Some foods can be healthy but also packed with calories. Under some circumstances this may not matter, if you’re not on a weight-loss diet for example. It may even be an advantage in some cases; people taking part in endurance challenges (for instance, yachtsmen during strenuous races) tend to want high-calorie meals to keep their strength up. Of course if you are on a weight-loss diet you will probably want to avoid the healthy but high foods. Either way, it’s as well to be aware of what they are.
You might be surprised to learn that not all fruit and vegetables are necessarily as low in calories as you might think. Avocados are well known for being calorie bombs – yes, they’re full of vitamins and other essential trace elements, but they’re also very high in monounsaturated fat. Nuts and seeds are another food source high in monounsaturated fats (think about it: sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, walnut oil…), so best not to scoff too many while you’re drinking your diet lager (hmm… is there really such a thing?).
More surprisingly, bananas are a potent source of calories as well as potassium, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. The average banana contains between 90 and 130 kcals. Likewise fruit juice – with plenty of natural fructose, drink too much of it and it can be a substantial contribution to your daily calorie intake as well as one of the “Five a day” that the Department of Health are trying to get Britons to eat. There can be as many as 100 kcals in a 200ml glass of fruit juice, so if you’ve been exercising vigorously to burn the love handles off, don’t undo all that good work by quenching your thirst with OJ.
Salads are healthy, of course. But what do you put on them? A tablespoon of dressing can contain more calories than a slice of bread.
Spreads are another concentrated source of calories (with the exception of Marmite: just 10 kcals in a 4g serving). Peanut butter gives you a double whammy: the oil from the peanuts and the sugar added by the manufacturer! Watch the butter and margarine, too – if you like your bread slathered with butter rather than simple “bread ‘n’ scrape”, you’re getting more calories from the spread than you are from the bread.
Look out for hidden sugar, too – many breakfast cereals already contain sugars in one form or another, so if you’re counting calories you might want to watch how many more you sling on (and how much cereal you’re pouring into your bowl in the first place). And don’t make the mistake of thinking that muesli’s nothing more than posh sawdust! Even if your preferred brand doesn’t contain processed sugar (sucrose), there’s every chance it’s still chock full of glucose, fructose and lactose. Why do you think muesli bars are so popular with mountaineers?