How to make sure your favorite health food is as healthy as it sounds

Your body is not a machine: it is a complex, multi-faceted system that requires sensitive and intelligent care if it is to flourish. Simplistic, cover-all answers to your dietary concerns are unlikely to solve your problems. This is not least true in the case of health foods and go-ahead snacks that might very well be good for you in some sense, but which carry a stealthy load of calories that counter much of your good work!

A pack of mixed fruit and nuts, for example, will energize you ahead of a workout and provide an excellent delivery of nutrients. Not only are the textures and flavors of fruit and nuts complementary, eating these foods together has been shown to be helpful in decreasing waist circumference and BMI.

Working your way through a whole packet, however, will require a bit more undoing, exercise-wise. A single, 150g pack carries around one-third of a woman?s or one-quarter of a man?s recommended daily calorie intake. Of course, your precise daily recommendation depends on your individual size and condition, but whatever way you look at it, those fruit and nuts are equivalent to a meal!

To counter such an added whack, you would need to do some serious work around the house: around 45 minutes to 1 hour of moving boxes and furniture, plus the same again tidying things up, according to this new infographic from Budget Direct. Let?s take a closer look at a couple of the other healthy foods they?ve identified as being somewhat calorie-heavy ? and what you can do in your everyday life to burn those calories off.

Hummus

Hummus is healthy, right? It?s made from chickpeas and worshipped by the yoga crowd.

Well, yes and no. Made with good quality ingredients, hummus is full of fiber, proteins, and complex carbs that can help manage your blood-sugar levels, and vitamins K and E which have blood-thinning properties. Antioxidants in the chickpeas should also help lower bad cholesterol.

The danger comes in how you eat it. Let?s take as a given that you?re using carrot sticks or celery as a vehicle for your dip, and not sinful chips or breadsticks. There?s still 208 calories in 110g of hummus, around half a container, which you can easily chomp through if you?re not paying attention. It?s just too moreish!

That calorie bombshell is largely due to the amount of olive oil that goes into hummus. So, if you?re an addict, the first step is to think about switching up to the low-fat off-the-shelf version. Better still, learn to make your own hummus ? it?s quick and simple. That way you know you?re using fresh ingredients, you can control the amount of oil that goes in, and even tailor the recipe to your own preferences ? more spice, less garlic on date night, or even switching up lemon for lime for an exotic twist!

The only issue with perfecting your own recipe is that you?re likely to end up eating even more of it?

So to burn that appetizer overdose off, get out into the garden the next day and mow the lawn. It should take around twenty minutes of cutting the grass, plus a quarter hour of trimming shrubs and bushes to burn off those 208 calories that seemed like a good idea before you got the pre-dinner munchies!

Muesli bars

Unfortunately, aside from the fact that you?re probably running for the bus while eating your muesli bar because you woke up too late and didn?t have time for breakfast, seldom are these convenient snacks as healthy as they are enticing.

The muesli side of it is great. The problem comes with the ?bar? element. Granola bars are often held together by all kinds of added sugars and chemicals, and maybe even a secure coating of something smooth and delicious (hint: oats do not ?cancel out? chocolate).

That?s why it?s important to check the ingredients. Don?t believe the innocent green wrapper or big red letters that say H.E.A.L.T.H.Y. Look for the small print. You want the fruit and nut content to be at the top of the list, and as few E-numbers and chemical-sounding things as possible.

Be careful to distinguish between naturally-occurring sugars and those which by law must be flagged up as ?added sugars?. The addition of the latter generally indicates the manufacturers are more interested in getting you to come back for more than to keep you trim and healthy.

Likewise, those fats are not a simple issue. A bar that is high in fat is not necessarily a bad thing: unsaturated fats from seeds and nuts can be a good, clean energy source and help protect your cardiovascular system. They will also leave you feeling fuller, longer, so you?re not so likely to return for a second innings.

Of course, if you?re not actually running for the bus while eating it then you can just as well prepare a snack that contains the healthy ingredients of a muesli bar without adding the ?bar? element. Raw nuts and seeds, and perhaps a few dark chocolate nibs, should do the job.

And in any case, when it?s time to burn it off, an hour and a half of non-strenuous housework should help you shake off the 184 calories or so you?ll likely absorb from a single, 45g muesli bar.

Heck, you got to clean up some time, don?t ya?

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