Do you also belong to the cases of people who try to eat salads for dinner, bars, or smoothies for a midday or afternoon snack and a toast or sandwich for breakfast or lunch? A reason you may be doing that is because these options are considered to be very nutrient-rich and much lower in calories. Another reason is because you think this is the way to lose the extra weight you’ve been trying for so long or you’re doing it to increase the protein you consume within your day. But…I would suggest you think again!
What do I mean by all that? I'll tell you right away! There are a few "snacks" or quick meals that have gained a very good reputation for their nutritional value, but ultimately load us with a lot of extra calories, saturated fats, sugar, and much less protein than we imagine or want to get from a meal! Yes, you can consume some of the above snacks during the week, but it's always a good idea to look at what exactly you are buying or what you put in your energy bar, smoothie, or salad and make balanced choices. Otherwise, you will not see the desired results in terms of losing weight or increasing muscle mass.
Portions, that is the amounts you can consume, also play an important part. An energy bar may be nutrient-rich, for example, but if you consume 2 or 3 within your day -or generally more than your body needs- then surely instead of seeing your scale numbers decreasing, they will increase! As you understand, whether something is nutritious and healthy, depends on the person who consumes it and their needs.
So, shall we take a closer look at the snacks with this deceptive healthy reputation?
Energy bars and smoothies
Is your favorite energy bar or smoothie as innocent as you think? Have you looked at the exact ingredients that they contain? An energy bar or a smoothie can be a nutrient-rich option when they contain fruit, oats, nuts, seeds, tahini, peanut butter, or almond butter. But they can also easily become calorie bombs when they contain butter and sugar. It is best to make your own energy bars or smoothies and know exactly what you are putting in your recipe! But if that doesn't happen, just check the nutrition facts label and what's inside! They should not contain more than 200 to 250 calories per serving (especially if your goal is to lose weight), they should have at least 3 to 6 g fiber, 10 to 15 g protein (this also depends on the person who will consume them and their needs) and they should contain as little processed sugar as possible (<10 g per serving). Remember that the goal is to eat a meal that will make you feel full for longer and will not make you crave another "sweet" option during the day.
Also, keep in mind that a smoothie or energy bar should be a complete meal…that is, it should include protein, complex carbs, and good fats. Some of you, for example, may consume a smoothie that contains only fruits and due to its high sugar content, it will not bring you satiety and eventually it will make you feel even hungrier! Just top up your smoothie with a bit of yogurt, tahini, flaxseeds and oats, so you can have a filling and complete meal.
Salad, sandwich, or toast?
A salad is theoretically a healthy choice, but if you include a dressing or a heavy sauce in it, then the only sure thing is that your salad will have many more calories than you think. For this reason, we must include in our diet salads that are rich in nutrients and that will make us feel full for longer. As we said, the purpose of meals is to eat and be full and not to eat a meal that will cause a spike in our blood sugar levels and will not make us satiated!
The same goes for sandwiches or toasts which, when they contain a few simple ingredients, are usually more balanced and richer in nutrients. But there are also those that are high in calories as they may still contain some sauce or cold cuts or some fat-rich cheese. So, think carefully about what you should and should not include in your meal, as well as how many toasts-sandwiches you will consume.
And yet our favorite breakfast - which has become a trend - can also become a calorie bomb, even if we overdo it with the healthiest ingredients that we put in. Many people have started overdoing it with seeds, nuts, nut butters or fruits that they add to their breakfast. So, don't overdo it! For sure, what you eat should be nutrient-dense, but make sure you eat exactly what your body needs and what a specialist has advised. What you may find healthy because of an ad you saw, may eventually contain a lot of extra calories!
We often buy meals that we consider to be low in calories and then, we see that the opposite is true. So, start looking a little more closely at the nutrition facts labels and ingredients on the labels of the products you buy, as well as the ingredients you include in the recipes you make!
This article was written in collaboration with the Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.
* The website akispetretzikis.com offers as a service a variety of blogs and articles, based on scientific sources. All the articles are provided as general information and no text should be used as a substitute for advice from a physician or another health scientist, regardless of the date it has been published.