In most cases, when people start to “eat healthy”, they lose weight and get leaner.
It’s just not a guarantee.
In most cases, foods most people consider “healthy” contain protein, fibre, are dense with nutrients and aren’t heavy in calories. Most of the time, the foods people consider healthy keep you full and are hard to overeat. Think about it, how many times have you had 4 bananas in a sitting? 3 chicken breasts?
How about a massive bowl full of broccoli?
Rarely. Maybe never.
No one’s really going overboard on lean proteins and fruits and vegetables. In most cases people aren’t even going overboard on rice and potatoes or legumes unless they’re soaked in dressings.
Below, I’ll list a set of foods typically considered healthy that, without careful attention, can throw your calories overboard and become primary reasons you can diet healthy but not see any weight loss.
The problem with oils isn’t that they aren’t good for you – they are. The problem is you can add 200-400 calories worth of pretty much any oil to a meal without it looking like anything’s actually there. This is one reason why restaurant meals run calories so high despite the fact on the surface they appear like a normal meal you made at home. Everything’s soaked in butter, oily dressing, or what have you.
As a rule, a mere table spoon of oil/butter is about 15 grams of fat. And each gram of fat is worth NINE calories. Compare this to 4 calories per gram with carbs and protein. It’s not because fats are bad (most of them aren’t) — it’s just they’re dense with calories. They add up fast.
So while you hear something about coconut oil being really good for you – and it is – the problem is you start using it on everything. Tablespoon here, tablespoon there…500 extra calories.
What to do: You don’t really have to start counting every gram of oil you throw in a sauce pan but I would suggest you do become aware of just how much you’re using (and how much you really need). Using oils to grease a saucepan is one thing, but if you’re using oils every chance you get in quantities you aren’t really controlling, it’d be a good place to look if you aren’t dropping weight.
Healthy calories, sure. But weight loss? Not necessarily.
Probably the biggest culprit on the list.
Imagine. You’re trying to make some changes – you’re gonna get healthy and you’d like to drop some weight too. You hit the grocery store and stick mostly to whole foods — lean proteins, fruits/vegetables – that sort of stuff. You think to yourself this stuff is good and all but you kinda
want need some snack food.
But from now on, it’s not gonna be the chips.
You know nuts are pretty healthy. I mean, they have magnesium or something and no one gets enough magnesium. So you grab some cashews and you even reason with yourself that you should go salted – because what the hell, the rest of the list is spot on. The sodium on those nuts probably isn’t a big problem directly, it’s the fact that now you can’t walk by the kitchen, or the bowl they sit in by the couch, without grabbing. Every handful leads to another.
An extra hundred calories every grab. Maybe more.
To be honest, if I’m looking to lean out and I don’t make the progress I don’t think I should have I pretty much ask myself two questions:
- Did I drink recently and totally forget what I had to eat while intoxicated?
- Have I been snacking on nuts?
What to do: For me, it’s keep them out of the house. And if you can’t keep yourself from grabbing them at every bite I’d suggest you consider the same. Even when taking little grabs here and there you probably end up forgetting how many you took – and if you tell yourself it was 5, it may have been 10.
Consider dropping them entirely when trying to keep weight off. Or, if you must, I think packaging portions in zip lock bags can help keep you more honest and aware.
3. Dried Fruit
The thing is about dried fruit is it tastes like candy compared to regular fruit – and that’s only the first problem it presents for those trying to drop weight.
Fresh fruit is mostly water. Dried fruit, as the name implies, is sucked dry of water. So when you pile those delicious dried bananas beside a real banana what you have is 6 times the calories despite the fact you may be willing to reason (or not even think) it’s a healthy choice and should be fine.
Dense with sugar and dense with calories, dried fruit will definitely make your trip towards weight loss and a leaner body much tougher. It also really isn’t a great health food either.
What to do: Consider it a snack food much in the same way you’d consider chips a high calorie snack food. Or consider it like fruit juice because it’s loaded with sugar as well.
Or opt for fresh fruit. Once you stop eating too much sugar every day you’ll probably really start to appreciate the taste and sweetness of the real stuff.
4. Anything with a health claim label
Marketers tell you what you want to hear.
I’m willing to bet the world would be much leaner and healthier if we could somehow force everyone to completely ignore every single food item that has a health claim like:
“Low in sugar” (because it’s high in fat — and thus calorie dense)
“High in fibre” (because it’s probably addictive breakfast cereal and it isn’t the good fermentable fibre anyways”
“Low in fat” (because it’s high in sugar)
“Non-GMO” (because they’re still fuckin’ plain old crackers!)
Or all the others.
In the end if you ignored every that comes with labels like these on their boxes your food choices would pretty much be limited to whole foods like fruits/vegetables, meats and fish and fibrous starches (with the good fibre). And if you’re at all worried about losing weight (and actually keeping it off), as well as your best health and energy, that’s what most of your food choices should be.
The marketers are just trying to give you a logical reason to buy it. Nothing wrong with going with these choices if they don’t cause problems for you. But if your cupboards are stocked full of these foods and you rely on them heavily while trying to lose weight, you may find it’s harder to push the scale down.
What to do: Know the calories, in the end, matter more than anything. A lot of the stuff that comes with these health claims is also highly palatable and addicting, so you may end up eating too much.
Be sure to understand that these claims are typically just misdirection and feeding into your desire to make a healthy choice.
5. Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate’s got a list full of health benefits. Quality fats and full of antioxidants, once you get used to eating chocolate that isn’t packed full of extra sugar you may actual start to really like it.
So much so you may consider eating one of those 700 calorie chocolate bars every day.
Most chocolate bars run around 150-250 calories and if weight loss is your goal, you’re probably better off getting your fix there. A typical chocolate bar really isn’t that big of a deal if you’re talking about one at a time, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone spend 700 calories to get 10 grams of protein like you’d get from a typical dark chocolate bar.
What to do:
Have a legit chocolate bar if you really need a full chocolate bar. It may have less health benefit but, as long as it stays within the confines of that single wrapper, not much bad can happen within a 200 calorie snack. Neither are ideal but if you need a chocolate bar fix and your choice is unsweetened dark chocolate and a typical Kit Kat — and you know you’re gonna finish the damn thing – go with the Kit Kat.
Or just have 3-4 squares of the less sugary bar.
So…What Does it All Mean
It really is true that in order to lose a pound of weight a week, you need to create, on average, a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day. To repeat, you need to eat 500 calories less than your body burns (uses for energy), on average, to lose a pound a week. Also consider the scale can be tricky, but in the end, this is actually how it works.
Great. Not so bad, right?
As easy as it is to come together with a plan to create that deficit, the problem is, it’s just as easy to break –especially when you choose foods from the above. One “healthy” chocolate bar you reasoned for because you’re trying to lose weight actually nixed weight loss unless you pulled back on food at another time of the day.
The repeated grabs at the bowl of nuts? Same deal.
And really, how many times have you ever just used one tablespoon of peanut butter (or any nut butter)? I’m usually just trying to make sure I don’t eat half the jar.
In the end, what isn’t important is that you stop eating these foods entirely – unless you need to – it’s that you’ve gotta be really careful with how fast they add up. And how reasoning that something is healthy (or merely claims to be) doesn’t mean it’s helping you lose weight.
In the end it’s going to help you to make sure you’re thinking about how many calories you’re eating if losing weight is your focus.
In the end a diet based around lean protein, fruits/vegetables, fibrous starches and controlled amounts of pretty much everything else puts you in a great position to be much healthier, energetic and leaner.
That’s all for this week’s article. If you’d like, feel free to reach me anytime with a question or comment HERE.
Thanks for reading.