10 Healthy Foods that Aren’t Always so Healthy

As the weather cools off here in VA, I’ve been bringing out my winter clothes and noticing that a lot of my pants seem a little tighter than they were last year. Thank heavens I work from home most of the time because lately I’ve been dreading wearing anything besides yoga pants. Gotta love stretchy pants!

Anyhow, I feel as though I do all the right things — try to work out or do some sort of physical activity every day (although I still think I sit way too much) and eat relatively healthy, but yet still, it seems like my weight is slowly creeping up. My weight has always fluctuated day to day (around 5 lbs) and I don’t get wrapped up in the number, but the higher end of my normal range right now is about 5 pounds higher than it was last year.

I recently saw an article about healthy foods that are sabotaging your diet and after looking at it, I realized many of the foods were items I eat on the regular AND they also were the items I have a hard time controlling my portions of. Perhaps this goes hand and hand with my weight gain?

This was an eye opening experience so I thought I would share the foods with you:

Almonds 3

1. Nuts and nut butters – I love nut butters and I know nuts are healthy, but they’re also one of the most calorically dense foods. I find that measuring out my nut butter by the tablespoon and counting out nuts is the only way I can stick with the correct portions. I also find that salted and/or roasted nuts are way easier to overeat than raw nuts so I tend to stock-up on the raw varieties.

2. Dried fruit – This one goes hand and hand with the nuts for me because I love trail mix. Dried fruits remove the water content which dramatically decreases volume; what’s left is high amounts of sugar. I love dried fruit but I’m realizing it’s like candy and shouldn’t be consumed as often as I eat it.

3. Bars – Many energy and protein bars are like candy bars, with just as much sugar and mile-long ingredient lists! We’re often lured in by promises of high fiber or protein, but other than these added-in nutrients, there’s not much else. I have certain bars that I like to keep on hand for quick on-the-go snacks, especially when traveling, but whenever I start to notice that I want one every day as a mid-afternoon snack, I take a step back. Real, whole foods are a much better choice for a snack — cue the veggies and hummus.

4. Granola – Granola isn’t inherently “bad” food but it can pack as many as 500 calories + 30g of sugar per cup and it’s so easy to overeat. I find that when I have granola in the house I tend to snack on it by the handful rather than sprinkling a few pieces on yogurt.

5. Fro yo – I LOVE frozen yogurt just as much as anyone else but when you look at the stats, most fro yo has a pretty long ingredient list with food additives and artificial flavors, plus it’s packed with sugar. And don’t get me started on the no sugar added versions — they just use artificial sweeteners (sucralose i.e. Splenda) to make up for the lack of sugar.

Roasted Kabocha Squash1

6. Starchy veggies – I adore winter squashes and sweet potatoes and I know they’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. That said, these starchy vegetables are higher in calories and sugar than nonstarchy vegetables (like leafy greens, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, and celery), so it’s important to moderate your portions — which is hard for me, especially when I’ve made something like butternut squash fries. I have literally eaten the whole pan (a full squash worth) for dinner (with ketchup)!

7. Avocado – Avocado is awesome and a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat, but one large avocado is about 300 calories and 30 grams of fat. This isn’t something that I tend to overeat (unless I’m eating guacamole), but its good to remember that 1/4 of an avocado is one serving.

8. Healthy chips – The Pringles slogan (once you pop, you just can’t stop) is sooo true — even with the “healthy” veggie-based chips. Sure, they’re healthier than regular chips but if can’t stick with one serving, not so much.

9. Cereal – Most of time I buy healthy varieties but one bowl is never enough and I never feel satisfied for long after eating it.

10. Healthy baked goods – I’m always testing out new recipes and trying to come up with healthy treats to share here but sometimes having an abundance of treats in the house is not a good thing for me. They sit on the counter tempting me all day and once I eat one, it’s over.

Now, I’m not sharing this list to say that I’m going to stop eating these foods (or that anyone else should) but I wanted to share that sometimes even health coaches struggle with portion control and maintaining our weight. Moving forward, I just want to be more mindful of what (and how much) I’m consuming. Granted, overeating “healthy” things is probably better than overeating candy bars but at the end of the day, it’s not serving my body — hence the tight pants thing I have going on at the moment.

My plan is to be more conscious by measuring my portions of nuts, nut butters and the other high-calories items I love and also limiting my consumption of the foods I tend to overeat like granola and “healthy” chips. I’ve realized that these snack foods (granola, trail mix, chips, cereal) are the foods that I can’t just have one portion of — I keep going back to the kitchen for more. For me, it’s better to just not to have these items in the house, store them in a cabinet that is higher-up and out of sight (out of sight, out of mind — it works!) or to buy portion controlled packages like the Just a Handful trail mix packages from Trader Joe’s.

