Let’s face it: Eating healthy all the time can be tough. Nearly half of Americans fall short on the daily recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains put forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. On top of that, many of us regularly chow down on processed and sugar-laden foods that can wreak havoc on our waistlines. So if you’re already swapping out French fries for carrot sticks and double cheeseburgers for quinoa bowls, you’ve achieved a major victory.
As healthy as your grub may be, though, you do still need to consider calories. While experts agree that calories are not all created equal (a handful of high-fiber, high-protein almonds contains as many calories as six sugary ginger snaps, for example, but the almonds keep you fuller longer and ward off overeating later), our bodies still like to stay in a state of energy balance. This means that the calories we eat and drink should equal the number of calories we burn through living and breathing, digesting food, and being physically active.
Take in more calories than we burn and we often gain weight—even if those extra calories come from healthy, nutrient-dense foods. The following seven good-for-you foods are some of the easiest to overeat, so double-check your portions to keep your healthy diet on point.
A staple for yogurt lovers everywhere, this delicious combo of oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit adds a satisfying crunch to your breakfast or snack, along with some fiber, protein, iron, potassium, and heart-healthy fats. But that doesn’t mean you can treat hearty granola like regular cereals.
While a serving of regular cereal is about one cup, a serving of most granolas is just about a quarter cup, says Marjorie Cohn, M.S., R.D., personal trainer and owner of MNC Nutrition. Granola is very calorically-dense, so that quarter cup often packs between 120 and 150 calories, while a full cup could clock in at close to 600.
While a quarter cup may not look like much, it goes a long way in satisfying your hunger. To get the most bang for your buck, look for a granola that lists added sugar as far down in the ingredients list as possible, Cohn says. If you need more crunch than a serving of granola can provide, try adding some low-sugar cereal to your yogurt.
This trendy superfood is definitely wearing a health halo right now. After all, one cup of cooked quinoa packs almost 10 grams of protein—nearly double that of grains like barley, couscous, and brown rice—while coming in around 200 calories per cup, which is calorically equivalent to other whole grains. Yes, it’s got more protein and sometimes more fiber, but you can still overeat it and it can still contribute to weight gain, says Cohn.
For example, many popular quinoa bowl recipes contain close to a cup and a half of quinoa, in addition to other ingredients, like avocado, black beans, chicken. These meals can clock in at more than 800 calories, with nearly half coming from the quinoa. So, quinoa super-fans, stick to a serving of one cup to keep calories in check while still getting its good-for-you nutrients.
No party—or fridge—is complete without hummus. This creamy chickpea-based dip contains fiber and protein—a nutrient combo sure to help keep you satisfied. The problem is that it’s so darn addicting, making it way too easy to overeat.
Two tablespoons of hummus, depending on the variety, come in at somewhere between 50 and 70 calories. “I’ve seen people at parties scoop that amount of hummus with a cracker in one dip,” exclaims Cohn. While hummus is nutritious, be weary of how much you scoop up (a 10-ounce tub contains upwards of 500 calories). Kick-up your hummus game another notch by dipping with vegetables—like cucumbers, carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, or broccoli—which are more nutrient-dense than crackers and save you both salt and calories.
4. Coconut Oil
A superstar at health-food stores everywhere, coconut oil has become a popular cooking staple after a number of studies found that a specific type of fat it contains—medium-chained triglycerides (MCTs)—is used as a source of energy, bolsters “good” HDL cholesterol, and supports a healthy weight.
Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?
However, not all experts agree on these touted benefits. “Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, and while this plant-based fat may not be as harmful for heart health as animal-based saturated fats, the jury’s still out on its overall health impacts,” says Jen Bruning, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
For now, use coconut oil in moderation and remember that this oil—like all other fats—contains a whopping nine calories per gram. The U.S. government recommends limiting saturated fats to less than 10 percent of our daily calories (that’s 200 calories on a 2,000-calorie diet), so keep in mind that two tablespoons of coconut oil contain 240 calories and plan your daily grub accordingly.
5. Chicken Breast
Skinless chicken breast is a lean, high-protein meat choice that’s easily paired with a side or two for a quick, delicious, and healthy meal. But if you eat the whole breast, or even two-thirds of it—which is common if you’re cutting back on carbs or ramping up your protein intake to build muscle—you may be getting more of it than your body can handle at one time.
A cooked whole chicken breast is typically around 10 or 12 ounces, according to Cohn. That’s about 500 calories and 103 grams of protein. That’s a lot of protein. Experts recommend active individuals eat about two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (about 136 grams for a 150-pound person) throughout an entire day.
The issue is, our bodies lack a storage system for protein outside of our muscles, so if we eat more than our body can use at one time, that surplus protein is just extra calories that can be stored as fat, explains Cohn. Even eight ounces still packs 334 calories and 69 grams of protein, which is a little much for one meal.
That’s why research suggests splitting up your protein needs throughout the day to maintain and build muscle. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, people who ate 30 grams of protein (about four ounces of chicken) at each meal synthesized 25 percent more proteins in their muscles than people who ate 90 grams of protein primarily at dinner.
Follow this protein rule of thumb: Stick to between three and six ounces of chicken—about the size of the palm of your hand—per meal, suggests Cohn.
6. Bean Chips
A newcomer to the snack aisle, bean chips are a healthier alternative to potato chips because they contain more fiber, protein, and less fat per serving. That said, they’re not exactly a ‘health food’ and they don’t provide the same benefits as eating actual beans, says Cohn.
Whether made from potatoes or beans, a serving of chips still typically clocks in around 150 calories. So while bean chips are a better alternative to greasier varieties when your salty cravings hit, stick to a snack bag-full per sitting—not a party bag-full.
If you’re an avocado super-fan, this is going to be guacward. Yes, your beloved avocados are full of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber—but those benefits come with a higher calorie count.
An entire avocado packs about 322 calories, while a serving of fat equates to just about an eighth of a fruit, which is about 40 calories, says Cohn. Not much, we know! Sadly, this means you can easily down a day’s worth of fat in one chips and guac snack sesh.
To keep your serving size under control, spread your guacamole on toast or bulk it up with larger chunks of chopped peppers and tomatoes.