If weight loss tops your New Year’s resolution list, you’re probably off to a good start making healthier food choices. A smoothie at breakfast, salad at lunch and a snack before you hit the gym after work.
But healthy eating doesn’t always equate to fewer calories. In fact, your newfound habits may be adding calories to your diet and stalling your weight loss. Here’s how to sidestep 10 common calorie blunders in 2014.
1. Cut the smoothie “boosters.” If you’re heavy-handed with the ground flax, chia seeds, hemp hearts and flax oil, your smoothie can be more calorie-laden than a McDonald’s Big Mac. Adding a tablespoon of each to your drink adds 315 calories. Factor in the protein powder, milk and banana and your healthy shake will cost you 625 calories. To boost your smoothie with plant-based omega-3s, add one tablespoon of either ground flax, chia seeds or hemp hearts or one teaspoon of flax oil.
2. Limit salad toppings. An entrée salad might seem like a smart choice, but all those toppings can make your so-called light lunch add up to 1,000 calories – or more.
A few crumbles of blue cheese (1/4 cup), a sprinkle of dried cranberries and sunflower seeds (2 tablespoons each), a few slices of avocado and a splash of vinaigrette dressing (4 tablespoons) add 500 calories to your grilled chicken and spinach.
At the salad bar, choose only one high-calorie topping. Load your salad with lower-calorie fresh vegetables, include lean protein and use only two tablespoons of dressing.
At restaurants, order simple entrée salads (e.g. grilled salmon and greens); skip the croutons, bacon, candied nuts (140 calories per 1/4 cup) and go easy on the cheese.
3. Weigh your protein. Just because it’s fish – and contains heart healthy omega-3 fats – doesn’t mean it’s calorie-free. It’s common for people to eat twice the serving size of fish as they do meat or poultry.
Yet that six-ounce portion of salmon has nearly double the calories (365) as a four-ounce sirloin steak (195). Whether it’s meat, chicken, fish or tofu, measure your portion size to ensure you’re sticking to your plan.
4. Preportion nuts. They’re packed with protein, healthy fats and magnesium. And, of course, eating nuts can help lower elevated blood pressure. But a handful (or two) here or a handful there can deliver a considerable calorie hit to a weight-loss plan.
To prevent overeating, keep the nut jar out of sight. As snack, stick to a one-ounce serving a day. One serving (160 to 190 calories) is about 23 almonds, 14 walnut halves, 18 cashews, 28 peanuts or 49 pistachios. If you’re including fruit with your snack, reduce your nut portion by half.
5. Don’t be fooled by “light.” You might think you’re slashing calories from your diet by opting for the light version, but in many cases this isn’t so. Spread your toast with light versus regular peanut butter and you’ll save only 10 calories per tablespoon.
Yes, Breyer’s 1/2 the Fat ice cream has 50 per cent less fat than the company’s Creamery Style, but it contains only 20 fewer calories per half-cup serving. Plus, the health halo effect of “light” may prompt you to eat a bigger portion. Stick to the regular version. You’ll find it more satisfying and might not be as tempted to overeat.
6. Count your crackers (and chips and cookies). Whether they’re gluten-free, 100-per-cent whole grain or baked not fried, if you eat your snack from the box or bag, chances are you’ll eat more calories than you think, and certainly more than you need.
Munch your way through half of a 220-gram bag of Frito Lay’s Tostito Multigrain Tortilla Chips and you’ll devour 550 calories. Even the calories from ShaSha’s Spelt Ginger Snaps add up if you’re not careful. Ditto for Mary’s Gone crackers made from brown rice, quinoa and flax seeds.
Don’t eat from the bag or box. Read the nutrition label and measure (or count out) one serving.
7. Lose the protein obsession. Unless you’re a muscle-bound guy lifting heavy weightsat the gym, most people don’t need to start and finish their workouts with a hefty protein shake or protein bar. Some bars, especially meal-replacement varieties, deliver 300 calories or more.
If your goal is weight (fat) loss, limit your pre- and post-workout snacks (protein-rich, of course) to 150 to 200 calories.
8. Drizzle, don’t pour, cooking oil. No matter how nutritious the oil – be it extra virgin olive, cold pressed canola or organic coconut – every tablespoon you add to the wok, brush on grilled vegetables or pour over your salad greens adds 120 calories.
Measure the cooking oil you use with a teaspoon to become aware of much you’re adding to foods.
9. Ease up on “natural” sweeteners. A little agave nectar here, a little honey there, adds up: Every tablespoon has 60 calories. If you must sweeten your oatmeal, coffee or tea use only one teaspoon.
10. Drop the wine habit. Along with those antioxidants supposedly good for your heart, two glasses of red wine with dinner serves up 240 calories. If it’s a daily habit, those calories are enough to slow your weight loss.
Reserve alcohol for special occasions and/or weekends. Limit your weekly intake no more than seven five-ounce glasses for women and nine for men.
Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She can be seen every Thursday at noon on CTV News Channel’s Direct www.lesliebeck.com