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Are Smoothie Bowls Healthy? Plus: Five More Trendy Foods and Whether They're Actually Good for You

Have you ever found yourself questioning whether a food or diet is actually good for you?

We’ve asked two dietitians to break down some of the most commonly questioned foods so you never have to think twice again.

You may be surprised that some of the most popular trends really aren’t all that great for your waistline or your heart health.

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SMOOTHIE BOWLS 

While smoothie bowls look and sound super healthy, they’re often times loaded with empty carbs.

“It all depends how you make it, but I’ve seen a lot of recipes that will call for anywhere from three to five servings of fruit, which is way too much sugar,” says Texas-based registered dietitian Lauren Ott.

Most people wouldn’t sit down and eat two bananas and another fruit in a sitting, adds Peak Nutrition Services‘ Heather Bainbridge, EdM, MA, RDN, who notes a bowl can add up to 800 calories very quickly.

“I think another thing that I find for a lot of my clients is that smoothies, whether it’s in an actual smoothie or in a bowl, they’re just not filling,” Ott says. “Fullness is not just dictated by your stomach, but it’s dictated by your brain. A lot of times if something is in liquid form, like a smoothie bowl, and you’re not physically chewing it, it just doesn’t lead to the satiety queues that actually chewing food will.”

How to Keep It Healthy: Make smoothie bowls yourself at home so you can control the portions.

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COCONUT OIL 

While Dr. Karin Michels, an adjunct professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, caused waves last month, calling coconut oil “one of the worst foods you can eat,” Ott says as long as it’s in moderation — and not the only type of fat you’re using—she’s okay with it.

“I’m definitely not going to recommend you throw a bunch of it in your coffee every morning,” Ott says. “There is no conclusive data showing that coconut oil is any different from the saturated fat found in things like Crisco or butter.”

How to Keep It Healthy: Use coconut oil sparingly while preparing food, and don’t rely on it as your only source of fat.

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HUMMUS 

“Hummus gets this health halo where sometimes its calories are kind of forgotten and they can add up,” says Bainbridge. “In quarter-cup proportions, it is great as a dip or condiment and can add a boost of nutrition to a sandwich or vegetables.”

While the chickpeas are high in fiber, the dip also contains a lot of carbohydrates and fat.

“Just like any dip, we still have to be aware of how much we’re having while eating it and what’s going along with it,” she says.

How to Keep It Healthy: Portion out a quarter-cup of the dip before you start snacking so you’re not tempted to go past one serving size. 

SUSHI 

On average, a roll of sushi can be anywhere from 300 to 400 calories, Bainbridge says.

“Sushi has also been kind of deemed as a health food, so then a lot of times there can be ordering of several or a couple rolls and not realizing that the calories are adding up and becoming much more than what is intended,” she says. “The other to be careful about is when there’s tempura involved. Tempura is Japanese for ‘fried’, so I tend to veer people away from that.”

How to Keep It Healthy: Choose rolls with a lot of veggies and stay away from creamy mayos, dressings and Tempura.

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VEGGIE BURGERS 

While not everyone is a fan of replacing beef or turkey in their burgers, Bainbridge says veggie burgers are a healthy alternative for people who don’t eat meat.

But the key is looking at the ingredients and nutritional information before you purchase.

“The one downside to veggie burgers for some people is that they don’t contain as much protein as say a turkey burger would,” she says. “One patty might not be enough to truly fill someone up. I would say that in some cases, just check in with yourself and ask do you feel satisfied after the veggie burger? If not, then you might need two.”

How to Keep It Healthy: Focus on the ingredients and calories in each burger and decide if it is enough to keep you satisfied.  

FAST FOOD SALADS

If stopping at a drive-thru is part of your weekly routine, ordering a salad will only be beneficial if you make smart choices, and understand that they’re not all created equal.

According to Bainbridge, the portion of salad dressing is usually much larger than people realize and can add up to 400 calories alone.

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“The standard cup is four tablespoons, which is double what the serving size is,” she says. “Chick-fil-A, for instance, their salad dressings, if you get just the regular, even their vinaigrettes, which sometimes we have a feeling that vinaigrettes are a little bit lighter than the creamy dressings, that’s not always the case. It needs to say light in front of it to have that reduction.”

How to Keep It Healthy: Skip the bacon bits and fatty cheeses on many to-go salads. Turn the dressing packet around and look at the serving size on the label before you pour it on, or pack your dressing yourself and just order the salad.

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