It’s no wonder so many people are overweight and obese when there are so many mixed messages about what we eat. What’s actually healthy or lower in calories, and what are actually calorie horrors? (It’s almost Halloween, let us have that one!)
You never want to think of yourself as someone who has fallen for advertising tricks, but there’s no denying that the media plays a big part in convincing us that some higher calorie options are healthier than they actually are.
We’re not ones to say ‘don’t eat that!’ unless we’re talking about squid or snails (ew), but we do believe in being armed with as much knowledge as possible so you can make informed decisions about whether it’s worth eating peanut butter directly from the jar.
So let’s sort the wheat from the chaff and take a look at what calorie horrors lie in wait…
Calorie horrors: the ones to watch
What could be healthier than a nice handful of fruit for a snack? Stick to fresh fruit and you’re golden, but be wary of dried fruit. Dried varieties are higher in calories than fresh and it’s so much easier to eat more of them too, as the drying process makes them shrink. And in the case of banana and apple chips, they’re crunchy and incredibly moreish.
Horror: Holland & Barrett crunchy banana chips, per 50g: 258 calories
Heaven: Holland & Barrett dried dates, per 50g: 117 calories
Granola and muesli had a real PR campaign going in the 90s which made us all think they were oh so good for us (think svelte people skiing) when actually a bowl full of oats, nuts and dried fruit is pretty high in calories when you’re not burning it off at the slopes afterwards.
We’ll give muesli a pass, as it’s not quite as bad as granola, which tends to be higher in sugar than its Swiss buddy. The nutritional label on the front of a box of granola may make it seem like a decent choice, but 50g of granola is like 3 chunks and you’ll soon want to go back for more.
Horror: Dorset Cereals Honey Granola, per 50g: 262 calories
Heaven: Have a bowl of muesli instead (Alpen Original, per 50g: 187 calories) or use granola as a topper for yoghurt instead of filling a whole bowl.
Supermarket pasta pots
It’s tempting to opt for a pasta pot when you’re picking an option for your supermarket meal deal because surely you’re going for the better option – good old dependable pasta versus all that creamy sauce, mayo and bread in the sandwich options.
But you’d be surprised at how many calories these pots can pack in, especially when at first glance they’re full of greens and the packaging proudly boasts about no mayo.
Horror: Morrisons tomato and basil pasta pot: 617 calories
Heaven: If it’s pasta you’re craving, you’re probably better off making your own. But we could say that about everything, right? If you’re just trying to make the best of the supermarket to go section, we’d heartily recommend Tesco’s delicious teriyaki salmon rice bowl, which comes in at 382 calories.
Peanut butter is another one of those foods that can be a very good thing to include in your diet, as it’s high in protein and healthy fats. There have even been studies that show that people who eat peanuts on a regular basis are less likely to be obese.
But peanut butter can be really high in calories and saturated fat, so choose your brand carefully and watch your portion sizes.
Horror: One tablespoon of Tesco smooth peanut butter, 95 calories and 7.8g fat, 1.1g of which are saturates.
Heaven: One tablespoon of Meridian smooth peanut butter, 89 calories and 6.9g fat, 1.1g of which are saturates. Ok, so that’s not much different to the Tesco one above, as peanut butters have raised their game health-wise in recent years. So it’s all about your portion size, and not spooning it into your mouth straight from the jar.
Back in 2014, Lucozade got in trouble for claiming that Lucozade Sport hydrates and fuels you ‘better than water’ when…well, it doesn’t. Their adverts were pulled and it made the Natural Hydration Council angry.
Lucozade reckons what they meant was that sports drinks can contribute to ‘the maintenance of endurance performance during prolonged endurance exercise’, which is a lot less catchy.
In short, save yourself 140 calories and sip on some water, unless you’re doing a marathon.
Horror: One bottle of orange Lucozade Sport, 140 calories
Heaven: Water. Lovely, lovely water.
Avocado rightly deserves its reputation as a superfood as it’s high in monounsaturated fats (that’s the good kind) and a great source of vitamin E, which strengthens the immune system and helps to keep your skin and eyes healthy.
But it’s also relatively high in calories, with a whole one coming in at around 300 calories depending on the size. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t eat avocado, but just be aware of how much you’re slathering on your avo toast.
Sort-of-Horror: An average whole avocado, 300 calories.
Heaven: Bulk out your guacamole with things like red onion, tomato and spinach.