Spoiler alert: Kale isn’t on this list.
That’d be too easy, right?
The truth is that the just because a food is considered good for you, doesn’t mean you can eat it in unlimited amounts or disregard portion size—an all too common conundrum that I’ve experienced personally and often see among the young women who I work with in my nutrition coaching practice.
So tell me: Does this sound familiar?
You’ve cleaned up your diet and ditched the processed junk foods in favor of clean, real, and whole foods and noticed amazing changes—both physically and mentally.
Your skin is clearer, digestion better, and maybe your cravings for sweets and dessert are even easier to control.
You’ve overcome your fatphobia and wholeheartedly embrace counting ingredients instead of calories.
It’s truly liberating and life changing to feel this free around food.
So why are your pants suddenly feeling a bit snug after a month or two?
Well, friends, that’s because there is too much of a good thing, even if that “good thing” is legit healthy, clean eating foods full of nutrients.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
TOO MUCH OF THE GOOD STUFF
It happens to the best of us. One too many spoonfuls of nut butter eaten one too many times during the week (ahem or day!) and suddenly you’re doing the dreaded skinny-jeans-shimmy to get your pants on. Whoops.
There’s actually an anonymous quote that I occasionally see while scrolling through my Instagram feed that sums this phenomenon up perfectly…
“It’s all fun and games until your jeans don’t fit anymore.”
So true, right?
But the point I want to make today is that, unfortunately, fun and games doesn’t have to mean splurging on pints of Ben & Jerry’s, other desserts, sweets, etc. Healthful foods can land you in the same predicament if you’re not paying attention to portion sizes…Or if you mistake your newfound real/whole foods diet as an opportunity to go HAM on some nut butter or avocado 24/7.
Sadly, none of us is immune to seeing the scale creep upward if we aren’t practicing self control and balance.
Regardless of whether this applies to you right now (or ever), talking about mindful eating and portion sizes is never a bad thing. 😉
The solution is simple.
Cultivate more mindful eating habits and practice a little bit of portion control when it comes to these five easy-to-overeat foods. Like it or not, just because something is healthy, paleo, vegan, grain free, dairy free, sugar free, [insert label here], it still has to be eaten in balance with your overall diet and physical activity each day.
It’s true that there are LOTS of things that influence our weight, metabolism, and how our body responds to certain foods, but excess calories are still excess whether from bagels and bran cereal, bacon and coconut oil, dairy-free almond cheese and tofu, or homemade energy balls and organic rawnola.
That said, I’m not telling you to start counting calories. Psssh, as if.
Instead, review the list of easy-to-overeat foods below and do a self-check to see if there’s a place in your diet where you could cultivate and practice more mindfulness when it comes to portion control.
Whether you’re actively trying to shed a few pounds, tone up, or simply manage and maintain your weight, paying more attention to portion sizes—especially with these easy-to-overeat healthful food—will prevent you from unknowingly sabotaging your well intentioned healthy eating efforts.
Let’s get straight it, shall we?
5 Healthy Foods You May Be Overeating
An avocado a day keeps the doctor away…Until it doesn’t.
I figured we should start with the hardest food to accept as being potentially responsible for an expanding waistline (at least for me anyway)—the beloved avocado. Yes, it’s full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (the majority of which is oleic acid, a known cancer fighting compound), fiber, antioxidants, and adding them to salads can help increase absorption of other nutrients.
However, it’s still a calorically dense food since it’s mostly fat, which adds up quickly if you’re not careful. OR if you’re eating avocado for breakfast, lunch, dinner (because hashtag healthy fats for the win), AND dessert (because chocolate mousse with avocado TOTES counts as a vegetable, right?! RIGHT?! Le sigh.).
Stick to eating a serving or two of avocado at one meal per day (two at the most!) and be mindful about how much you use. Below is a nutrition label for your reference showing the nutrients in one serving of avocado, which is defined as 3.5 ounces, 100 grams, or about 1/4 of a medium Haas avocado. If you’re scooping guacamole, then a serving is about 2-3 tablespoons or 1/4 cup.
NUTRITION FACTS :: 1/4 AVOCADO
NUTS & NUT BUTTER
Nuts and nut butter are a great snack choice and ingredient. They are full of satiating fat, a bit of blood sugar-stabilizing protein, fiber, and micronutrients—and totally have a place in a healthful diet…In moderation.
