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When Healthy Foods Backfire

First Posted: 09/15/11 09:14 AM ET   Updated: 11/15/11 05:12 AM ET

By Rachel Grumman Bender for YouBeauty.com

Are you a former ice cream addict? Have you learned to drive right by a fast food drive-through?

It’s not exactly shocking that these eating habits put your health in harm’s way -- not to mention, cause you to pack on the pounds. So dropping those bad habits like a hot potato (with full-fat sour cream, naturally) and swapping them out for more virtuous foods like fruits and whole grains must guarantee good health, right? Well, it depends.

Turns out, when eaten in excess, healthy foods can turn against you.

“In our Lifestyle 180 Program [the wellness program at the Cleveland Clinic], when people come back for a six-month follow up and are struggling with maintaining the weight they’ve lost, 90 percent of time they were eating horrible foods and now they’re eating healthy foods but are having too much of it,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., YouBeauty Nutrition Expert and wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic. “You can have the best intentions, but unless it’s a non-starchy vegetable, you can have too much of a good thing.”

In other words, even good-for-you eats can’t protect you if you triple the portion sizes or douse them in sugar. Here’s how you can still get the beauty-boosting benefits of six popular healthy foods without wrecking your diet or harming your health.

Nuts
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Nuts are one the easiest and healthiest snacks you can grab on the go -- you'd be crazy not to eat them. These pint-size eats are rich in protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and heart-friendly fats. "Nuts are high in healthy plant-based fats called monounsaturated fats, which help lower blood cholesterol and help prevent heart disease," explains nutritionist Keri Glassman, author of "The O2 Diet: The Cutting Edge Antioxidant-Based Program That Will Make You Healthy, Thin and Beautiful."

How it can backfire: Nuts are calorie-dense -- about 80 percent of nuts are fat. Just one ounce of nuts (about a shot glass worth) packs 100 to 200 calories. "A few handfuls of nuts and wham! you have consumed over 500 calories," says Glassman. "Moderation is key -- and thankfully, a little goes a long way in terms of being satisfied and providing nutrients."

How much to eat: 1 ounce of nuts per day. Kirkpatrick recommends measuring out the portion size so you can see what 1 ounce looks like (hint: It's a lot less than that entire bowl of peanuts you inhaled at happy hour last weekend). Then you'll be able to eyeball it on your own. Or choose nuts with the shell still on them, such as pistachios. Given the same number of nuts (peanuts, pistachios, walnuts), people eat 45 percent less when they have to snap off shell, according to research conducted by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think."

More on YouBeauty.com:

Sneak in Beauty-Boosting Vegetables
QUIZ: What's Your Eating Style?
The Deal with Dark Chocolate
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