dates — contains at least this amount of sugar but is much, much easier to overeat. This means that healthier baked goods or protein treats based on dried fruit are not always low in sugars and in general you will be better off choosing fresh fruits that have a much higher water content to keep your sugar and calorie intake controlled.
Popped chips and crackers
As interest in healthy snacks has grown, so too has the range of flavoured popped chips and crackers in supermarkets to replace some of the high fat potato chips, corn chips and cheese flavoured snacks of old.
While these snack options are generally lower in fat and calories than potato chips they are by no means healthy. Rather they remain an energy dense, low nutrient quality snacks they are exceptionally easy to overeat.
The only really healthy option is plain popcorn while the flavoured chip and cracker options offer up to 60g of total carbohydrates per serve and upwards of 400-500 calories — so keep them solely for parties, as opposed to a healthy daily snack option.
While the individual ingredients used to make a typical smoothie — milk, yoghurt, fruit, honey, nuts and seeds — are all healthy, nutrient-rich foods, when they are blended into a massive drink your typical café or juice bar smoothie is far from a healthy, balanced choice.
With up to 800 calories, 60-80g of sugars per serve, if your goal is to keep your calorie intake under control you need to get fussy with your smoothie order. Always stick to small sizes, aim for just 3-4 ingredients and remember the smoothie is the meal, not a drink to complement the meal.
Indeed brown rice offers a stronger nutritional profile than white rice with more protein and fibre, but ultimately rice remains a concentrated source of calories and carbohydrates and is easily overconsumed. A single cup of cooked brown rice offers almost 40g of carbohydrate or the equivalent of 3-4 slices of good quality bread.
When you consider how much rice is packed in sushi rolls, or served with a stir fry, it is easy for us to consume a couple of cups in a single serve. Ideally a serve of brown rice is just ½ cup cooked so keep an eye on your portions and bump up your meals with extra veggies — not with extra rice.
Dips are a popular platter addition when entertaining and while dips can look extremely healthy with their bright colours and vegetable bases, in general they are high in fat and exceptionally easy to overeat. For example, hommus, one of the healthiest dips contains a massive 200 calories per ½ cup serve and that is without considering the calories of the biscuits you dip into the hommus. So if dips are your thing take time to check the labels for lower calorie and fat options, use vegetables instead of biscuits as the dippers and keep your portions to just 1-2 tablespoons.
Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
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