Healthy foods that lead to weight gain…I find this a very topical debate that often comes up between dietitians and naturopaths. Please do not get me wrong, I do respect naturopaths and their wealth of nutritional knowledge whole heartedly. A naturopath has a very in-depth understanding of the nutritional composition of different foods and how these nutrients can affect ones health in a positive or negative manner. A dietitian, on the other hand, may also have this knowledge, but what they are highly skilled at is knowing how to structure a diet for weight management, be it to lose, maintain or gain weight, and how to do this in a healthy way ensuring all your nutritional requirements are met. So where does the problem lye…

Often the information provided to individuals can be quite confusing, when one professional tells people that honey, olive oil, seeds and nuts are all very healthy and to increase their intake, whilst the other agrees they are healthy, but suggests putting a limit on the consumption of them. What on earth should one do?

Eat them in moderation! Yes I know this sounds straight forward, but on Sunday night whilst at a dinner party, where a friend had invited a rather unique mix of total strangers, including myself (a dietitian), 2 other young women (both naturopaths), 2  young men (both personal trainers and one of whom was also professional basketball player), plus a few other gym goers, I found myself in the middle of this exact dilemma.

One of the naturopaths had kindly created dessert, which were her version of a rum/yum ball (or as I would like to call them “energy balls”), everyone was quite excited to see these coconut coated large dense looking dessert balls piled up on the plate, and when she brought them out, she told the guests that they were healthy and good for you, which to her defence, was true, there really was nothing in them that was unhealthy! (I can’t recall every ingredient, but it was definitely a mixture of crushed nuts, seeds, some form of natural sweetener and coconut).

So when a couple of the other girls at the table asked “how on earth can these be good for you?” I was biting my tongue so as not to offend the creator, however was really wanting to explain that a food can be ‘good and healthy’ for you, but still be high in kilojoules, which if over consumed can lead to weight gain (especially after eating all the other amazing food that had been given to us for entre and main course).

I would have predicted based on the ingredients and size of the dessert balls that each would have had at least 1,500kJ’s which for the rather small women at the table, would have been around 20% of their daily energy requirements if they wanted to maintain their weight (and that is just in 1 dessert ball!). Now that is quite significant if you ask me..(and people ate more than 1..).

So as you can see, even if something is healthy, if it is packed with healthy fats or sugars, it can quite quickly add up in kilojoules.

A few other examples here would be adding olive oil in your cooking, 1 table spoon can have around 500kJ (equivalent to 1 slice of bread),  which can add up quite quickly if you add a few tablespoons over your roast vegetables or in your stir fry, a honey coated nut or muesli bar can have around 1,200kJ (the equivalent to 2 slices of wholegrain bread with a slice of cheese), or spreading ½ an avocado over your slice of bread can provide you with around 680kJ (or 1180kJ with the piece of toast included).  Now as you can see, these are all ‘healthy’ foods, and by no means am I suggesting you cut them out of your diet. However, if you are trying to lose weight, I am just trying to make you aware that these healthy foods will still contribute to your energy intake and if your portion size is too large can definitely prevent you from losing weight.

My suggestion from all of this: Be aware of how much you are adding, this means, not to just sprinkle seeds generously over your oats and barley, but measure out a teaspoon properly. The same goes when adding oil, get out a teaspoon or tablespoon and pour it in there prior to pouring it over your salad or vegetables so that you know how much you are actually eating. When it comes to nuts, why not purchase some of the small fun size cashews or sultanas and refill the boxes with your own mixes once you are finished so that you know each time you are consuming a similar amount (around 40g).

As you can see, you do not need to cut these foods out, you just need to stay on top of your portion sizes. Why not start today? This may just happen to be the little devil that has been standing in your way of succeeding in your weight loss goals.

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