Recently I visited and stayed with a cousin of mine. She’s almost 90, walks twice a day, has a very keen mind, and prides herself on knowing about health and nutrition. She is overweight by about 15 pounds though. And NOW she doesn’t want me to leave. Why? Because eating with me (the way I eat) is helping her lose weight! And she’s thrilled.
It got me thinking about “healthy” foods that will make you fat!
I’m not surprised by the results my cousin is experiencing. There’s not a day that goes by where someone doesn’t come to me asking for diet advice. They are confused as to why they’re NOT losing weight even though they don’t eat “a lot” and especially if they’re eating “healthy”. The truth is that while “quanity” does matter, it’s possible to still overconsume calories if choosing the wrong foods.
Some foods, even though they’re considered very healthy, carry LOTS of calories in a very small amount of food. We call these calorically dense foods and if your diet is comprised of a bunch of them, you can easily gain weight even without eating “a lot” of food.
Here are some “healthy” examples of calorically dense foods:
1. Granola – granola, especially the varieties mixed with nuts, can pack as many as 500 cals per cup.
2. Pasta – a moderate 1-1/2 cups of most pastas yield more than 60 grams of carbs and almost 350 calories.
3. Avocado – avocado is delicious and a great source of monounsaturated fat, but one single avocado has over 300 calories and 30 grams of fat.
4. Nuts and Nut Butters – nuts are super healthy, but they are one of the most calorically dense foods around. A few ounces could mean 400+ calories.
5. Fruit Juice and Smoothies – all fruit juices are loaded with sugar and so are most “smoothie” shop smoothies (make your own with whole fruit).
6. Dried Fruit – dried fruits remove the water content which dramatically decreases volume. What’s left is high in sugar and very calorically dense.
7. “Whole Wheat” Breads – even the 100% whole wheat variety can pack a lot of calories if you’re eating a lot of grains as part of your diet.
8. Whole Grain Bagels – a large “deli” bagel is loaded with carbs and calories, many times over 400 cals in a single bagel.
While some of the foods above are only “thought” to be healthy (fruit juice, whole grain bagels, etc), stuff like nuts, nut butters, and avocado are foods that I’d recommend in just about everyone’s diet and they are indeed great choices.
However, these calorically dense foods require that you monitor your intake of them closely. A few ounces of nuts, a couple tablespoons of nut butter, and an avocado is NOT a lot of food, but if you ate all of these every day, you’d be getting close to 1000 calories with these foods alone.
So exactly what has my cousin changed in her diet? At first she told me she didn’t think I was eating enough. When I told her I ate modestly but that if I got hungry then I ate again, she thought this was a wonderful viewpoint. She’d always eaten until she was REALLY full. So her portions were too large.
She’s also eating WAY less bread and crackers, so her intake of starchy carbs is way down. If she feels like a potato at dinner, we’ll make a sweet potato. If not, for dinner we’ll eat one of my special TEN ingredient salads, a cooked vegetable and a healthy protein like fish, lamb, or chicken. It’s working well for her and she’s very pleased.
I’m thinking I could have a new career. I could travel around and live with people and just have them eat what I eat. When they’ve lost the weight they’d like to lose I could move on to the next household!!