Spring's 10 Most Fattening Foods

Watch out for these high-calorie spring favorites.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Spring's arrival brings not just daffodils and tulips, but a wake-up call for everyone who has been hibernating during the winter, avoiding exercise, indulging in comfort foods -- and adding extra pounds. With the weather warming up, it's time to put away the bulky sweaters and get ready for skimpier clothing. But unless you're careful about spring's most fattening foods, you might actually add to your winter weight gain instead of shedding those extra pounds.

Ball games, brunches, weekend picnics, and evening suppers on the patio are rites of passage this time of year. And the good news is you can still enjoy them all, with a little knowledge and a little planning. Here are some of spring's most fattening foods, along with tips on how to enjoy them and still get your body ready for the beach.

  1. You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream. When the weather warms up, ice cream shops have lines out their doors. And unless you're careful, the calories in these chilly treats add up in a hurry. So forget the toppings, candy mix-ins, and waffle cones and stick with a single scoop of your favorite ice cream. Better yet, choose frozen yogurt or sorbet. At home, stock your freezer with calorie-controlled novelty treats like ice cream sandwiches or bars, or try the new light ice creams that taste like super-premium brands.
  2. Hot dogs, plain, with chili and cheese, or wrapped in cornbread, go hand in hand with baseball season, whether you're at a Little League game or the big-league ballpark. "Keep it simple, top it with relish, and limit it to one dog, because they are not only high in fat but also contain plenty of sodium," says Susan Moores, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
  3. Chocolates show up around Easter, again on Mother's Day, perhaps on Father's Day, and in some households, every day. Dark chocolate does has some health benefits, but only if you eat a small portion -- not an entire chocolate bunny. "Enjoy an ounce a day of the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate, and keep in mind if you overeat chocolates, the added fat, sugar, and calories negate the health benefits," Moores says.
  4. Brunch is popular in spring, but brunch foods can wreak havoc on your diet. Typical brunches include breakfast casseroles or quiches loaded with sausages, cheese, butter, and cream, all served with hot cross buns, cinnamon rolls, or pastries. Instead, enjoy simply prepared eggs, sliced meats, whole grain breads, and fruit for a still delicious, but more nutritious and less calorie-laden brunch.
  5. Topping, dressings, and sauces on otherwise spring healthy foods can spell diet disaster. "Hollandaise sauce on asparagus, whipped cream on strawberries, or high-fat salad dressings on salads turn a perfectly healthy food into a high-calorie land mine," says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, author of Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations. To keep calories in check, choose lighter versions of your favorite topper, or just add a little dab.
  6. Seasonal beverages like ice cream drinks, iced coffee drinks, margaritas, tropical cocktails, and smoothies are favorites on spring break or for sipping with friends on the deck. "Liquid calories add up so quickly," says ADA spokeswoman Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD. "Know what is going into your drink, and limit the high-calorie offenders. Otherwise, a few of these drinks can easily add hundreds of extra calories."
  7. Passover desserts made with nuts, chocolate, and coconut can be calorie land mines, says chef and weight management specialist Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD. Her advice: Have fruit for dessert, or keep your dessert portion small.
  8. Salads loaded with mayo, such as chicken and potato salad, are easy to tote in picnic baskets but are also loaded with fat and calories. "This is an easy fix," Moores says. "Simply decrease the amount of mayonnaise or swap for light mayo, add mustard or fresh herbs, and consider other healthy ingredients -- like green beans with potatoes or grapes with chicken -- to lower the fat content and add a burst of fresh spring flavor." And for your main dish? Just keep it simple. "Eating entree salads is a great idea during spring, with all the wonderful greens and vegetables, but so often they are also loaded with high fat ingredients like cheese, croutons, mayonnaise salads, and high-fat dressings," says Boston University professor Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD.
  9. Spring is prime time to fire up the grill and enjoy grilled foods like burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and steaks. Instead, fill your grill with-lower fat items. "Grill poultry, fish, lean meats, fruit, and veggies, and stay away from the high-fat burgers, giant steaks, and other high-fat items like ribs," says ADA spokeswoman Marisa Moore, RD.
  10. Coconut is found in many popular spring dishes, like shrimp, cream pies, cakes, cookies, and smoothies. But coconut contains saturated fat, and in 1 ounce of the sweetened packaged kind in the grocery store, there are 129 calories and 8 grams of fat. "If you indulge in a large portion of coconut, the calories can skyrocket, because usually the coconut is paired with other high-calories ingredient," says Gerbstadt. "For example, coconut shrimp that is fried contains about 300 calories, compared to less than 100 for the same portion of simple shrimp cocktail," says Gerbstadt. The cure? Stay away from coconut-laden dishes, and enjoy just a sprinkle of coconut over the top of your favorite spring dishes for flavor and texture. Or try a lighter substitute like crunchy cereal or toasted wheat germ.

Published March 27, 2008.


SOURCES: Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, spokesperson, American Dietetic Association; author, Diet Simple:192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations. Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N, chef; spokesperson, American Dietetic Association, Tampa, Fla. Marisa Moore, RD,LD, spokesperson, American Dietetic Association. Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, clinical assistant professor, Boston University. Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, physician; spokesperson, American Dietetic Association, Tampa, Fla.

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