When we hear foods are “high fat” or “high calorie,” we often think they must not be healthy.
The following foods are very calorie dense, but can still be part of a healthy diet in moderation. The most calorie dense foods are those that are high in fat because 1 gram of fat has 9 calories, compared to protein and carbs, which have only 4 calories for every gram.
You need at least some dietary fat for your hormones to function properly and for the absorption of vitamins and minerals. The Institute of Medicine recommends no less than 15% of your diet comes from fat.1
Check out the rundown on some of the healthiest high-fat and high-calorie foods below.
1. Olive Oil
While olive oil is an excellent alternative to stick margarine and butter, it’s important to keep serving sizes in check, because just 1 tablespoon has 120 calories. But, while olive oil is high in fat, it’s high in monounsaturated fat, which has several health benefits, including helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of several cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s.2 Use olive oil with your salads, roasted veggies, and use it to replace margarine.
2. Homemade Granola
Granola is one of the foods that always seems be classified as healthy. But it’s especially important to check out the nutrition facts on granola packages. Since it’s usually made with natural ingredients, like oats, nuts, and seeds, granola can be full of nutrients. However, many brands of granola are very high in calories (around 300 calories per half cup), as well as sugar (around 20 grams). The best way to enjoy granola guilt-free is to make it homemade, sans the added sugar. Use oatmeal, and get your good fats in, with dry-roasted nuts, seeds, olive oil, and maybe a little dried fruit. Consider keeping your serving sizes to around ¼ to ½ cup, and enjoy it with plain yogurt or milk.3
Smooth, creamy, and nutritious: avocados have it all. They’re full of fiber, vitamins C and K, potassium, and many other nutrients. One half of an avocado delivers 15 grams of the “good,” monounsaturated fat, and despite technically being a fruit, they have almost no sugar (0.2 grams per one half). It’s important to keep in mind that a whole avocado can range between 300 and 500 calories, depending on size, and one half-cup serving of mashed avocados has around 250 calories.4 5
4. Almond Butter
Like granola, almond butter is another one of those foods that is rich in nutrients, but can be loaded with added sugar and fat. Nuts in general are high in calories, with about 190 to 200 calories per handful. One serving size of almond butter (2 tablespoons) has about 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of filling fiber, and 18 grams of fat. It also delivers iron, magnesium, and vitamin E. A little bit of almond butter goes a long way- one serving size has up to 200 calories. Avoid reduced-fat versions, because they actually tend to have higher sugar content. Plus, try to buy almond butter with the fewest added ingredients, and the lowest sugar and sodium content. Natural brands usually have fewer additives compared to their commercial counterparts.
5. Dark Chocolate
We’ve all heard it: dark chocolate is good for you. It’s full of nutrients and antioxidants, plus may help lower your blood pressure and control blood sugar, and boost your mood. One bar of chocolate can have around 530 calories. Munch on one bar throughout the week or pick up individually wrapped dark chocolate (affiliate link) for 50 calories apiece.6
While these foods are high in calories, they certainly can be part of a diet that promotes health and well-being.
- Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate. Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (2002/2005). ↩
- What are the health benefits of olive oil? Medical News Today. Sep 2013. ↩
- Not So Healthy Healthy Foods. WebMD Feature. WebMD. ↩
- Thompson, C. 8 Healthy Facts About Avocados. WebMD. ↩
- Dreher ML, Davenport AJ.Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food SciNutr. 2013;53(7):738-50. ↩
- DeNoon, D. Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate. WebMD. Aug 2013. ↩