Are there any “healthy” foods that aren’t so healthy out there that I missed? Are there certain foods you tend to overeat? Any tips to share or do you just keep the items out of the house? 

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    61 comments
    1. aliza jane
      June 16, 2017 AT 6:35 am

      nice to be here, well very impressive post keep writing.

    2. Meg
      December 17, 2013 AT 4:48 pm

      Oh gosh – so similar to you with the butternut fries -HA! Love em, and devour them immediately upon making them, even if I’ve made “extra” for later…ya right, haha!

      Love this, i think a lot of foods have a health halo, and rightfully so! But in moderation, as everything in life 🙂

    3. laura
      December 17, 2013 AT 4:23 pm

      There is a reason this post is called 10 Healthy Foods that Aren’t Always so Healthy. You did a great job Brittany showing that even the healthiest of foods, are not always good for you, especially in supersize amounts. I’m in school studying to be a naturopathic doctor and diet is a huge part of our curriculum. We learn portion sizes because if you’re patient is interested in feeling better and maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight, too much of any food can be a bad thing. Nuts and avocados are GREAT, but you don’t need to eat an entire jar, or as you said, it’s better to sprinkle granola than eat from the hand. We have a serious portion distortion here in North America and people have ZERO clue what a serving size actually looks like. I always advocate for healthy foods with my friends and family, and remind them though that everything in moderation, and just because it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it will lead to weight loss (if that’s your goal) if you over eat. I suffered from an ED in the past and have come a long way and this blog doesn’t trigger anything for me. Instead it helps me remember the importance of choosing a wide variety of foods and eating sensibly, to avoid over eating and feelings of guilt later on.

    4. Lauren
      December 17, 2013 AT 2:36 pm

      I love this, and I am so happy I am not alone!
      I struggle badly with portion control, and as a result have a layer of fat all over my body that just can’t seem to shift (you know what I am talking about, the one you can just feel and you feel yuck!)
      I struggle with hummus as well! All these things that are so morish!

      I have just added this article to my laptop bookmarks list, so that I can refer to it and refresh my memory when I need reminding about PORTION CONTROL! Thank you 🙂 xxxxx

    5. Anya
      November 19, 2013 AT 6:54 pm

      Okay, this article is seriously misleading. Healthy ≠ low in calories and fat. A MASSIVE problem amongst women interested in health and fitness is under-eating. A calorie deficit should get you to a healthy weight, but once you have achieved your original goal (and not some new goal you invented when you got hooked on weight-loss), then it’s time to start eating your recommended intake. Avocados are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, starchy vegetables have more calories as they contain less water, but they also contain a lot more nutrients per serving than other vegetables.

      What I expected from this article was diet drinks, brown rice, grains, surprisingly low-percentage dark chocolate (Cadbury’s Bournville- I’m talking to you), unfermented soy, low-fat dairy, vitamin supplements, margarine, tinned tomatoes….
      Instead you’ve scare mongered about some perfectly healthy foods.

      Eating disorders kill 10% of their sufferers- it is irresponsible to contribute to the ”fat is evil” myth, especially on such a popular blog and I’m really disappointed in this. Anything is excess is unhealthy but I’d rather eat too many avocados or sweet potatoes than fill myself with the artificial rubbish that is in diet products.

      1. Lauren
        December 17, 2013 AT 2:37 pm

        Can I please ask what you mean about brown rice and grains?

      2. Eating Bird Food
        November 19, 2013 AT 10:50 pm

        Hi Anya,

        I 100% agree with you that all of these foods are healthy foods and good for you. I consume most of them daily, which is why I wrote the blog post. I was just sharing that, for me, some of these foods cause overeating and just because they’re healthy, it doesn’t mean that I can eat without abandon and not expect to gain weight.

