Sometimes certain foods—especially those currently trending or popping up on Instagram and Pinterest—get that “health halo,” where people assume they’re just as good for you as they are beautiful to take a photo of. Think: acai bowls or frozen yogurt, for example. Some can take you back hundreds of calories depending on size, the ingredients and those toppings (galore).
Plus, preparation is key. Nuts are great for you when unsalted and raw or simply roasted, but if they’re glazed with sweet ingredients, super salty, or are packaged where you’re eating too much at once, then you’re not enjoying a healthy snack but rather one that contains hidden sugar, carbs, sodium and calories.
And since you believe it to be healthy, you might think you can eat as much as you like—and that ‘s definitely not true, as those calories (even from foods that are packed with nutrients) will add up! Here are a few foods to be wary of.
Smoothies and Acai Bowls
Smoothies and acai bowls have healthy ingredients, such as Greek yogurt, almond milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, nut butters, seeds, and more. Yet, they can be high in sugar and calories, as they often have too much stuff in there—moderation is key even with foods that are good for you!
And if you buy it from a store, the portion size can also be larger than you would make for yourself at home. Some have 600+ calories! If you are making a smoothie or acai bowl from scratch, pick one or two sugary items, like fruit, and load up on green veggies, which are naturally low in calories and sugar. For the protein and fat, pick one or two good sources, again sticking to proper portion size.
Veggie or Sweet Potato Fries
Unless you are making veggie-based or sweet potato fries in the air fryer, which uses minimal oil and to give that crispy “fry” texture for fewer calories and fat, standard sweet potato or veggie fries you’d find on a menu when out will be just as bad for you as regular potato fries.
Think: zucchini, jicama, carrot, and even avocado fries too—these are often still fried and greasy and contain the same amount of sodium or sugar. In fact, don’t sweet potato fries often come with a sweet sauce for dipping? If you’re home, bake them in the oven and use herbs or spices for seasoning instead of salt. If out, get whichever fries you want and split them with friends!
Greek yogurt is touted for its gut benefits, as it has probiotics to regulate the gut and improve digestion, as well as boost your immune system. And it has high protein and calcium to build strong bones and muscles and keep you fuller longer.
Yet, you only get those benefits if you choose a plain or unsweetened yogurt—or at least one low in sugar. Flavored yogurt though is high in sugar and carbs, so eating one for breakfast with granola and fruit (more sugar!) can be just as bad as a donut in terms of its gram count and effects on blood sugar.
Plant-Based Meat Options
Veggie burgers and other plant-based options like those made from tofu, seitan or tempeh are becoming popular as people try to add veggies to their diets and decrease their intake of animal protein.
Yet, it’s all about the type of plant-based burger you’re choosing, as some are highly processed and are laden with hidden added sugars, sodium, and other additives that can be dangerous for your body.
Basically, that meatless option could be worse for you than a beef or turkey burger—especially if you’re eating a plain meat-based burger that is in the proper portion size, is grass-fed or made sustainably, and doesn’t have unhealthy toppings on it, like fried onion rings or four slices of cheese, for example.
If you are buying from the store, check the label to make sure it’s free of harmful ingredients. And if you’re making it at home, try going with the veggie and grain option and use ingredients like mushrooms and quinoa. You can also go half meat and half veggies to decrease saturated fat but still get in good protein and some nice flavor.