Yes, you can overeat ‘good for you’ foods!

Previously I wrote about a common reason someone might hit a plateau in their weight loss efforts. This post is not about plateaus but just weight loss in general—why someone may not make the progress they feel they deserve.

Let me tell you about another client I had and not an uncommon issue I see amongst individuals doing all the right things but lamenting, “I just don’t get it. I don’t eat fast food, fried food, refined white flour, highly processed foods, etc. but I’m not losing weight. I should be losing weight eating the way I do.”

An amazingly healthy diet

Joe (not his real name) had an amazingly healthy diet. He’d make any mom proud—and any registered dietitian nutritionist for that matter! Me included. Joe chose to eat most meals at home. He loved fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats especially fish. He rarely ate in restaurants because he hated spending good money on food that he thought he could make better at home. Joe was a fabulous cook. As a matter of fact he was always entertaining and inviting his friends over. They knew they could count on him to serve healthy great tasting food.

BUT, you knew there’d be a but didn’t you? He could not lose weight. He struggled with his weight. Why?

You can overeat the right foods

After a thorough review of Joe’s diet, we figured it out. It wasn’t the choices he was making, it was the quantities (of certain foods). He ate loads of vegetables. Super! Absolutely no problem. Eat away. However, it was the preparation of them where we found the culprit. Joe enjoyed sautéing veggies in olive oil, but he didn’t just drizzle veggies, he drenched them. Not good. “But I thought olive oil was good for me!” It is. It’s wonderful. You just can’t be so heavy handed. Joe learned you can overeat the right foods.

Here is where we identified Joe’s kitchen and dietary problems. Do you see yourself here?

  1. Olive oil in veggies and other cooking (if you’re into the coconut oil—I’m not—same deal). Regardless the oil—120 calories per tablespoon. And don’t be fooled by light oils. That has nothing to do with the calories only with the color or clarity of an oil, like olive oil.

    olive oil, cast iron skillet

    One tablespoon olive oil in skillet – few drops left in spoon

  2. High fat vinaigrettes—most recipes call for a 3 to 1 ratio (3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar) which gives a vinaigrette a very high calorie profile. I know many people think a vinaigrette is always the best choice. Maybe. Maybe not. Calories can run as high as 180 for a 2 tablespoon serving. But they can also be made with significantly fewer calories e.g. 50 per 2 tablespoon serving.
  3. Nuts in salads (or just by the handful). I love nuts (and so did Joe)! Great healthy fats but at 200 calories per ¼ cup they can add up.
    overeat good foods

    Comparison of 1/4 cup walnut pieces, almond slices, and almonds (~28 nuts) ~200 calories


  4. Peanut butter on sandwiches and in smoothies. Almond butter also but nearly 100 calories per level tablespoon. A heaping tablespoon measures closer to 2. Check out this short video ‘Are you overeating peanut butter?’

    Peanut butter 1vs2 T with tablespoon_Neily

    One level tablespoon (95 cal) versus two (190 cal) peanut butter on whole wheat bread.

  5. Avocado in salad or sandwiches. Love avocado as well! Another healthy fat but at 300 calories per avocado, use mindfully.

    fresh avocado, Neily on Nutrition

    Fresh avocado – 1/2 avocado ~150 calories

Fats were the major changes we made to Joe’s diet. He was eating all good healthy fats, we just modified portions.

I don’t necessarily promote a low fat diet just encourage awareness of quantities. How much fat do you need? It depends on your calorie level. Here is a chart indicating how many grams at 35 percent of total calories—the upper level of the 20 – 35 percent dietary guideline. General recommendation is to keep saturated fat less than 20 grams per day.

[table colwidth=”50|50″ colalign=”center|center”  style=”width: 100%; max-width:300px;”]
Calories per day, Total fat per day (35% of cal)
1200,47 g
1400,54 g
1600,62 g
1800,70 g
2000,78 g
2200,86 g
2400,93 g
2600,101 g
2800,109 g
3000,117 g


  1. Neva Cochran

    Great blog! It’s amazing that people often think because a fat is “good” that it’s lower in calories! Interestingly, USDA data shows that of the ~460 extra calories consumed on average in the US today compared to 1970, 53% come from added fats!!

    • Neily

      Thanks so much Neva! Yes, I know people are very confused about fats and it’s so easy to over consume.

  2. Livia

    Wow, the peanut butter is such a shock!! One tablespoon is so scant on a slice of bread in my opinion, amazing that that is the actual serving for one slice!!

    • Neily

      Precisely! And why I did the video and wrote the post. People do not realize. Thanks for your comments!


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