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Beware The Health Halo

by | Oct 24, 2020

I’ve had quite a few people ask me lately about the new healthy takeaway option in town and what I think.

Firstly, I think it’s great we have options – but a word of caution when applying labels to food.

On the surface, yes a fast food option that very obviously is not deep fried and has a range of salad options incorporated will likely be a more healthful option than most of our traditional takeaways, but if your goal is fat loss, or even maintaining a healthy weight – there are a few key points to consider.

Your daily energy needs:

Regardless of the “what”, if you eat any foods in excess of your daily requirements, including vegetables, lean meat and other whole foods…. you will gain body fat.  “Healthy” foods is not a free pass to throw portion control out the window.

Your selection:

The restaurant website lists my particular choice of a small chicken burrito with no sauce as coming in at 484 calories, and that’s BEFORE I’ve added any guac, cheese, sour cream etc. 

So here’s the maths – if you’re a 60kg female with a sedentary job (yes, even IF you got up at 5am and went to the gym), you’ve just consumed at least 30-40% your daily energy needs.   The rest of your day better be tight to avoid a surplus. 

If you added the extras and then grabbed a drink and a protein ball too – you could be looking at around 800-900 calories for lunch, or to put in perspective – half of my daily needs as a person who has a reasonably active daily routine.

When you consider this, you can see how it’s easy to become frustrated when believing that you are making good choices, particularly ordering “small”, only to make no progress.

Here’s what I did:

I asked for beans only, no rice and more salad.  I chose only one extra, guacamole.  I asked for jalapeños for the extra kick instead of sauce.  It was very satisfying and I found myself quite full afterwards.

Food marketing – The Health Halo is big bucks!

Given that people now have more access to information and particular demographics are perhaps more health conscious – clever marketers know that if you suggest that your product is more healthful, without going into the details that I just did above – it’s likely to be more appealing as a choice when faced with eating out. 

Regardless of whether you go for the golden arches or not, energy balance is key.  It’s not so much the “what” in these scenarios – but “how much” that will impact your results.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these things, but armed with this knowledge you can use it to your advantage. 

I help my clients to enjoy their favourite foods without the guilt, and master their daily habits to reach their goals.  Drop me a line if you’d like to learn more!

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