12 'Healthy' Foods That Actually Have More Calories Than a Big Mac Slideshow
May 24, 2017
You’ll never guess which trendy health-food favorites made the list
‘Healthy’ Foods More Caloric Than a Big Mac
The McDonald’s Big Mac is the world’s most recognizable fast-food offering, with its iconic jingle — “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” — still ringing in the ears of adults across America.
Despite its reputation, the Big Mac is not one of the unhealthiest fast-food sandwiches — not even close. At only 540 calories, the Big Mac is actually quite modest. There are a shocking number of “healthy and wholesome” dishes that easily eclipse the Big Mac’s calorie count. The most talked about food trends, like açaí bowls, ramen, and even kale Caesar salads, all contain more calories than a Big Mac. Even old health-food staples like a Cobb salad or a mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich are shockingly caloric. The foods on this list can be part of a healthy, responsible diet as long as you are cognizant of their nutrition facts. Don’t let their seemingly “healthy” reputations guide your choices alone.
Here are 12 “healthy” foods that actually have more calories than a Big Mac.
Besides maybe avocado toast, there’s nothing more chic to hit the brunch table than a merlot-colored açaí bowl adorned with all the accoutrements. Many of these açaí smoothie bowls are topped with sugary toppings like cocoa nibs, blueberries, shaved coconut, and banana, which can put these “superfood” breakfasts at well over 500 calories.
I know what you’re thinking: “But… there’s no flour tortilla.” This does save you a few hundred calories of unrefined carbohydrates, but most iterations of the burrito bowl can never truly be a healthy menu item. The chicken bowl from Chipotle Mexican Grill, with rice, black beans, tomato salsa, sour cream, and guacamole, contains 850 calories and over 65 percent of the daily allowance of both saturated fat and sodium. However, there are healthy versions of burrito bowls that can easily be made at home.
Don’t be deceived: Although it is a salad, the ingredient list of a Cobb reads like a deconstructed chicken club sandwich. Yes, there’s lettuce instead of bread, but the salad still includes bacon, chicken, and blue cheese. According to estimates by Livestrong.com, an average Cobb salad is over 600 calories with 43 grams of fat, making it no better than a Big Mac.
Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato With Basil Sandwich
It seems odd that — despite having no shriveled up beef patty, processed cheese (which is one of the worst things you can eat), or Big Mac sauce — this perfectly wholesome-seeming sandwich would have 100 more calories than a Big Mac. But most of the calories from Hale and Hearty’s fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwich with basil come from being served on “artisanal local” ciabatta bread. This sandwich is a textbook example of how vegetarian options aren’t always healthy or nutritious. Save some calories by serving up a caprese salad; it uses all the same ingredients, minus the bread.
Grilled Chicken Wrap
It’s not fried; it’s grilled. It’s not red meat; it’s chicken. But the problem with this popular lunch staple comes down to the flour tortilla, which can add an extra 200-300 calories to this otherwise healthy dish. Wraps are still a reasonable option, but don’t think you’re saving tons of calories by swapping out the buns for a tortilla. Many chicken wraps also include a creamy dressing like ranch, Caesar, or Buffalo wing sauce, which tacks on about an extra 100 calories.
Hummus and Salad Plate
There's no food more iconic to the healthy food movement than hummus. The chickpea and tahini (sesame paste) purée is hailed for its protein and minimal saturated fat content, but this doesn’t mean it’s a low-calorie food. The hummus and salad plate from Zoës Kitchen looks harmless: hummus, Greek salad, pita bread, cucumber raita, and olives don’t set off any warning bells, but this platter is a total of 660 calories. That being said, it’s a much more nutritionally complete lunch than a hamburger.
Kale Caesar Salad
There are benefits (and problems) that come with eating kale, but this polarizing superfood isn’t “super” enough to make a Caesar salad nutritious. Remember, Caesar dressing is traditionally a combination of high-fat ingredients like eggs, vegetable oil, and grated Parmesan cheese. Many Caesar salads are also layered with croutons and salty anchovies, which jack up the calorie count even higher.
The simple ingredient list makes a plate of pancakes look like a hearty way to start your day, but flapjacks are more dessert than breakfast. McDonald’s hot cakes are particularly caloric, with three pancakes containing 600 calories. One could argue that pancakes are actually less healthy than a Big Mac because, unlike a hamburger, they don’t offer any protein — or, for that matter, any nutritional value at all.
The medium-sized Cookies ‘n Créme protein smoothie from Jamba Juice seems innocent enough, but don’t let the word protein deceive you. Frozen banana is the only whole fruit in this smoothie, which also includes crème filled cookies, milk, ice, and whey protein. While you might feel healthier drinking it than chomping down on a Big Mac, you’re still taking in the same amount of calories. Make your own protein smoothie to save calories (and dollars).
It comes as no surprise that those 25-cent packets of instant ramen are no diet food, but more traditional noodle soups are associated with clean flavors and pure ingredients. Although a restaurant's interpretation of ramen soup will contain fewer processed ingredients, preservatives, and artificial additives than the packets, they still contain lots of fat, salt, and calories — it’s what makes them so tasty, after all. One analysis of the world-renowned Momofuku Noodle Bar found that their classic ramen contained over 1,000 calories, 69 grams of fat, and 2,858 milligrams of sodium.
Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT
Turkey, avocado, bacon, lettuce, and tomato doesn’t seem like a dastardly combination of ingredients, but this little sandwich from Panera Bread packs 30 more calories than a Big Mac. The sandwich seems simple, but after you factor in the two slices of sourdough bread and shmear of mayonnaise, it’s easy to see how this BLT is far from health food. That being said, fresh avocado, lettuce, and tomato is still a better lunch option that a measly patty of ground beef and slices of processed cheese.
Turkey is usually thought of as the healthier alternative to red meat, and it’s true that turkey is leaner than beef. But when it’s served upon a brioche bun with cheese, bacon, and avocado and a side of French fries, it doesn’t really matter what meat you’re eating. Ruby Tuesday’s avocado turkey burger with a side of fries is around 1,200 calories and contains more than a day’s worth of sodium.