Ugh, I know. I’m SUCH a buzz kill today, aren’t I?
Whether or not nuts and nut butter get you into suddenly-too-tight-skinny-jean territory all depends on how heavy handed you are with your dollop of peanut/almond butter (or your fistful(s) of raw nuts). If you’re slathering the Justin’s or Wild Friends too liberally (i.e. you find yourself replacing a jar sooner than the week’s end), you might benefit from reigning it in a little…
If for no other reason than to ensure you’re getting a variety of healthy fats (i.e. nutrients) in your diet instead of filling up on nuts so much so that you have little appetite for other, equally important foods like lean protein, nourishing non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, etc. Right? 😉
A typical serving size of raw or roasted nuts is 1 ounce or 1/4 cup, which is about 23-25 small almonds/cashews or 8-10 pecans/walnuts. Brazil nuts on the other hand are so large that TWO of those bad boys constitutes a serving and since they are super high in selenium (which can potentially disrupt thyroid function if you consume too much), you definitely want to eat them in moderation at all times. Mix up the type of nuts you eat and the type of fat to ensure you’re giving your body a wide array of nutrient sources.
Measure out a true 1-2 tablespoon portion and then compare your usual dollop, blob, drizzle, spoonful, etc. To ensure accuracy, use a food scale (only if you have one, like say, for baking/recipe measurements) or even a single-serve packet squeezed out onto a spoon to give yourself a visual reference.
If your normal serving appears to be well beyond a standard portion, you can decide if you’d benefit from being more precise in measuring or not. Some of the women I work with have found it helpful to use a measuring spoon for a while and/or use a powdered version every so often to save a few kcals and fat grams without forgoing their beloved nut butter flavor.
GRANOLA + TRAIL MIX
These are two of the easiest snack foods to unintentionally overeat for a few reasons.
First, granola and trail mixes are usually filled with some type of sweetened grain, as well as various higher-calorie ingredients like nuts, dried fruit, honey or maple syrup, sometimes chocolate-coated candies or coconut flakes (which may or may not already be sweetened). So they are already going to be higher in sugar and calories.
Then there’s the painfully small serving size—usually 1/4 to 1/3 cup. Have you’ve ever actually taken the time to measure out one serving? I have and it’s basically the saddest thing ever. Almost to the point where I’d say don’t do it (because sometimes ignorance is bliss, right?!), but I know that’s not what we’re going for here.
When you actually see what a serving size of granola or trail mix looks like, it’s easy to understand how “eating only a few handfuls” can equate to at least 350-500 calories, which is a lot for a snack, toast or smoothie bowl topping, etc. and definitely not balanced enough to qualify as a meal on its own.
Consider making your own (though you’ll still want to be mindful of portions because homemade doesn’t mean you can go crazy either) or buy one that’s refined sugar free and not filled with chocolate pieces, candies, or too much dried fruit. Here’s a post I wrote on my three favorite granolas—two of which are grain free/paleo friendly.
To keep yourself from accidentally eating too much, always take the time to mindfully measure out an appropriate portion instead of eating it from the bag. Another strategy that might help is to save it for times when you know you’ll really need the energy boost it provides, like when you’re engaged in a strenuous activity for extended periods of time such as endurance biking, day hiking, post-marathon training long run days (i.e. not for studying, watching a Netflix marathon, or road tripping).
Dates + Mango + Cranberries + Banana Chips + Etc.
Dried fruit seems harmless enough but it can add up quick because it’s so calorically dense. Especially when it comes to the larger kinds like dates or mango slices. A word on dates, while I understand they are a better sweetener than refined white sugar and dates offer numerous health benefits, they are still SUPER high in natural sugars so please don’t think that solely because they are “natural,” they come with a free pass to eat as much as you want without consequence.
Seriously, look at the nutrition label for a single Medjool date below!
NUTRITION FACTS :: 1 MEDJOOL DATE
One Medjool date can contain as much as 20 grams of sugar!
When helping my coaching clients break up with sugar, manage mood swings and/or improve their diet, I always like to ask, “Would you eat the equivalent amount of fresh fruit?” … And the answer is almost always, “No.”
It makes sense considering how much more fibrous and filling whole fruit is compared to dried and underscores just how easy it is to overeat.
Also, dried fruit often contains added sugars (insert me rolling my eyes big time) even though it’s plenty sweet on its own. The extra sweetener serves no benefit to you and only increases the overall caloric content and sugars, making it hard to stop at just one or two pieces.