        I definitely wasn’t trying to prove that healthy foods are only those low in calories and fat. I completely disagree with that statement as well. 🙂

    6. Ceara @ Ceara’s Kitchen
      November 13, 2013 AT 8:39 am

      Great post! I love love love all nut butters but sometimes it is hard to stop after 1 tbsp! Thanks for your honesty with this post! 🙂

    7. Kelly @ Femme Fitale
      November 12, 2013 AT 11:14 pm

      I think this post is interesting, and was curious to read through the comments. As expected, there are a variety of opinions (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
      As someone who brings home EVERYTHING on this list each week from the grocery store, I totally see how it’s possible to go overboard and eat way more than a serving sized portion. This info is excellent for those who are unsure about the nutritional information of certain foods, like nuts for example. Especially if you ARE trying to lose weight {the healthy way}, then it’s important to keep in mind you can’t have an all-you can eat buffet, regardless if it’s nutritious food or not.
      That being said, I think portion control varies greatly from person to person. Personally, I know my portions are much more significant than those outlined here. I can never imagine counting out my almonds, for example. It depends on a number of things including intensity/type/frequency of exercise you are doing, metabolism, occupation, height and body structure, etc. Also, these 10 foods are all nutritionally dense and filling, therefore you are bound to fill up so much more quickly then if you were snacking on junk food (and therefore can’t possibly eat as much).
      As with anything, I think moderation is key. However, I believe that when you consume whole, natural foods and stay physically active, your body will find it’s happy place.

      1. Eating Bird Food
        November 19, 2013 AT 11:17 pm

        Thanks for your comment Kelly. I 100% agree. My motto is and always has been moderation is key.

    8. Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat
      November 12, 2013 AT 2:16 pm

      This is a great post! I eat all of these foods and quite honestly, I can overdo it with them sometimes, especially granola – it’s so addicting. I think it’s about portion control and I need to start measuring things out and limiting my portions so I don’t over indulge too much. Thanks for the info!

    9. Kim
      November 12, 2013 AT 9:44 am

      Lisa, I completely agree and I do have an eating disorder. If this blog triggers you then you shouldn’t read it. I cannot tell you how much this blog helps me. Brittany is simply stating a fact. It is not healthy to overeat and that goes for anything. She NEVER says calories are unhealthy.

      1. Eating Bird Food
        November 19, 2013 AT 11:15 pm

        I appreciate your comment Kim and I’m so happy to hear that my blog has helped you. Made my day! 🙂

    10. Lisa
      November 11, 2013 AT 3:08 pm

      Maybe it’s because I don’t have an eating disorder that I was completely surprised about some of the comments relating to this post. I actually went back and reread the post to make sure I was reading the right post. I found this post to be informative and straightforward. These foods, while healthy, can certainly be overly fatty if overconsumed. That goes for anything. Eat too many carrots, and your skin will take on an orange hue. What’s the big deal about pointing out that moderation also applies to “healthy” food? If reading articles or blogs (especially those based in fact) are triggers that fuel someone’s disorder, the writer of that article should not be blamed.

    11. Hanna
      November 10, 2013 AT 12:47 pm

      Thank you for this article. It’s refreshing to know that other people such as yourself have struggles controlling portions of certain items too! I am with you on the granola…. I don’t often buy it or make it anymore as I end up eating it for each meal of the day being that I love it so much! Avocado is also something I can easily overeat as are corn chips, Special K chips and…….ice cream! I find that if I do not have these items in the house it’s better. I will buy them occasionally, as a treat, but I feel it’s better to not have them on hand so there’s no risk of overeating them.

    12. Val
      November 10, 2013 AT 10:32 am

      Your post makes it seem like calories are bad. For example your justification of why nuts are unhealthy starts with the fact that they are calorie dense. And the same with starchy veggies and avocado…these things are ALL healthy and if you simply satisfy your body with them then there should be no reason to measure them out or consider their calorie content. Calories are not unhealthy.

      1. Eating Bird Food
        November 10, 2013 AT 11:54 pm

        I can see where you’re coming from but I didn’t mean for it sound as though I think calories are bad thing. I know these foods are healthy but sometimes it’s important to remember (at least for me) that even though something is healthy, it’s still a good idea to be mindful of your portions.

      2. Kaila @healthyhelperblog!
        November 10, 2013 AT 11:02 pm

        Well said.

    13. Sara @ sarasmiles
      November 9, 2013 AT 11:34 am

      Ha as I am reading this I am eating a big bowl of Kale, sweet potatoes egg and handful of nuts for lunch. I am really bad at portions too…but at least I loaded up the kale. Oh well…

      1. Eating Bird Food
        November 10, 2013 AT 11:59 pm

        Sounds like a delicious lunch to me. 🙂

    14. Nikki @ The Road to Less Cake
      November 8, 2013 AT 2:31 pm

      I’m totally with you. I try and measure my nut butters, usually between 1 tsp to 1 tbsp and no more,

      I find that with any cereal, I will grab handfuls of it. So try not to have too much in the house.

