The back of a box can be a scary place. Who hasn’t had his/her heart broken at least once by healthy-looking packaging that claims “only 75 calories a serving,” hiding the fact that a serving is around 1/8 of a teaspoon on the nutritional label? Check out this list of 20 foods that are packing the calories.
#SpoonDisclaimer: Calorie count is not equivalent to nutritional value.
2. Granola Bars
Surprise! Granola isn’t any healthier when it’s mixed with sweeteners and pressed into bar form. Often nearly 200 calories for two bars, bar brands such as Nature Valley won’t even keep you full for that long.
Black coffee has zero calories, but odds are you don’t drink it that way. A pump of syrup at Starbucks can add 25 calories, but if you order a Venti, you’re looking at 4 times that amount. Even just a small cold brew with milk and classic syrup gives you 90 calories to sip on with absolutely no nutritional value.
To cut down the calorie count of your cup, skip the whipped cream and flavored syrups and swap whole milk for skim. In a small order, you save about 100 calories, which translates to nearly an extra pound per month.
4. Dried Fruit
The water in fresh fruit gets you way more volume per calorie, but the dried varieties are more sugar- and calorie-dense. For 136 calories, you can get either 1/4 cup of dried cherries or nearly two cups of fresh ones. You decide.
5. Turkey Leg
Three cups of air-popped popcorn is only 93 calories, putting it in the safe snack zone. But not all popcorn is created equal; a bag of the microwave variety is usually around 400 calories (and not individually portioned, but who only eats half the bag?), while a small movie theater popcorn can be north of 600 calories with just one pump of butter topping.
#SpoonTip: Need something to munch on? Check out these five movie night snacks that can replace your popcorn.
7. Salad Dressing
Obviously ranch is going to reduce the healthiness of your salad, but don’t be fooled by the lighter varieties. A serving of Newman’s Own Italian dressing, at 130 calories, is equivalent to adding three strips of bacon on top of your greens.
Finishing off a medium Sabra might seem to be only a minor offense, but the smallish container holds 700 calories. It doesn’t help that tahini, a necessary addition to the chickpea spread, has 85 calories per tablespoon, nearly as much as peanut butter.
9. “Healthy” Cereal
You might think that steering clear of the Frosted Flakes will keep you low-cal, but that’s not exactly the case. Your cereal can pack way more calories than you’d think into a tiny bowl: one cup of Grapenuts or muesli is a “healthy” option but can contain 420 to 440 calories, respectively.
A fruit smoothie seems harmless, but a large Dunkin‘ or Jamba Juice strawberry smoothie can have you sipping between 470 and 510 calories. Watch out for nut butters too, which are super calorie-dense: Juice Generation’s peanut butter split packs 555 calories into only 20 ounces of shake.
11. Chia seeds
If you’re making your own smoothie, you’re more likely in the clear, but watch out for unexpected calorie additions. Chia seeds pack a ton of nutritional power, but at 137 calories per ounce, about two tablespoons, you might be adding more than you think to your drink.
#SpoonTip: Try these trendy nutrient shots that will give your body a boost.
13. Rice cakes
14. Gluten-free goods
While treats minus the wheat protein might have a certain health halo, they can be just as bad for you as foods with gluten. PSA: gluten-free baking might use different flour, but treats often contain as much butter and sugar as a conventional cookie. In some cases, gluten-free foods might be even higher in calories than its standard counterpart, like Skinny Pizza’s gluten-free crust.
15. Trail mix
Trail mix is hiker’s heaven: nutrient-dense ingredients like nuts, oats, dried fruits help keep energy up for miles. But as the USDA shows, the glorified granola might cause more harm than good at nearly 700 calories per cup.
#SpoonTip: Stay clear of the chocolate, fatty nuts, and other high-calorie mix-ins when crafting your trailing fuel.
For most college students, instant ramen is a stress-induced second dinner. But some varieties, such as Momofuku Toronto’s signature ramen bowl, are nearly an entire day’s worth of calories (1,241 to be exact). Time to start stress-eating something else.
#SpoonTip: Eat these foods to reduce stress.
The health benefits of fish may be worth the calories, but portion control is key. A salmon fillet, depending on size, can be 700 calories or more. Add butter, and you’re well on your way to a 1k calorie meal.
This one hurts the most. The popular dip is another healthy option gone wrong when portion size gets out of whack. At 155 calories per half cup, it’s not the worst thing in the world to scoop (looking at you, artichoke dip), but it’s easy to lose count of how much you’ve eaten after your 20th chip (and second marg).
#SpoonTip: Ditch the chips and try out these creative ways to eat guac to cut more cals.
Technically not dessert, but it might have the same number of calories (or more). Choose a Starbucks chocolate chip muffin, and you’ll eat the same amount of calories as a S’mores bar plus a vanilla bean scone. Still craving a muffin top? Try out this recipe that won’t give you one.
You might think you’re being healthier by swapping froyo for real ice cream, but brands like Red Mango can have calorie counts well past 100 calls per half cup, which adds up quickly in those super-sized serving cups.