Sometimes, it can feel like you’re doing everything right on your weight loss plan—you’re eating your four servings of non-starchy vegetables each day, calming junk food cravings the right way and practicing your weekly meal prep and planning. However, you still aren’t seeing the scale budge! You’re eating foods you think are healthy but you’re not getting the diet results you want. It’s possible that some of those “healthy” foods could be not so healthy after all—either because you’re preparing larger portions of them than you think you are, or there’s a secret, sneaky, calorie-heavy component hiding inside. Either way, the result is the same: Your weight loss is sabotaged!
Don’t let sneaky foods fool you any longer! Watch out for these seven ingredients that could be adding unwanted calories to your day:
1. Nuts and Nut Butters
Adding more nuts to your diet can help your heart and reduce belly fat, according to research, conducted by Penn State University. They’re part of the “Mediterranean Diet,” and scientists have found that the healthy fats in this diet can help you slim down and live longer. (Click here to learn more about the potential health benefits of nuts! >) Despite having healthy qualities, both nuts and nut butters can sneak up on you if you eyeball your portion sizes instead of measuring. By guessing, you run the risk of overestimating the portions you are having and adding sneaky calories to your snack or meal.
The solution: First, count out your nut servings: For example, you can eat 25 pistachios in a single PowerFuel serving. For nut butters, you can’t exactly count but you can use your thumb: A one tablespoon serving of nut butters—the amount equal to one PowerFuel—is about as big as your thumb or a poker chip. Keep the portions in check to keep these creamy, chunky, smooth or crunchy friends from becoming sneaky diet-detonating ingredients! Click here to learn how many nuts are in a PowerFuel serving. >
Here’s another “healthy” food that we love that can add up quick: One cup of avocado has polyunsaturated fats that your body needs, but it also packs in 384 calories—almost 20 percent of what many Americans need in their daily diets, says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you smear that much on a slice of toast, you’re getting nutrients you need but it’s also a “healthy” snack that’s turned into a meal. Too much of a good thing is possible, especially when it comes to avocado! Even if the source is a healthy whole food, every calorie you eat is one your body has to burn or store.
The solution: Use your kitchen’s ultimate tool for weight loss: A measuring spoon! One tablespoon of mashed avocado is equal to one Extra—Nutrisystem members are limited to three Extras per day. Don’t let extra Extras sneak up on you and sabotage your progress! Click here to learn more about harnessing the power and perks of avocados without losing control of portion sizes!
3. Coffee “Pumps”
According to Reuters.com, Americans have been drinking less soda over the last decade. However, we’re still consuming almost half of our daily added sugars from beverages, says Health.gov. Some dietitians blame our sweet morning pick-me-ups: One pump of flavored syrup from a popular chain coffee shop can add about five grams of sugar and 20 calories to your day. That might not seem like much, but do this everyday for a whole year and you’ve added 7,300 sneaky calories to your annual intake.
The solution: If your pumps are a must-have, track them! Using the NuMi app can make sure this sneaky ingredient doesn’t sneak up on you. If you’d rather save those 7,300 calories for the year, try using powdered stevia, a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolatey kick or some cinnamon for a warming flavor. Be sure to check out these helpful diet tips from our experts at The Leaf and keep your calories on track when you visit your local coffee shop!
4. Salad Toppers and Dressings
It doesn’t get more healthy-sounding than a salad. It also doesn’t get much fancier than crowning that heaping bowl of veggies with some tasty toppers: Slivered almonds, dried cranberries, crunchy chia seeds and glops of creamy dressing.
What harm can some dried fruit and almonds do? We’ve already seen how quickly nuts add up. However, those dried cranberries aren’t just cranberries—they’re pumped up with added sugar! A quarter-cup of dried cranberries from a popular brand contains almost 30 grams of sugar, adding about 130 calories to your salad. Chia seeds also add up quickly: According to the USDA, an eighth of a cup will add 90 calories to your veggies. Creamy salad dressings can present a problem, too: Forget to measure your favorite ranch dressing and an extra two tablespoons will top your salad with 120 extra calories, says the USDA.
The solution: As with almost all the ingredients on this list, measuring and serving size control makes a major impact—just sprinkle a spoonful of those crunchy seeds instead of pouring from the bag. But there’s more you can do: Try swapping store-bought dressing for one of these simple, homemade versions that you’ll love. Use fresh berries instead of dried: According to the USDA, a half-cup of fresh blueberries has just 35 calories, compared to 260 for the dried kind.
5. “Nectar” and “Syrup”
Added sugars are literally killing us: According to research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, study subjects who consumed 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar experienced a 38% increase in risk of death from heart disease. This was in comparison to participants who consumed about eight percent of calories from added sugar. And with added sugar in more than 75 percent of packaged foods, it’s not hard to top that killer number, says the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
In 2021, nutrition labels will be required by law to list “Added Sugars” on their own line. But until then, these ingredients and their extra calories can sneak into our diets… because they aren’t just called “sugar” on the label. They’re all those words ending in “ose”—glucose, dextrose, sucrose—but also sneakier, healthier-sounding ingredients like “nectars” and “syrups.” An ingredient like “agave nectar” might sound natural and healthy, but make no mistake: It’s just sugar trying to sneak its way into your waistline.
The solution: Flip your food over. Words like “natural” and “healthy” on the front of a label are unregulated terms—they’re meaningless marketing! Check the ingredients list for nectars and syrups. They could be adding sneaky calories to your foods that you don’t need. Choose unsweetened products and add your own sweetness with a little stevia or monk fruit.
Take a peek at these four ingredients you should never eat again! >
This sandwich recipe staple is easy enough to measure and still enjoy on your healthy diet. But when adding mayonnaise to chicken, potato, egg or tuna salads, things can easily get out of hand. If you’re like most people, you forget about measuring and keep adding mayo until you’ve achieved the consistency you like. Going overboard by just two tablespoons can add 180 extra sneaky calories to that bowl. But if you don’t add enough, the salad won’t be creamy enough!
The solution: Supplement with Greek yogurt. One teaspoon of mayo is equal to one Extra on Nutrisystem. Use up your three Extras in your favorite chicken or tuna salad recipe, then fill in the rest with high-protein, nonfat Greek yogurt. It won’t change the flavor but will add filling protein that your body needs. Plus, it’s a PowerFuel, not an Extra—so you can stay on track with your daily meal prep and weight loss goals while enjoying a sandwich or salad that’s as creamy as you want.
7. Shredded Cheese
Since you’re just sprinkling some on the top of a taco or a bowl of salad, measuring out your shredded cheese is probably the last thing on your mind—it’s finally time to chow down! But an over-serve on the cheesy goodness is all-too-easy, and can turn your portion-controlled taco into a sneaky weight loss saboteur. An extra eighth-cup of shredded cheese from a popular brand—basically an extra heavy sprinkle—can add over 50 calories to your dish if you’re not careful. Repeat that heavy hand a few times and the sneaky calories can really add up.
The solution: First, start with reduced fat versions of your favorite shredded cheese — they’re also lower in calories. Then, think of other low calorie ways to give your tacos and meals what you’re getting from the cheese: Maybe you can accomplish some of the creaminess with a dollop of light sour cream, instead. At just 20 calories per tablespoon, according to the USDA, it’s a calorie-saving miracle addition to your next burrito bowl.
Take your pick at an unlimited list of healthy recipes with nutritious and wellness-promoting ingredients! Visit our recipe portal on The Leaf here! >