5 Foods That Are Not Really Your Best Friends

Watch out for five unassuming foods that rake in the calories, whether you realize it or not.
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View from above of cappuccino in a white cup

Photo by: Adele De Witte

Adele De Witte

Presented with the likes of cookies and candy, most people keep their guard up — or at least try. But even if you'd never dream of going overboard on those foods,  there are less obvious culprits that could be derailing a healthy diet. Go easy on these saboteurs, and you'll be better for it.

Coffee drinks: Whether it's what you use to get you going in the morning, or your favorite afternoon treat, beware of what’s going in your coffee cup. "Those fancy drinks can pack a big calorie punch, not to mention saturated fat and sugar," warns Tara Gidus, RD, sports nutritionist and team dietitian for the Orlando Magic. In fact, a grande mocha drink will add 260 calories your daily count (by comparison, three Oreo cookies has 160 calories and 7 grams of fat). Skip the chocolate syrup and whipped cream, and get your coffee drinks made with low- or non-fat milk instead.

Fat-free snacks: It may seem counterintuitive, but seeking out something that proclaims “fat-free” on the label may be wrecking your diet. “When the fat’s removed, sugar and/or sodium are generally added,” says Libby Mills, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. So check the calorie counts and sugar grams—in addition to fat grams—on the label of your snacks before you indulge.

Vegetable chips: For the most part, these snacks are no better for you than potato chips (and certainly no substitute for eating your veggies!). Even the baked varieties can still pack a lot of unwanted fat and calories. They are fine for a once-in-awhile treat, but don’t kid yourself that they are a truly healthy snack.

Diet soda: While diet sodas typically have few—if any—calories, that doesn’t necessarily make them a good choice of beverage. “They contain artificial sweeteners to achieve the same sweet, addicting taste as regular soda,” says Gidus. “And that not only keeps you coming back for more, but studies have shown they might be hindering your weight loss efforts by making you crave other sugary foods.” A better choice: brew your own herbal iced tea or add a splash of juice to sparkling water.

Salads: Of course, a salad can be one of the healthiest choices you can make—for a meal or a side dish. But be careful not to get fooled by anything that calls itself a salad. Taking a sprinkling of lettuce and veggies and then piling the bowl with high-fat, high-calories extras and topping it with creamy dressing can lead to a 1,000 calorie salad. Conversely, having a very spare salad can set you up for over-indulging later. “The ‘I’ll just have a salad’ mentality—especially at lunch—can leave you more hungry and unable to get through the afternoon without snacking,” says Mary Ryan, RD, owner of Beyond Broccolli Nutritional Counseling, Jackson, WY.

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