[By Leslie Stevens]
Some of these healthy snacks can actually sabotage your diet. Uncover these hidden calorie traps and find out why “healthy snacks” are not always your best bet when you want to slim down and shape up.
Fat Trap: Yogurt
If you think snacking on yogurt is your best bet to fit into that little black dress, think again. Even plain yogurt naturally contains about 16 grams of sugar per cup. But if you eat flavored yogurt, you could be downing 15 or more additional grams of sugar. Imagine shoveling in four extra teaspoonfuls!
Choose plain, low-fat yogurt and stir in a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, or all-fruit spread for a hint of sweetness. Or opt for fat-free Greek yogurt, which is lower in sugar than even regular plain yogurt but often has double the protein to keep you satisfied longer.
Fat Trap: Sugar-Free Cookies and Candy
All of us have at some point in our lives fallen for this no-sugar scam! When manufacturers remove the sweet stuff, they often add fat. One popular brand offers chocolate-chip cookies that each contain 160 calories and 9 grams of fat, so why not eat the real thing? You might save calories with sugar-free candy, but many contain sorbitol, which can cause bloating and diarrhea.
Get your cookie fix with graham crackers, which have almost a teaspoon less sugar per serving than many other packaged cookies. Or find a 100-calorie snack pack of your favorite. Grab a 60-calorie Tootsie Pop or a York Peppermint Pattie (140 calories and 2.5 grams of fat). The real thing is often not worse if you eat it in small amounts. On the other hand, the “fake” low cal stuff could be worse as you think you are getting a healthier alternative and eat more of it in the long run!
Fat Trap: Trail Mix
Store-bought versions of this hiking staple should take a hike! If you scrutinize the labels on most of these supposedly healthier munchies, you will find to your horror that a 1-ounce handful of banana chips packs 10 grams of fat (they’re usually deep-fried), and yogurt-covered raisins are coated with partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, which contains saturated and trans fats. What is worse is that as a snack, you could be polishing off packet after packet of this calorie trap without realizing it!
Toss your own trail mix with nuts, dried fruit (raisins or chopped apricots), whole-grain cereal, mini pretzels, and a few chocolate chips. Limit your portion to one cup. Alternative go green and settle for celery and carrot sticks which are better alternatives.
Fat Trap: Veggie Chips
While coloured vegies are good for you, the same cannot be said about chips. The rainbow-hued chips are no better than their potato counterparts. While both may boast a little vitamin A or C, your hips won’t know the difference: The salty snacks have about 150 calories and 9 or 10 grams of fat per handful. And that bag may contain plain old chips in disguise; sometimes manufacturers simply add food coloring to potato flour.
Be sure your chips list a vegetable, not potato flour or corn flour, as the first ingredient and stick with just one portion. Or skip them in favor of baked tortilla chips.
Fat Trap: Granola
Brunch is sometimes the most sinful meal of the day. Take a look at any brunch menu and you’ll find pancakes drowned in syrup, eggs swimming in hollandaise sauce — is there a healthy option on the brunch menu? Masquerading as a healthier choice, granola seems harmless, but it’s no breakfast of champions. One cup contains up to 560 calories and 28 grams of fat before you add milk.
Granola can be a healthy garnish in small portions. Moderation is key. Skip granola at restaurants, where you can’t control your portion. Enjoy it at home by mixing a quarter cup into a cup of low-cal, whole-grain cereal, such as All-Bran Complete Wheat Flakes, or sprinkle a tablespoon on oatmeal.
Fat Trap: Sushi
Say sayonara to the trendy American-style sushi rolls if you are looking for a low cal meal. They’re stuffed with high-cal ingredients like cream cheese, mayo, and shredded cheese. One shrimp tempura roll (just six pieces of sushi) contains about 500 calories and 20 grams of fat.
Look for the basics — fish, rice, seaweed, vegetables — and skip creamy sauces. Sashimi (sliced raw fish, no rice) and nigiri (raw fish with rice) are safe, as are cucumber rolls. Order a side of protein-rich edamame to fill you up.
Fat Trap: Smoothies
Don’t mistake smoothies for fresh fruit. Sure, you’ll get your fruit servings. You’ll also fit in a meal’s worth of calories, and in some cases, way more fat than you think (17 grams in one popular chain’s 16-ounce chunky strawberry smoothie). Even if you substitute one for breakfast, you’re pushing your calorie limit: Some smoothies weigh in at 500 calories.
Pick the smallest size available, and avoid high-cal mixers like frozen yogurt, sherbet, sorbet, and especially peanut butter and granola. If you are looking for a low cal way to quench the thirst, water is still your best bet.
Fat Trap: Diet Soda
That can of zero-calorie soda may be your waistline’s worst enemy: Research found that people who drink artificially sweetened beverages gained more weight than those who didn’t, possibly because the sweet flavor may trigger cravings for the real thing! Another study identified soda sippers to be more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure and abdominal fat that raises heart-disease risk.
Ditch diet soda. Get your fizz fix from seltzer or sparkling mineral water, such as Evian.