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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  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

    • 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. 🙂

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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 🙂

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. Thank you for this post Brittany! I can totally relate and have stuck to measuring out nuts, nut butter and dried fruit as you have indicated. It works for me so I hope it works for you too. I think it is great that you wrote this post — it shows your knowledgable but arguably most importantly “real”… and don’t give the negative comments (as seen above, which is making me super angry) a second thought. No place for negativity here 🙂 Happy Thursday.

  21. Oh I totally hear you!! (And I’m sorry you’re having to deal with silly hateful comments!). Trail mix and cereal are the worst offenders for me- I can keep going back for more and more and more before I know it! Definitely healthy in moderation, but it all can add up. One that bugs me is yogurt- a lot of people talk about it as a healthy food (and it is! Love my plain greek yogurt!) but for those who don’t know to check the labels, there are sooo many products with loads of added ingredients and sugars that make it unhealthy. It kills me because these people are TRYING to do something right!!

  22. Wow, story of my life right now! I just stepped on the scale today for the first time in a while and saw a number I’ve never seen before. I eat every single item on that list so I guess it’s time to take a look at my portions! I do buy those small packs from Trader Joe’s and I also portion out snacks into smaller bags to grab and go. I’m totally guilty of the “healthy” chips thing, though!

  23. After reading your posts for about a year or so, it appears to me that you have an eating disorder, still. I have a degree in this area and have also suffered from an ED myself. I don’t think you are a good influence for women. It’s very sad. Good luck. Sad your life revolves around controlling what you eat (or more importantly, what you don’t) and I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to spread this nonsense with other women.

    • Hi Beth –

      I must comment on your post. I am in recovery from an 18 yar battle with an ED. I am appalled that you are making a diagnosis for Brittany without even knowing her! Brittany’s blog has helped me so much! i think she is an incredible role model. Her recipes are healthy but not restrictive. She seems to live a full fun life. Most importantly, she says “My weight has always fluctuated day to day (around 5 lbs) and I don’t get wrapped up in the number”. Do you know how helpful that is for me to hear someone who doesn’t get wrapped up in the number! I think any woman without an ED would feel a little uncomfortable with their pants getting tighter. Brittany’s reaction is not to restrict like mine would be. It is to eat in moderation. She is giving tips on portion control. This is something that everyone should know. She is basically saying eating an entire bag of trail mix is not healthy WHICH IT ISN’T! Eating an entire bag of anything isn’t healthy. I am so scared to hear you have a degree in this area. Please stop making diagnosises on someone you don’t know.

      • for beth:

        You’re comment is rude and inappropriate, and doesn’t belong in a place where women come to celebrate health and wellness. While I do empathize with your struggle with an ED, I have to stand up for Brittany and say that you are completely misunderstanding her message. This blog is chalked full of wonderful advice on how to eat cleanly, energize your body through empowering working outs, and encourage people to find the beauty and flavour in eating more whole foods in their near to natural state. I find great inspiration in her recipes! Negativity is unnecessary.
        and If you don’t have anything nice to say…

        • Hi guys,
          I have been reading this blog quite regularly for a while, and I am also in recovery from an ED. Unfortunately I found this blog during a bad stage of my ED and I occasionally looked at it to fuel ED thoughts (though literally ANYTHING to do with food would have served that purpose so that is not a swipe at this blog!). I now enjoy reading this blog with a healthier approach to food.
          I have also considered Brittany’s attitude to food at some points but concluded that a)it isn’t right to scrutinize her relationship with food to the degree of speculating whether she has an ED just because she writes about her diet- it is her job after all! and b) her blog is mostly positive, and I have enjoyed using her recipes as inspiration for meals during my recovery.
          However to Kim and Dominique: while your comments are valid, I think Beth’s comments are worth considering. I agree that it is unfair to accuse Brittany of encouraging a bad relationship with food as this is a site based around health BUT I have noticed a different tone to other sites such as OhSheGlows, which I personally find to be much more positive about food; this site focuses more on discipline/wariness with food and is more weight conscious than some other blogs I read. While this doesn’t necessarily mean Brittany is promoting an unhealthy preoccupation with weight management, I tend to visit this site less and look at sites such as OhSheGlows more, as I find it less triggering. Particularly as the woman who runs that blog has had an ED and is therefore very conscious to only write about food/exercise purely in terms of enjoyment rather than as a tool for weight management. This site also does that to some extent but the weight aspect of it is noticeable to me, though again I am very sensitive about that.
          In summary: as a woman who has had/is in recovery from an eating disorder I can find myself a little uncomfortable with aspects of this site sometimes. However, I believe this is due to my sensitivity around the subject of food/exercise/weight rather than Brittany advocating unhealthy attitudes by “normal” standards.
          I’m not criticizing Brittany as her site is great, but perhaps it is not appropriate for people with a history of EDs. People In my experience people who have had an ED often have to be very conscious and much more careful in their attitude to food etc in a way that people who have not had an ED don’t. I am unable to even consider trying to manage my weight and have to build a different relationship with my body/food/exercise etc as a result of my eating disorder.
          This was a complete ramble as I’m not used to speaking about my ED but I hope I got my point across without appearing to attack this site- this wasn’t my intention; it’s a great blog but (in my opinion) potentially triggering, just like any other health site that might mention weight management/food regulation. 🙂

