Coconut oil. Almond Butter. Both ‘clean’ foods, so we should be able to have as much as we want right?
Despite being ‘clean’ foods there are certain things we need to watch out for despite our best intentions of being healthy. Here are just some of the hidden pitfalls in seven ‘good-for-you’ foods of the moment
Beware of the coconut products
Coconut products are billed as super fat burning foods, because the fats found in coconut (fresh, oil or milk) could promote thermogenesis, the process whereby calories are burnt off as heat rather than stored as fat.
Sounds pretty good right?
However, coconut is itself a very high-calorie food (1tbsp = 117 calories). So if you find yourself using coconut a lot of the time, you may find that rather than a shrinking waistline, you may end up with an expanding waistline.
So by all means eat some coconut as they are very healthy, but be very careful of the amount of calories you may be consuming when you do.
You’re nuts for nut butter
Who doesn’t love some peanut or almond butter?
When I have some peanut or almond butter I find it very hard to stop at just the one mouthful, and for you it may be easy to find yourself slipping one nut butter into a morning smoothie and eating another as a snack later in the day.
But, given nut butters contain around 600 calories per 100g, this isn’t the best idea for your waistline.
The bottom line? Enjoy nuts or nut butter – they provide essential fats, protein, fibre, magnesium vitamin E and iron – but keep to one 30g portion (of one or the other, not both), per day.
You’ve embraced gluten free
Going gluten-free is all the rage at the moment, with around 15 per cent of UK households avoiding gluten and wheat according to a Mintel report. However, only 0.5 -1 per cent of us truly have a medical need to do so (if you are coeliac, just one small crouton is enough to trigger an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine).
In a lot of cases, there is no need to remove gluten. Many people have drawn the conclusion that gluten is bad for no particular reason. This this just makes dieting needlessly restrictive. Removing a largely harmless substance from your diet should never be a blanket recommendation as it makes dietary adherence difficult, and serves no practical purposes.
So why eliminate gluten if there you suffer no ill symptoms?
You eat dark chocolate for health reasons
Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids and antioxidants which can help with blood flow. This super food has also been shown to increase mood as it can be eaten as a treat.
This has been many a dieters’ saviour on many weekday evenings. A real reason to enjoy a lovely bit of chocolate.
But it’s also important to know that calorie content can be higher in dark chocolate can be higher than in milk. If you take as an example Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate, with 37 per cent cocoa solids, it has 565 calories, 36g fat, 21.5g saturated fat and 45.5g sugar per 100g. In contrast, Breen & Black’s dark chocolate, with 70 per cent cocoa solids, has 580 calories, 42g fat, 25g saturated fat and 28.5g sugar. The 85 per cent cocoa solids version has 630 calories and 53.5g fat, 32g saturated fat but just 13.5g sugar.
There might be less sugar in darker chocolate, but there are still plenty more calories to make up for it.
As a guide, sticking to no more than a square or two of dark chocolate daily seems a good compromise of which gives you your chocolate fix, but not too much to put your weight loss progress in jeopardy..
You glug olive oil over everything
We have all seen and heard that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest around, and olive oil is a central part of their diet. But, despite its central place in the healthy Mediterranean diet, olive oil is no dieter’s friend, with 135 calories in the average tablespoon. On the plus side, the more predominant type of fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, which is good for your heart and helps to keep cholesterol in check. And, like most plant-based oils, it provides essential fatty acids, vital for healthy skin. As rule of thumb, a balanced diet shouldn’t normally include more than two tablespoons of any oil per day, so it’s always a good plan to measure rather than just glug.
You make smoothies every morning
Smoothies are a great way to up your fruit and veg intake really easily and quickly – and with high-powered blenders that have no trouble breaking down seeds and skins, all the fibre is retained. But when you blitz fruit and veg you release sugar from the once intact plant cell and this now becomes ‘free’ sugar. The guidelines are to keep to only 25g of free sugar per day. However, if you whizzed 100g mango, an orange and 25g spinach – that adds up to releasing around 28g free sugar very easily without you probably realising.
Now I am not saying to completely cut out your smoothies, as it’s obviously still nothing like as bad as having sugar from a bag of sweets, as a glass will contribute to your 5-A-day and provide useful amounts of vitamin C, folate and potassium. But these sugars, once liberated from the cell are just as likely to harm your teeth and raise blood sugar and insulin levels.
Smoothies can also pile on the calories, especially if you’re adding ingredients such as nut butters, coconut oil and chia seeds.
You have recovery supplements after a workout.
Protein is the big thing now, and rightly so as it has so many benefits that help with improving body composition, improved workout recovery and increasing lean muscle tissue. As a result, high protein products are all the rage and therefore many people are starting to believe that anything ‘high protein’ is beneficial to them and their goals.
But for example, if you’re burning 300 calories during a half-hour run, you could easily cancel that out with a protein bar which may also contain up to four teaspoons of sugar. WOW!!
So don’t get into the habit of buying high protein bars or snacks for something to eat post-workout. If you are not planning to exercise again for another 24 hours, then an immediate post-workout protein hit is not essential. As long as you get your daily requirements in before your next bout of exercise, then that is fine.
Spread your protein intake out. A 60kg woman who exercises regularly may require around 90g a day, but if this is split into three equal 30g portions (say two scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for breakfast, a chicken salad sandwich with yogurt for lunch and a couple of lamb cutlets for dinner), you won’t need any sports supplements with the extra calories they bring.