    15. Kimberly
      November 8, 2013 AT 10:41 am

      I have the same issue. I got married earlier this year in May, and was in the best shape of my life. Went on a honeymoon and took a break from exercising for 3 weeks, came back 5 pounds heavier. I went back to my normal eating and exercise regimen (training for upcoming 1/2 and full marathons) but the weight doesn’t seem to want to come off. I just didn’t get it. So I am trying to accept my body the way it is – as long as I feel good and strong!

    16. Erika s
      November 8, 2013 AT 9:02 am

      I agree, a lot of healthy foods, especially processed weight loss meals etc are just hiding behind a label, they still contain ingredients that aren’t great for you. In the UK, I love eating health crisps designed by Special K, but I agree with you one pack is never enough and doesn’t keep you full for long. I think eating a balanced diet, with the right portion size is the only way to go. Thanks for sharing

    17. Nadine
      November 7, 2013 AT 10:28 pm

      I love your point about nuts – everyone raves on about them, and they are so tasty and healthy….in moderation. But if you eat nuts all the time, they aren’t so good for you. The devil really is in the dose!

    18. Kaila @healthyhelperblog!
      November 7, 2013 AT 4:58 pm

      I think lists like this can be a bit dangerous. While I agree it’s important to not go overboard on any foods, I don’t think it’s necessary to ‘call out’ healthy foods. There is enough restriction and worry about what we’re putting in our mouths as it is. Lists like these can contribute to more obsessiveness and more labeling of foods as good or bad. I think we should just focus on fueling ourselves with real whole foods according to our appetites. I think there are a lot more important things to be worrying about than how much squash we’re eating.

      1. Eating Bird Food
        November 19, 2013 AT 11:13 pm

        Totally agree Kaila. I wasn’t meaning to call our these healthy foods and say that they’re “bad” — more just saying that these are some foods that tend to lead to overeating for me. 🙂

    19. Amanda @ .running with spoons.
      November 7, 2013 AT 3:51 pm

      Kabocha has been -killing- me lately. It’s not fair that such a delicious and healthy veggie can be so set on sabotaging me 😛 A few things that I’ve found help are portioning it off into separate smaller containers, trying to avoid eating standing over the counter, and never sitting down at the computer/TV with a full container/box of something so that I don’t end up absentmindedly eating it all.

      1. L
        November 7, 2013 AT 6:43 pm

        Hey Amanda, I hope you don’t mind me asking but how is kabocha sabotaging you? After reading your comment I am curious

        1. Amanda @ .running with spoons.
          November 7, 2013 AT 7:03 pm

          Hi L! My comment was meant to be more silly than serious… The only negative effect I’ve experienced from kabocha is a bloated squash belly if I eat too much of it at once.

    20. Anna @ Fitness à la Anna
      November 7, 2013 AT 3:09 pm

      Trailmix is my downfall – the mix of nuts and dried fruit gets me every time! I try to pack it in pre-measured baggies to make sure that I don’t over-eat it 🙂

    21. Brandy @ A Mindful Mantra
      November 7, 2013 AT 1:48 pm

      This post sums up exactly what I’m going through right now too! I have a pretty healthy diet because of my candida issues, but I do find myself snacking often..and usually on avocados, nuts, and paleo bread (this is something I’ve had to cut back to baking pretty infrequently hehe!). I too sit all day at work, and with the exception of an ashtanga or spinning class I sit after work too (blogging, reading, and what have you). It takes guts to put it all out there like you did, but it was SO helpful. Thanks 🙂

    22. Danielle Diede
      November 7, 2013 AT 1:22 pm

      OH MAN! I am glad I am not the only one out there having this issue, I have been cooking and eating such healthy meals and making my own snacks and granola, as well as trying to workout more and still my pants are getting tighter. So I finally started writing down what I was all eating in a day, and realized even though I was eating all these healthy items, that I was eating a lot of them, especially all the new recipes I have been finding on here and peanutbutterrunner.com and I just got so excited to try them all I was eating them non stop! Haha so I just need to train myself better on portion control on the new tasty health foods, darn you for those pumpkin muffins, big fan, and start making myself measure more things and learn as I go! So thank you for the helpful information, much appreciated.

    23. Whitney @ Pancakes and Tulips
      November 7, 2013 AT 12:52 pm

      This is a great list! I always have to watch what I’m doing when it comes to nut butters. Typically a serving of almond butter will barely cover a slice of toast and I’d much rather use a truckload 🙂 I disagree with the earlier commentator about “controlling what you eat.” There is a big difference between control in the eating disorder sense and following portions. You did an awesome job on this list and your blog is always informative.

    24. deva
      November 7, 2013 AT 12:46 pm

      This is always something good to remember – it’s very easy to get carried away at this time of year, especially with all the tasty snacks and candies around!

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