          • *just to add to the rambling essay further* Kim: I am glad this site has helped you, and yes tips on portion control are useful.
            But I want to reiterate think that perhaps people with a history of EDs should be wary when reading any health material (not just this site) regarding food,exercise and weight because it could be triggering and potentially become their life’s focus again.

  24. I love it! Only someone who is health conscious would list winter squash as a food that you tend to overindulge on. I’m with you on this one, for sure. I cut up and roast a whole kabocha squash at one time, and usually end up eating 3/4 of it by the time I pack up the leftovers. No wonder I’m turning a slight shade of orange. Anyway, thanks for the list. It’s a nice reminder that even though something is good for you, too much can be bad for our waistlines.

  25. It doesn’t seem fair that healthy foods shouldn’t be “free” food. HA. But alas. Calorie counting is the only thing that ever works for me. Someone else mentioned a little digital scale, and I too use it to portion out nuts, cereals, even sweet potatos (which I Lo.Ve.). Keeps me from overeating, but still get a healthy treat. I also love Myfitnesspal app.

  26. Portion control is always the killer, isn’t it? Even the healthiest things aren’t so good when you eat too much.

    I love salty stuff, and find I always overdo it on hummus… when I open a container that’s got 10 servings in it, it’s so easy to plow through half of it!! Even on baby carrots or broccoli, that’s still 5 servings of hummus.

    So, despite the heartbreak of waste created by single serving packages, I do find them helpful for products that I know I tend to over indulge on (IE hummus). And for me, Costco is a great resource for single serve stuff at a reasonable price.

  27. I think this goes right along with everything in moderation. Some of the “healthy for you” foods out there doesn’t mean they don’t have a high calorie count. It is all about being aware of what you are putting into your mouth. Sometimes you do better than other days and that is OK.

    I agree with you about having healthy treats around the house! I love love making them but knowing they are there does tend to make me snack a bit too much sometimes! Love this post – thanks for the reminder!

  28. those ‘healthy’ root veggie chips get me every time; i can down a whole bag sometimes. i’ve started only buying 1 bag a week or even making my own, although they never taste the same :). same thing with squashes and nuts/nut butters. it’s so easy to justify eating more than necessary since they are ‘healthy.’
    another great post, brittany!
    p.s. i’m living in yoga pants these days too!

  29. Girl I totally hear ya! I have definitely polished off whole squash at a time and bags of granola far too quickly! Like you said, it’s better than over eating candy bars, but we may or may not have been a little more motivated to stay away last year with our upcoming weddings 😉 Regardless, I know we got this again this year!

  30. I find it helpful to make your own single-serving packages. Usually on Sunday, I’ll count out a portion of almonds/raisins and tie them up in small plastic bags, one bag for each work day. I’ll take one as a snack (and reuse the plastic bags for the next week’s batch). This helps in portion control – if I take more than one bag, I know it’s more food than I need, AND I don’t make any “extra” bags. 🙂

    But in all seriousness, keep up the great work, Brittany!! You’re doing great!!

  31. I completely know what you mean!!! I could honestly live off of nuts and nut butters, but I know that when I am feeling a little “fluffy” it’s usually time for me to cut back. I still like to enjoy these foods, for me it’s all about portion control! Are you still doing the 24 day challenge?? I would love to hear what you thought about it!

  32. You hit the nail on the head with this article! I have followed you for a long time and this is one of my faves! It is so true about bnut squash or sweet potato fries with ketchup. love those! thanks for the reminders!

  33. I’m a sucker for monumental portions of roasted squash! I just can’t resist! Great tips missus! I do measure/weight out nut butter, seeds and nuts as I know how easy it is to over eat them. A little digital scales is very handy!

  34. This is such a great call out. I am a health coach as well and fully advocate eating whole foods and practice what I preach. However, I’m not perfect, and portion control is definitely my achilles heel. I think it’s better to make your own granola instead of prepurchasing a type that might include some unknown ingredients but it’s not that much better when I eat it buy the cupful…all of the things above are so delicious it’s hard to stop!

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