When ordering a nutritious breakfast at a trendy cafe, most of us would admit we have opted for the ‘healthy superfood’ option from the menu.
Everything about an acai bowl looks healthy with chia seeds, granola, muesli, nuts, brightly coloured fruits and a sprinkle of desiccated coconut.
But your average acai bowl (900 calories) can contain more calories than McDonald’s Big Mac (521 calories) – or the same calories as a whole day’s worth of meals (900 calories).
Here, FEMAIL looks at the foods based on the perception of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ – and the results are very surprising.
Everything about an acai bowl (820 calories) looks healthy – but sadly, it contains more calories than a big breakfast (710 calories), including bacon, eggs, white bread and hash brown
The founders of science-based nutrition program Equalution have put together foods based on the perception of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ – and the results are very surprising
An acai bowl can contain up to 900 calories – the same as a whole day’s worth of meals
What does our body need?
Our body runs on three essentials for living and proper functioning:
1. Macro-nutrients: The nutrients that we need in large quantities for survival – protein, carbohydrates and fat – providing energy in the form of calories for our body.
2. Water: The staple for survival and the metabolism.
3. Micro-nutrients: The nutrients required in small quantities for survival. These are vitamins and minerals – most importantly fibre.
The young entrepreneurs found an acai bowl (900 calories), smashed avocado on toast (661 calories) and yoghurt with granola (779 calories) contained more calories than McDonald’s bacon and egg muffin with hash brown (450 calories).
‘Comparisons like these is not to say one is better than the other but rather to understand the energy intake when making food choices,’ Jade told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We want to simply show you calorically the high cost of a meal that on the surface can appear as “healthy”.
‘This calorie intake is what your body sees – as well as macro-nutrients (so protein, fats and carbs) and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals).
‘Calories are energy – but too much energy more so than you are burning leads to fat gain: regardless of where that energy is coming from.
‘If you’re eating more and burning less calorically, no matter if you’re only consuming nutrient dense foods, you will still gain weight.
‘It goes to show that both quality of food and quantity go hand in hand, it’s equally as important as to what foods you’re consuming but also how much of it too.’
Founders of science-based nutrition program Equalution Jade Spooner (right) and Amal Wakim (left) illustrated the comparisons to show what calories really look like in different foods
When ordering a nutritious breakfast at a trendy cafe, most of us would admit we have opted for the ‘superfood’ option from the menu
Many of us have convinced ourselves to order the sweet potato fries over white potato fries because it’s ‘healthy’ – but it actually contains more calories
Some foods are deceiving in energy density such as the protein ball – so small, said to be a ‘healthy snack’ yet not exactly the choice where you’d be getting the most satiety for your calorie spend
The ‘superfood’ yoghurt and granola verses McDonald’s pancakes, hash brown and coffee
Jade said the graphs show how easily people – who are trying to lose weight – can mindlessly eat without any calorie awareness.
‘For the vast majority of “dieters”, the numeric intake of their food choices is likely why they’re chasing their tail and not seeing results,’ she said.
Calories matter and are recognised by your body. Even though, some foods may seem healthy or are trending, it might not be the best choice when trying to lose weight
‘You can eat as “clean” and restrictive as possible but if you’re having blow outs, or are calorically exceeding your required intake, you won’t see results.
‘Calories matter and are recognised by your body. Even though, some foods may seem healthy or are trending, it might not be the best choice when trying to lose weight.
‘Another important reason in why you should have an understanding and regard for the caloric intake of your food choices is because some foods are deceiving in energy density such as the protein ball – so small, said to be a ‘healthy snack’ yet not exactly the choice where you’d be getting the most satiety for your calorie spend.
‘So while a protein ball isn’t going to directly cause fat gain, it’s quite a calorie dense snack despite being the “go to” for a lot of people embarking on a weight loss journey or being health conscious.’
Yoghurt and granola bowl featuring all the ingredients ‘diet industry has you believing will help you lose weight based on a food claiming ‘paleo’ or ‘natural’ even ‘free from’ ingredients that are misconstrued’ verses a regular yoghurt and granola bowl
Banana bread has long been the ‘go-to’ food to order at cafes, but sadly, it has more calories than McDonald’s Big Mac
Know your portions: The next time you have just one spoonful of coconut oil, be mindful of your portion size due to the density which is greater than three Freddo Frogs
Many of us would admit we have ordered the sweet potato fries over white potato fries because it’s ‘healthy’ – but it actually contains more calories.
‘Have you been guilty of convincing yourself your side of fries because it’s “healthy”? A good example of this is the comparison of sweet potato fries and white potato fries – but did you know white potato has less calories?’ she said.
Another comparison is a ‘superfood’ chicken salad (829 calories) and a chicken veggie burger (607 calories).
‘This is not to say a burger should always be chosen over a salad,’ Jade said.
‘The salad is jam packed with nutrient dense foods and about every superfood, the health and fitness industry are telling you to eat.
‘Grilled chicken breast, mixed lettuce, spinach leaves, pumpkin, beetroot, cucumber, brown rice, quinoa, avocado, chia seeds, slivered almonds topped with an olive oil vinaigrette. This salad though nutrient dense contains 829 calories.
‘For a female this could make up almost half her daily calorie intake if fat loss is the goal. This is quite easily something someone being health conscious could or would order on a lunch break.’
Superfood salad verse chicken veggie burger. The salad is jam packed with nutrient dense foods
Most of us have opted for the smash avocado on toast because we immediately think it’s healthier than french toast
Jade explained how eating well for health and results comes down to a two part system – quality and quantity.
‘Fat loss will always boil down to calories in verses calories out,’ she said.
‘No matter how “healthy” you think something is, your body will recognise and clock its caloric value.
‘If you want to lose weight, you need to calorically be consuming less energy than expenditure. Some foods are indeed more nutrient dense than others containing more micronutrients – but they all have calories.
‘If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s necessary to be conscious of caloric intake given it is possible to overeat protein balls just as it is possible to overeat sandwiches.’
It’s possible to overeat on healthy snacks such as almonds just as it’s possible to overeat on chocolates
Cocowhip topped with cacao, peanut butter and a mini raw treat verses McDonald’s McFlurry
Jade clarified that the graphs are not to say either meals or snacks will cause adverse effects on the body or directly lead to fat gain – but to understand energy intake.
‘Food can “sound good” or even “look good” but much to your surprise, it can be highly calorie dense,’ she said.
‘Even if a food “sounds” like a good option or a good choice for fat loss – it doesn’t mean it always is.
‘Whatever your preference, don’t be clouded by superfood ingredients and “free from” claims, you may think you’re doing your body wonders but your body won’t disregard the caloric value.’
For more details, please visit Equalution on its website or Instagram.