The way to successful weight-loss is sprinkled with traps. When the scale suddenly comes to a halt and nothing seems to help to get the weight to drop again, these traps can be a reason.
Some of these traps are well-hidden. Some foods are surprisingly high in calories, even though they are healthy. Others are foods or drinks that are easy to forget when you reflect back on what you ate throughout a day. And in the summer, when the weather is sunny and warm, especially drinks can easily add a bunch of calories.
Here are the most common calorie traps that might not be completely obvious.
1. Oils used for cooking and frying
Adding some oil to your food when cooking can add a whole lot of flavor. Unfortunately, cooking oils are extremely calorie dense – a single teaspoon (5 ml) already clocks in at 44 kcal. They are also barely visible when the food is on your plate, if at all. That makes it easy to forget about them, when you think about what you have eaten. So even if you don’t measure and weigh all your food, it may be a good idea to measure cooking oils, in order to not overdo it.
If you’re at home, this is easy. You are 100 % in control of how you prepare your own foods. If you’re eating at a restaurant or canteen, it gets much trickier. Oils are often used generously in gastronomy, and it is hard to find out how much oil there exactly is in your food. Take this into account when you eat at a restaurant, and watch out for buzzwords (more on that below).
2. Sauces and salad dressings
Another trap to watch out for especially at restaurants are sauces and salad dressings. Restaurant meals are often drenched in them. And sure, they taste great. But they are often loaded with salt and fat, so they can easily turn a very healthy looking meal into a calorie bomb. Who would ever think a salad might be a bad choice when you’re trying to lose weight, right?
If you don’t want to pass on the sauce/dressing altogether, ask for it on the side. That way, you can dip your bites into it and still get the flavor, but you will eat less of it overall. The same way, when you buy a ready-made salad at the supermarket, use the dressing for dipping, instead of pouring it all over your meal.
Can you avoid calorie traps at restaurants altogether? Yes, to some extent. Have a close look on the menu before you order. Certain words tell you right away that a meal is probably packed with calories. Words to watch out for are for example “Bearnaise/hollandaise”, “crispy”, “creamy”, “crunchy”, “buttery”, “country style”, “fried”, “platter” and “stewed”. You can recognize lighter options by the words “baked”, “boiled”, “grilled”, “fresh”, “marinated”, “steamed” and “roasted”.
3. Restaurant portions
As we’re already talking about restaurants, another common trap are portion sizes. Meals are often served on huge plates, so customers think they really get their money’s worth. That way, it’s not uncommon to find meals that contain a whole day’s worth of calories. Add to that the fact that we have the tendency to eat more, if we eat with friends or family instead of alone, and a nice night out can easily turn into a trap.
When you go to a restaurant, be mindful. Make it a point to eat extra slowly. That way, you won’t have overeaten by the point your satiety signals set in. Plus, you get to savour your food a lot more than when you mindlessly gobble it down. When you notice that you’re no longer hungry, stop eating. Allow yourself to do so, even if there’s still food on your plate. It’s ok, even if your mother’s voice inside your head might be trying to tell you to clean your plate. If you’re concerned about wasting food, you can always ask the waiter for a box to take your leftovers home – or why not bring your own container with you and box up a part of your food right away, so you can enjoy the rest of it the following day?
4. Salad toppings at a salad bar
Salad bars at supermarket are a great option for grabbing a healthy, weight-loss friendly meal on the go, but they can also become a trap.
They usually have so many tasty topping options! But the more toppings you add to your salad, the more the calories add up, no matter how healthy each topping for itself may be. And not all salad toppings are low in calories. Cheese, croutons and meat can add a lot of extra calories quickly.
Choose only 1 high-calorie topping for your salad. Ideally, opt for one that is also high in protein. This will help you to feel full for longer. Then, load up the rest of your salad with fresh veggies and fruit.
A common weight loss recommendation is to snack on nuts instead of chocolate or candy. Nuts are healthy, there’s no doubt about that. They are packed with nutrients, which makes them a better choice than processed snack foods.
Nevertheless, nuts are quite high in calories. 100 g of peanuts have about 550 kcal, cashews have about 575 kcal and walnuts even 660 kcal. These numbers are comparable to chocolate!
If you want to snack on nuts while you’re trying to lose weight, avoid the salted ones. The added salt makes them “hyperpalatable” – foods so tasty that it’s hard to stop eating once you started. Opt for unsalted nuts instead. It might also be a good idea to pre-portion them, so you can’t accidentally eat too much. Want to snack more? Veggie sticks or berries are a good alternative.
6. Flax and chia seeds
These “hip” seeds are common toppings for smoothies. Just like nuts, they are high in nutrients – but also high in calories. Use them with caution ;-)
Think of the last sandwich you’ve eaten. What did it have on top? Chicken? Cheese? Salad and eggs? Tuna? Whatever sandwich it was, chances are the first ingredients that came to your mind were the main ingredients. But what about the spread?
Many store-bought or cafeteria sandwiches come with a spread to add some flavor to it. On tomato-mozzarella sandwiches it’s often pesto, salad-veggie sandwiches often contain mayonnaise, for example. But it doesn’t even have to be that fancy. Simple butter and peanut butter are spreads, too.
All of these spreads are high in calories and they are easy to forget. If you make your sandwich yourself, you have control over the amount of spread you use, if any. If you eat at a cafeteria, there’s not much you can do but to take it into account.
8. Liquid calories (a.k.a. drinks)
Whether it’s a latte macchiato or frappuccino after work, a glass of juice after the gym or some beers, wine or cocktails at the bar on a Friday night – these drinks can be a huge calorie trap. All of them are relatively high in calories. While a glass of juice typically has around 100 kcal, some frappuccinos and cocktails have more than 500 kcal per drink. When you enjoy these drinks, the calories can quickly add up.
Yet, you’re technically not eating anything and likely not feeling any fuller after the drink. That’s why these calories are so easy to forget. Therefore, be mindful of your alcohol intake and fancy coffee drink consumption. Plan these drinks in in advance. Think about how many of these drinks are acceptable for you if you want to lose weight, and then stick to this amount.
Watch out for these traps when you go about your day. This could potentially save you a lot of calories. Sometimes even avoiding this traps alone is all it takes to lose a few unwanted extra kilos.
Eager to transform your life and turn into the most confident, healthy, best version of yourself? Book your appointment with Walnut Coaching.