Ask Dr. Sally: ‘Can I Become Overweight from Healthy Food?’

Dr. Sally Norton is an NHS weight loss consultant and founder of www.vavistalife.com. She's happy to answer questions you might have about healthy living.

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Dr. Sally Norton - Everyday Diabetes Magazine
Dr. Sally Norton

Q:

“I’m proud of the fact that I don’t eat junk food and stick with healthy foods. But my friend said that I can still put on weight eating “healthy” foods. Is that true?”

A:

Eating healthily is always a good thing: the benefits go beyond weight.  But there are other considerations that you need to take into account if you want to lose weight long term by eating healthily.  

Consider the following:

Good foods need to come in good portions.   For example, nuts are full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. However, the key is sticking to a handful! Nuts are high in calories – and are very moreish…so before you know it you can consume a quarter of your recommended calories for the day. Same goes for dried fruit; a handful constitutes one of your 5-a-day, but get carried away and the calories soon tot up. Beans, whole grains, yogurt, fruit, olive oil – all carry loads of health benefits but check you aren’t eating them to excess.

 Good foods should be as unadulterated as possible.  Scan the shelves of a health food shop and you will find bags of dried fruit that have more sugar added. As if the natural, concentrated sugar within the dried fruit needs adding to. A big bowl of delicious salad or veg can more than quadruple its calorie count from the added dressing. Sometimes with extra salt and sugar too and don’t forget smoothies with more sugar than a can of coke. Not quite so healthy now.

 We are being duped. Clever manufacturers know that healthy food is a market winner. We are often happy to pay more if we think that a food is good for us. Problem is, unless we look carefully at the small print, we may simply be persuaded to buy when we spot a label that says natural sugars, healthy, organic, whole grain and the like. Yes, it may tick some ‘good’ boxes – but wholegrain muesli bars full of fat and sugar may do us more harm than good. And low-fat, which for years we associated with dieting, may simply mean chock-full of sugar or other agents that improve taste, but add calories.

We may eat more if we feel virtuous:

How many of us feel that we were so good in choosing the salad for main that we deserve the dessert after? Or that in resisting the chocolate bar in favor of the fruit flapjack, we are allowed an extra snack later? It is very easy to fool ourselves that we are eating so healthily that we can indulge more as a result. It’s well recognized – diners told that they are eating healthy food tend to consume larger portions than those who are given the same food but without that information.

 


Dr. Sally Norton is happy to answer questions you might have about health and diet. Send your question to editor@everydaydiabetes.com

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