We all have those moments where we eat great, nice and clean, step on the scale a day later and think “What? I didn’t lose anything?!”. Well, lucky for you, I’ve compiled a short list of things that could be tacking on more empty calories than you think. This is not to say that you can’t have these foods, but that you should just watch your portions on them and as always, talk to a dietitian for more help!
I used to be the kid that ordered a salad without dressing, I was so grossed out by it. Knowing that now, I can’t believe this was something I’d do! I love dressing on my salad as much as the next person but it’s important to make a conscious decision to try and keep calories low without sacrificing taste. My favorite salad dressing is honey mustard, which for one serving (2 tbsp), it can add as much as 200 calories to my already 300-400 calorie salad! So what can I do to help keep calories low but still get that honey mustardy taste? I made my own dressing of course! Mixing plain greek yogurt with equal parts honey and mustard was my solution and it’s one that I love doing every week. I get more protein, lower sugar, and can have more without it being even close to the same amount of calories.
So that covers honey mustard, but what about all those other dressing out there? Try and look for greek yogurt-based salad dressings in your local grocer. They are often lower in sugar and much lower in calories by almost half! If you really aren’t into making your own dressing or really don’t want to stray away from your go-to dressing, always always always be sure to check the nutrition label in the back for serving size. You’ll typically find that serving sizes of salad dressings are 2 tbsp. Stick with that serving size and no more! Otherwise you can add hundreds of calories to a healthy meal without even realizing it.
Oh yes, the ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise we all know and love. While these are always staples at your BBQ parties or 4th of July parties, they’re something that we’re adding to already high-calorie foods (hot dogs, burgers, pasta salads). So, what are some alternatives? Try and find a low sugar or no sugar added ketchup. The tomato-based staple can contain lots of extra sugar we don’t really need, so check your label and be sure there’s no more than 5g of added sugar. With mayo you can use greek yogurt instead. Just like the salad dressing, it will increase protein and decrease fat dramatically.
As for mustard, it’s already a low-calorie condiment, but will be higher in sodium. Fun fact: during a Spartan race I did one year, I saw a group of guys consuming mustard packets all throughout the course to stay hydrated because of the sodium content in them; GROSS! Sorry, but I’d rather do something else to stay hydrated. Relish is another condiment that’s very low in calories but adds tons of flavor to foods, so eat up!
We all know alcohol is calories and no one wants to hear that they should cut back or limit the amount of drinks they’re used to having. It’s more important to be aware of the ways in which alcohol can increase calories so drastically. Yes, hard liquor has sugar in it, but it’s the mixers you need to watch out for. It’s always better to use a seltzer/club soda as your mixer than sprite, coke, or any other high-calorie soda or juice for that matter. One vodka-tonic drink gets you 215 calories per drink, where a vodka-seltzer drink will only be around 75-100 calories. Be very conscious of tonic water. Many people think that because it’s “water” it’s got to be better than soda; FALSE. Tonic water is LOADED with sugar and only increases the chances you’ll be feeling your head pounding the next day. Ever had a gin and tonic hangover? Need I say more?
Butter; another great staple in our diet that only adds to the taste and deliciousness of foods. I am the first to go in on a good helping of bread and butter or loading up some cinnamon raisin toast with butter. Even though I love it, doesn’t mean I don’t watch how much of it I put on my foods. 1 tablespoon of butter can offer up about 100 calories. Butter is also high in saturated fat which increases our risk of heart disease, and boosts triglyceride and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. So what to use instead of butter? Olive oil! I always put olive oil on my vegetables before I roast or steam them. It’s also better to spray pans with olive oil rather than a spray non-stick concoction. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which offers up wonderful health benefits. Being an Omega-3 fat, it will decrease your risk for heart disease and HDL (good cholesterol), but will also lower triglyceride levels and LDL.
Cream and Sugar
The two most common foods we throw into our coffee. When I first started drinking coffee, I would load it with vanilla creamer and all the sugar I wanted until it was sweet enough. I can’t even imagine what it would taste like to me now. Limiting the sugar and creamer you put in your coffee can dramatically decrease your simple sugar intake first thing in the morning. If you add 2 tbsp of sugar and 2 tbsp of creamer, you’re adding upwards of 10-15 grams of added sugar just in your cup of coffee! We’re only supposed to have a total of 26-34 grams in our ENTIRE day. So luckily for us there are plenty of great alternatives to make our coffee taste just as good. Try using coconut, oat milk, or almond milk creamer. Keep in mind, getting a flavored creamer can cut down on the need to add extra sugar. Also note that changing the flavor of your coffee takes some getting used to, so be patient and give it some time! It’s so important to limit added sugar intake to decrease risk of any co-morbidities.