Diet-Busting Foods That May Surprise You
There are many foods that seem like they're healthy but are actually loaded with calories and fat.
By Heather Hatfield
Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
Beware of the counterfeit food, disguised as healthy and seemingly good for your diet, but secretly packing quite a calorie punch. There are plenty of suspects out there, ones that might seem like they should be obvious, and others that sneak past your lips without you even knowing it. Either way, they add a significant number of calories to your diet. From soup to nuts, here are the biggest culprits.
"We frequently think of soup as a filler, but not necessarily a rich source of calories," says Susan Moores, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
So for lunch, you have a nice light salad (Warning! See below!) and a hearty soup complete with crackers, all the while patting yourself on the back for sticking to your diet. The bad news is that certain soups can be packed full of calories and fat, especially favorites like New England clam chowder or cream of broccoli.
"Broth soups are great, but cream or milk-based soups can be fairly high in fat, with more than 300 calories for 8-12 ounces," says Moores.
"Sugar-free cookies fall into the fat-free phenom," says Moores. "When an ingredient considered bad -- such as fat or sugar -- is removed, often people will think that means fewer calories or even no calories."
In other words, they give themselves a license to eat and eat and eat until the package is empty because, hey, no sugar means no calories, right? Wrong -- sugar-free doesn't necessarily mean good for your diet.
"Checking the package label will tell the true story," says Moores. "It's not uncommon for a fat-free or even sugar-free food to have nearly the same number of calories as its regular counterpart, and taste- wise, there's no comparison to the real deal."
Is it the other white meat?
"Some cuts or preparation techniques make pork great," Moores tells WebMD. "Others don't."
Depending on the cut, the piece of pork in front of you can be comparable to low-fat, low-calorie chicken, or as high in fat as a hot dog. And even if it's a lean cut of meat, adding sauce or cheese to a nice slice of pork can ruin its value to your waistline.
"Loin cuts such as tenderloin and sirloin are lean," says Moores. "Often it's preparation or sauces that make pork a boon or a bust."
You can't get your day started without a big cup of java, and as a stand-alone, you'll be glad to hear it's OK for your diet.
"Coffee by itself is calorie free," says Moores.
But start adding on accessories and your seemingly innocent morning coffee turns your diet in the wrong direction.
"Coffee drinks can be astronomically high in calories depending on the ingredients and size of the drink one selects," says Moores. "I've seen one coffee drink that contained more than 1,000 calories for 16 ounces. Ouch."
Salad dressings are notorious for sneaking loads of extra calories and fat onto what might seem like a healthy meal.
"Some studies show that women who are high salad eaters get up to 60% of their total fat each day from salad dressings," says Rick Hall, a registered dietitian and advisory board member for the Arizona Governor's Council on Health, Physical Fitness, and Sports.
Throw on a little cheese, croutons, and bacon bits, and your lunch is starting to look less healthy, more calorie packed, and detrimental to your diet.
Don't be fooled by the wrapping.
"Some breakfast bars look healthy and even have healthy looking pictures on the box," Hall tells WebMD. "But if you look at the actual calories and extra sugars in its ingredients, it's pretty high."
The telltale trick, explains Hall, is to see what's listed first on the ingredient list.
"When one of the first two or three ingredients is high-fructose corn syrup, that's something to be very cautious of," says Hall. "And that's what you see with a lot of the breakfast bars."
Dried Fruits and Granola
"Dried fruits don't contain any water, which makes them very dense in calories," says David Levitsky, PhD, who is a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University.
Foods like raisins, dried apples, and apricots look healthy on the outside, but on the inside, they're secretly carrying more than their fair share of calories.
"A handful is OK," says Levitsky. "But if you sit down and eat the whole package thinking they're low-calorie, you're wrong."