By Susan Walker, ND, and Patrick Dixon

Healthy eating is equal parts willpower and knowledge.  In order to eat consistently healthy meals, we need to know which foods will nourish our bodies, and which are secretly trying to sabotage us. If you’re on the U Weight Loss program you’re probably familiar with the usual suspects – ice cream, pop, chips, donuts and fried foods are all renowned dietary saboteurs. There are unhealthy foods that deserve their reputation, and there are some that are needlessly getting a bad rap. Here are a few foods that are actually pretty good for you, along with the suggested serving size.


5. Peanut Butter


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The Unhealthy Reputation

Peanut butter is a nutritional delinquent. It contains more than its fair share of saturated fat, it has ruined more school lunches than cafeteria food fights, and it has earned a sinister reputation for its ability to, well, severely incapacitate people. There was a time when peanut butter was a popular lunchtime companion. These days, however, the only time it is regarded with any kind of affection is when it rides the coattails of chocolate and jam.

The Surprising Health Benefits

Even the presence of saturated fat isn’t enough to demote peanut butter to the unhealthy category, considering how many nutrients are crammed into the stuff. Firstly, it contains a healthy amount of monounsaturated fat (the good kind), which lowers the amount of harmful cholesterol in your bloodstream and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. Secondly, a couple tablespoons of this buttery goodness will load you up with about 7 grams of protein, and your muscles will thank you for that. Then there’s potassium – the wonderful essential mineral that counteracts the harmful effects of sodium, improves heart health, and improves nerve function. Peanut butter may still be blacklisted in elementary schools, but we see no reason why you should exclude it from your diet. Unless, you know, allergies.

Recommend daily intake: 3 – 9 servings of natural peanut butter per day. Each serving size is 1/2 tsp.


4. Chocolate


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The Unhealthy Reputation

Oh, to live in a land of chocolate. Truffle-bricked streets, rivers running thick with drizzle. Fudge gardens would probably be a thing. The mountains would almost certainly be Toblerones. There would, of course, be inherent problems with a candy-based economy (inflation would be a nightmare), not to mention infrastructure that begins to melt when it hits room temperature. The point being we’d all enjoy living in a world where something as fatty and sugar-laden as chocolate is a healthy and viable form of sustenance. But let’s face it, any such world would be a fantasy.

The Surprising Health Benefits

Chocolate may prove nutritious yet. Dark chocolate, that is. As you might have expected, you’ll want to consume dark chocolate in small amounts. But that small amount can pack a nutritional punch well above its weight. For starters, it can reduce blood pressure and bad cholesterol by 10%. The cocoa in chocolate contains flavanoids that are rich in antioxidants. Dark chocolate also encourages serotonin production, which is a natural antidepressant. It’s not candy land, but it’s healthy junk food, and that’s still pretty neat.

Recommend daily intake: Up to 7 ounces per week, average 1 ounce per day.


3. Coffee


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The Unhealthy Reputation

Truth be told, we consistently discourage the consumption of coffee throughout many phases of our program, and so we take responsibility for a portion of the condemnation coffee receives. But can you blame us? It’s loaded with insulin-spiking caffeine that, in larger doses, impacts your metabolism and can lead to increased stress levels. Not to mention the financial burden of making so many Starbucks visits.

The Surprising Health Benefits

While coffee is not ideal for many phases of your weight loss program, it doesn’t come without its health bonuses. In controlled amounts, caffeine can be helpful for burning fatty acids and increasing your metabolism. Coffee beans don’t exactly have a shortage of nutrients either. They’ve got a hit list of vitamins, including vitamins B1 through 3, B5, Potassium, and Magnesium. Not to mention a heaping helping of antioxidants. While we still don’t entirely encourage coffee during weight loss, we’ve got a healthy level of respect for it. That’ll do coffee. That’ll do.

Recommend daily intake: One 8-ounce cup per day (based on studies).


2. Potatoes


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The Unhealthy Reputation

Potatoes are nothing but starch grenades that explode the second it reaches your mouth, releasing sugary shrapnel into your body so rapidly that even the Iron Man suit would be helpless to stop it. The fallout being that you’re digestive system is left with a boatload of carbohydrates to deal with, and that usually means increased abdominal fat. They’re also the reason fries and potato chips exist, and hanging with that lot isn’t going to improve your reputation.

The Surprising Health Benefits

While it’s true that potatoes are generally high in refined carbohydrates, the exact methods by which potatoes are prepared and eaten can go a long way towards reducing carb count. Allowing potatoes to cool before eating them is one way, another is boiling them whole as opposed to the mashing method. As far as health benefits go, the humble potato is surprisingly well equipped. They contain molecules called kukoamines, which help lower blood pressure. Potato skin is rich with vitamins including B and B6, which reduce arterial inflammation and decrease the chances of developing heart disease. The skin also boats a healthy supply of fibre for your digestive system.

Recommend daily intake: The amount depends on carbohydrate tolerance, insulin sensitivity, etc. In general a client on our program with a reduced carbohydrate intake should consume about ½ cup of potatoes as a serving. The number of servings daily should be 2-3 servings per meal if you are trying to lose weight.


1. Alcohol


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The Unhealthy Reputation

Where to begin…

Alcohol has been responsible for many of society’s ills since some careless Greek let his grapes sit out in the sun too long. Nutritionally speaking, the substance offers our bodies very little. Alcohol’s adverse effects on the body do kegs stands on the beneficial ones. We’d have to make a pretty darn convincing argument in the next paragraph to convince you that a substance that is essentially poison can be of any nutritional value whatsoever.

The Surprising Health Benefits

Watch us. When consumed in moderate amounts – and as a weight loss company we can’t stress that enough – alcohol has been scientifically proven to increase good cholesterol (HDL), which essentially hunts down and destroys bad cholesterol and improves blood flow and heart function. Red wine in particular is teeming with antioxidants, which helps fend off diseases and repair damage to your body caused by those pesky free radicals. There is even research to support wine’s remarkable ability to increase your life expectancy. And here we thought it only improved our social life.

Recommend daily intake – No more than one to two drinks per day for men, and no more than one drink per day for women. One drink is usually considered to be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey). Each delivers about 12 to 14 grams of alcohol.