Absolutely steer clear of dried fruit with added sugar—there’s ZERO need for that junk. Go easy on the dates—sugar is sugar whether natural or not. Choose whole, fresh fruit over dried, use portion control, or balance the carbohydrates and natural sugars with satiating, blood glucose level regulating protein and fat. For example: Eating a single Medjool date with 1-2 teaspoons of almond or peanut butter…Mango slices with full fat Greek yogurt or cheese or dried cranberries sprinkled into a nutritious spinach salad with tuna and olive oil, etc.
Green Juice + Smoothies + Kombucha
There is a common misconception that green juices are all healthy simply because they are green slash contain some form of leafy green extracts. However, most are also full of sugary fruit juice and a single bottle (which, for the record, usually contains two servings) has the potential to pack more carbohydrates than THREE pieces of bread. The same goes for smoothies and smoothie bowls, as well as kombucha—fermented, probiotic-rich tea—depending on what you put in your blender or which brand of ‘booch you buy.
Those factors, along with the fact that drinking your calories is super easy to overdo is why these healthy-yet-possibly-not-so-healthy drinks land on this list.
As for the green juice specifically? Take for example a side-by-side comparison of two bottle from one of my absolute favorite cold-pressed juice companies, Pressed Juicery.
You can see that the bottle of Greens 1 (greens and citrus fruit only) has a fraction of the calories and carbs and only ONE gram of sugar. Compare that to Greens 5 (greens, pineapple and orange juice) which delivers 18 grams of sugar per serving.
I love Pressed Juicery so this is absolutely not intended to criticize what they offer or throw them under the bus because like I said, I actually wholeheartedly love the brand and their products. My aim is simply illuminate that green juice can be healthful but you probably don’t need one at every meal, or even every day. Capiche?
Seriously, just think of all the real, whole, filling foods you could eat for 200 calories and 40-plus carbohydrates without taking in more than 30 grams of sugar! Imagine the super-sized, EPIC salad you could build! Or the slice of toast with protein-rich turkey breast and a slice of cheese or low-sugar Greek yogurt and fresh fruit you could eat! Obviously, I understand sometimes you don’t have time to whip up a small meal or snack but if you do, the fiber, protein, and fat will be much more satiating than guzzling a green juice.
Be careful with smoothies, too, because if it’s filled with high sugar fruit, one too many globs of nut butter, toppings galore, etc. it may be as calorically dense and sugary as a milkshake. TRUTH.
Lastly, while I LOVE kombucha and it is an amazing health elixir, does it belong in your everyday diet? I’d have to say no. For one, varying your probiotic intake ensures you’re getting a good mix of gut bacteria and there are plenty of excellent ways to populate your tummy with friendly microbes without chugging a bottle of ‘booch (or two) a day.
Instead of drinking your fruits and vegetables, eat ‘em! You’ll take longer to consume whole food than a beverage, allowing your body’s satiety signals to do their thang, plus the fiber in a meal or snack will fill you up more than juice alone. Or at the very least, pair said green juice with real foods to keep hunger and blood sugar under control.
Try treating kombucha like a special occasion drink and get your fermented fix from foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, kefir, or a supplement. As for smoothies, keep them simple, modest in size (ain’t no one need a Big Gulp-sized smoothie), and use a spoon instead of straw to slow down your slurp. 😉
YOUR THOUGHTS >>>
What “healthy” food(s) do you have difficulty eating in moderation even though they offer nutritious benefits? Have you ever overeaten a food that’s considered “healthy?”
What other foods would you add to this list?
And lastly, how do you practice self control and mindful around nut butter? Because I’ll admit, the struggle is LEGIT…For me anyway!
I hope you found this post helpful and if you did, spread the love, yo! Use the social share options on the left hand side of the screen or below to Pin it, share it on Facebook, save it for later, and Tweet it out!
ANNOUNCEMENT / NEWS >>>
After lots of requests, I am now offering super simple nutrition coaching services AND food journal/diary review. Ow, ow! Whether you’re unsure if how you eat is meeting your needs, supporting your workouts, or you’d just like someone to help you achieve a modest weight loss goal, break through a plateau or offer ideas on how to add variety to your meals, I’m here to help!
Wishing you all the best week ahead and stay tuned for a healthful-yet-sweet summer recipe later this week. 😉