Beware: You Can Still Overeat with “Healthy” or “Natural” Foods

Written By: Sofia Layarda, MPH

Title: Master of Public Health

Alumni: University of California, Berkeley

Last Updated on:

As the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing. Nowhere is this clearer than the new show premiering tonight on Food Network, called Fat Chef, where overweight culinary professionals spend four months taking back control of their weight with the help of trainers, nutritionists, and therapists.

​Even Healthy Foods Can Cause Weight Gain

Christine Avanti, the health consultant for the show Fat Chef, identified the following common challenges among the show’s participants:

  • They are constantly surrounded by food. This makes them nibble random foods throughout the day instead of sitting down to an actual meal.
  • The profession is a high-stress, high-pressure environment, which leaves them very little time to plan their own meals ahead of time. Many of the show’s participants sit down to one huge meal a day instead of having regularly-spaced meals and snacks.

Even if you are not a chef, the above two factors are prevalent in many other professions. Outside a kitchen, our food environment still facilitates easy access to all kinds of calories at any time of day; consider 24-hour drive-thrughs, convenience stores (most of which stock pre-packaged, highly processed snack foods and beverages), bakery foods offered at meetings, and mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee breaks (which for many people include a sugary or salty snack in addition to the drink).

The real message is, any foods, even those generally accepted as being “healthy,” can lead to weight gain if you eat too much of them.

No Time to Eat Well? Here’s How

Despite the myriad websites offering home cooking tips and recipes, a significant portion of our meals nowadays still comes from takeouts or dining out. There are still ways to manage your food intake even if you don’t cook:

  • Take charge of portion control. When you dine out, split your big order with another person (or immediately ask for half to be packed). When you are packing snacks to take out of the house, use pre-portioned containers.
  • Even if you don’t cook, plan ahead for the three W’s: what food to eat, when to eat it, and where to eat it. Try to have evenly spaced meals and snacks throughout the day (Avanti has her participants eat every 4 hours). Pick a spot to actually sit down and eat instead of multi-tasking (such as eating while driving or while watching a monitor).
  • Stay hydrated, but don’t drink your calories. Sodas, shakes, and even “healthy” smoothies can all hold hidden calories in one jumbo cup, and those calories can add up in the long run, especially if you are eating solid foods as well.
  • Look for non-food “pick-me-up” alternatives. If you do take coffee break(s), maybe use one of them as time to walk around the block, do a few stretches, or to simply zone out.


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