Hidden calories: They can add up fast
Think of them as “stealth” calories. Like the military plane that’s able to avoid radar, extra calories can sneak into your diet despite your best efforts to make good choices.
Hidden calories can masquerade in food that seems healthful but is filled with fat. Or, they might be in a food you didn’t know packed a high caloric punch. And if you are trying to lose weight, then you may be shocked to hear that even foods we consider healthy can be high in calories, leading to weight gain.
No matter where extra calories come from, they add up fast. But knowing what foods contain hidden calories can help you stay on track in maintaining a healthful diet.
Tracking hidden calories
Foods that may give more calories than you bargained for include:
- Reduced-fat foods — Just because some of the fat is gone doesn’t mean the calories are. If you check the label, you’ll often find that the reduced-fat snack you’re eating still has a significant number of calories — sometimes almost as much as “regular” snacks.
Tip: Pay attention to the label, especially the serving size and total calorie content, and you won’t wind up with more calories than you intended.
- Condiments — A tablespoon of mayonnaise adds 100 calories to your sandwich with one spread of your knife. One tablespoon of salad dressing is another quick way to put up to 100 calories in your salad. And just 1 tablespoon of butter tops your baked potato with another 100 calories.
Think of the other things you typically add to your food without much thought. Do you like jelly on your toast? One tablespoon — even of the all-fruit spreads — has about 50 calories. Do you add cream and sugar to coffee? You could be adding up to 65 calories to your morning java. Honey, often added to tea, has 65 calories per tablespoon.
Tip: To add spice to food without adding as many calories, try ketchup, salsa or one of the many new gourmet mustards. For coffee or tea, use skim milk or a sugar substitute (in moderation) instead. Many flavored coffees or teas are also low in calories, and they don’t need cream or sugar.
- Alcohol — Cocktail calories add up fast. A 2.5-ounce martini has about 155 calories, while a 2-ounce Manhattan has 130 calories. Other alcoholic drinks are also high in calories. There are 150 calories in a 12-ounce beer, and a 4-ounce glass of white or red wine has about 80 to 85 calories. Even wine coolers tip the scale at over 200 calories for a 12-ounce serving.
Tip: Try light beer (100 calories) or nonalcoholic beer (60 calories). Or, make your own wine spritzer by adding club soda to half a glass of wine.
- Soda pop — Because of the sugar in it, regular soda has about 150 to 200 calories per 12-ounce can. If you drink three cans a day, which is the amount contained in many of the large refillable cups sold by stores and restaurants, you’ve used up a good share of your recommended daily intake of calories.
Tip: Try making water your main beverage. But if you still want something fizzy, try club soda or mineral water. Add a lemon or lime wedge for flavor with negligible calories.
- Nuts — Although they’re a good source of protein and vitamin E, just a small handful of nuts can easily contain 100 to 200 calories. For example, there’s about 160 calories and 14 grams of fat in those packages of peanuts handed out on airplanes. And just 1 ounce of sunflower seeds sprinkled on your salad adds 170 calories and about 15 grams of fat.
Tip: Snack alternatives to nuts include air-popped popcorn (25 calories a cup) or pretzels (25 small ones have 110 calories). For crunch on top of salads, try cut-up celery, water chestnuts, radishes or carrots.
- Olive Oil — Olive oil is a “healthy fat” but it packs a high calorie punch. One level tablespoon has 119 calories, (making it calorically-dense) and those calories can easily add up if you are using olive oil as a salad dressing or to dip your bread in.
Tip: Go easy on the oil and measure it out or use a reduced-fat salad dressing and measure it so you know how much you are getting.
- Yogurt — Many types of yogurt, including frozen yogurt, may be low in fat but high in sugar and calories. Check the label or ask at the counter to see how many calories you’re getting.
Tip: Look for fat-free yogurts. But be careful — even they may have about 100 calories per serving. And keep the serving size reasonable — have frozen yogurt in a small sugar cone (which has 45 calories) rather than a waffle cone that is 200 calories. Or skip the cone altogether and have the same amount in a dish.
- Muffins — They seem like a healthful food and they’re often sold in so-called health food stores. But one large muffin can have between 300 and 500 calories, not to mention a good number of fat grams. Even a regular-size muffin can have 120 to 200 calories.
Tip: Choose a bagel, English muffin or slice of hearty, whole-grain bread instead.
- Fruit juice — Think of how many oranges you have to squeeze for a glass of juice. Now you know why an 8-ounce serving of orange juice can have 100 to 120 calories, even though an orange has only about 60 calories. Other fruit juices — pineapple and grape in particular — may also be high in calories.
Tip: Keep your juice serving size to 6 ounces. Or, eat a piece of the fruit itself instead.