Is That Food Fattening?
As a Registered Dietitian, I’m often asked this type of question. Other common questions include:
“What food can I eat to increase my energy?”
“What food can I eat to lose weight?”
“What food will lower my blood cholesterol?”
“Are potatoes fattening?”
“Are bananas too high in sugar?”
However, the answers are not so simple. Your overall usual intake and eating patterns are what affect your energy levels, your weight – and the ability to lose weight – and your overall health.
There isn’t one specific food that is the answer to any of the above questions. For example, nuts are a very healthy energy-packed food that can give you an energy boost when you need a little pick-me-up mid-afternoon. However, they may not provide the energy boost you’re looking for if the rest of your day is filled with energy draining high-sugar, high-fat foods.
And just as there is no single food that can help you lose weight, there is no single food that will “make you fat”. An individual food is not “fattening” or “not fattening”.
Consider the potato. A simple medium potato (about ½ cup mashed) is a very healthy choice. Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, and they also contain vitamin C and folate. With the skin on, they are also a source of fibre. A medium potato contains about 100 calories and is free of fat, sodium and cholesterol – it is even naturally gluten-free. Clearly, eating a simple potato will not lead to weight gain.
Despite this, potatoes are often referred to as “fattening”. This has more to do with the way potatoes are often eaten. If you regularly eat large portions of potatoes that are fried, deep-fried, or loaded with butter – along with other high-calorie high-fat foods – your overall diet may lead to weight gain, as well as other health problems such as high cholesterol and heart disease.
Even a “not-so-healthy” food is not necessarily “fattening”. For example, if your usual intake is relatively healthy, consuming a single piece of cake or a take-out pizza on a special occasion will not have any long-term effects on your weight or overall health.
So don’t think of foods individually as being “fattening” or “not fattening”– it is your overall usual intake and eating patterns that matter most.