I am a big proponent of IIFYM and flexible dieting, so I don’t really think of food in terms of “healthy” and “unhealthy”, and I encourage my clients not to either.
Many people do follow this way of thinking however. And while there is nothing wrong with that, it’s important to realize that just because something is classified as “healthy” doesn’t mean that it can’t hurt your fat loss efforts.
The following is a list of or groups of food commonly though of, or perceived as “healthy”, but may actually be doing you more harm than good…
There are few foods I love more than nut butters. Give me a jar of chocolate almond butter and I will put the whole thing down with no regrets.
And therein lies the problem.
Nuts/nut butters are a decent source of protein, but they are also very high in fat, which makes them very calorically dense. A serving size of nuts is a little smaller than the palm of your hand, and for nut butters its just two tablespoons. Neither of those is very big, making nuts and nut butters very easy to overeat.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with these, it’s important to be mindful of how much you are eating. If you watch your serving sizes and practice moderation, it is perfectly fine to include these in your diet.
Dried Fruit & Fruit Juices
Fruit gets a lot of hate from people because it’s main component is fructose, or sugar. However, fruit also contains a decent amount of fiber and water, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Dried fruit and fruit juices however, contain none of the benefits of normal fruit. Dried fruit is basically pure sugar and like nuts, it is very calorically dense and extremely easy to overeat.
And while dried fruit is bad, fruit juices are even worse. Often times they contain no real fruit, just fruit flavoring. Also, like dried fruit, they have all the good stuff taken out. So even if you are drinking 100% fruit juice, you still aren’t getting any of the benefits of eating real fruit.
Bottom line: If you want fruit, just eat actual fruit!
Don’t. Just don’t.
Like the first two items on this list, most health bars are calorically dense and high in sugar. Most of them also contain very little protein.
(Side Rant: If you see anything advertised as “High Protein” and it doesn’t have at least 20g per serving, it’s not high protein.)
If there are bars that you enjoy eating feel free to eat them. Just make sure they fit your calorie or macronutrient goals for the day. Just don’t eat them because you think they are “healthy” or better for you. Then you’re just wasting your money.
Lets settle this once and for all…unless you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy/sensitivity; it is perfectly, 110%, fine to consume gluten. Gluten is not bad, it is not unhealthy, and it will not make your dick fly off.
Most products that are made gluten-free contain just as many, if not more carbs than their gluten-filled counterpart. Gluten-free products are not inherently healthier than products that contain gluten either.
And they certainly aren’t magic when it comes to fat loss.
If you handle gluten fine, then don’t worry about eating it. Don’t be one of these people.
The war on fat may have been the biggest mistake in the history of nutrition. Since “experts” recommended people reduce their intake of fats (specifically animal fats) many major diseases have actually increased.
Low-fat foods taste like shit. So in order to make people want to buy them, companies had to add a whole bunch of salt and sugar to these foods to make them taste good. And while I am about as far away from the “sugar is evil” crowd as you can get, it has been shown that excess amounts of sugar in your diet can lead to a host of health problems, namely obesity, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.
So what’s the alternative? Simply just buy the full-fat versions of stuff. Fat has a ton of health benefits, such as raising good cholesterol and aiding in testosterone production, so there is absolutely no reason to fear it.
Thanks to Dr. Atkins and the like, the fear of carbs has been at an all-time high the last decade. While the nuances of carbs and carb tolerance are a topic for a separate article, it basically boils down to this: Carbs are our body’s preferred source of energy. If you are an active individual, your body needs and can tolerate more carbs than if you are more inactive.
So yes, there are some people who would benefit from eating a low-carb diet. What they would not benefit from however, is eating lots of highly processed low-carb foods. If you look at the ingredients, you’ll see that these contain very little real food. You’re not doing your body any favors by stuffing it with high-processed, chemically laced, “healthy” junk food.
If you feel like you would benefit from a low-carb diet, simply don’t eat carbs. Replace them with high-fiber veggies, nuts, meats, eggs, fish, high-fat dairy, and the occasional potato.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking just because something is labeled as “healthy” that it will help you lose fat. Calories matter most, and all food, even “health” food, contains calories.