Surprising Foods That Make You Gain

Beware of sneaky calories in seemingly healthy foods

June 22, 2012
surprising foods that make you gain
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Avoiding chips and soda is a given for anyone looking to maintain a healthy weight. However, some of our go-to diet foods pack more calories than we expect. (Search: smart diet foods) Registered dietitians Sarah Krieger and Marisa Moore have flagged nine foods to avoid.

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sugary cereal
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1. Cereal

It's not just the boxes with cartoons on them that are filled with heaps of added sugar. Avoid cereal with dried fruit, nuts, and honey clusters, as these ingredients add sugar and fat content, says Krieger. (Video: Foods That Pack a Secret Sugar High) Also be aware of portion sizes, the type of milk you choose, and other toppings, like sugar or honey. "Anything that has 200 calories for 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup could easily become a 500-calorie bowl of cereal," says Krieger. Try shredded wheat with nonfat milk as a low-cal morning meal and use a measuring cup when filling up your cereal bowl to avoid overeating, she suggests.

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2. Trail Mix

Two handfuls of this snack can easily pack 300 calories--and that's before add-ins, like chocolate or coconut flakes. For example, Planters Mixed Nuts & Raisins Trail Mix contains 160 calories and 12 g of fat for about a quarter-cup. Keep portions in check by remembering that one serving of nuts should fit in the palm of your hand.

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3. Granola

This crunchy treat can come loaded with 200 to 600 calories per cup, and tends to have as much added sugar as a plate of chocolate chip cookies. "Adding granola to your yogurt can be an overload," says Moore. Try topping it with fruit or a sprinkling of high-fiber, low-calorie cereal instead.

Related: 5 Fit and Fruity Smoothies

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4. Salads

"It's not uncommon to have a salad over 1,000 calories," says Moore. Whether you are ordering a mix of greens at a restaurant or making one at home, the calories and fat in toppings such as cheese, croutons, and creaming dressings can really add up. We rarely measure out our toppings, especially dressing. Using creamy dressings is even worse, packing 9 grams of fat onto the salad per serving size-which is only 2 tablespoons.  A simple suggestion: keep the dressing on the side, read all the ingredients, and keep your non-veggie toppings to a minimum.

Related: Best Salads for Your Diet

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5. Mango

Tropical, sweet, and perfect for summer, mangos are a great source of vitamins A and C.
However, one cup of sliced fresh mango is 107 calories. Bananas and plums are also higher-calorie fruits. If you're watching your weight, pick watermelon (46 calories per cup), cantaloupe (60 calories per cup) or other fruits and veggies that contain high percentages of water.

Learn more about the best fruits for weight loss.

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6. Starchy Veggies

Potatoes, corn, and other starchy vegetables can add a lot of calories and few nutrients to your plate. Most green veggies contain about 25 calories per half-cup compared to 90 calories for the same amount of starchy vegetables, says Moore. Stick to sides like spinach and broccoli for a lower-calorie serving of veggies with more of the good stuff, like calcium, potassium, and loads of vitamins.

Related: How to Eat More Veggies

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7. Energy Bars

The 200 to 300 calories  in your favorite energy bar won't give you anything but extra calories to burn off during your workout, says Moore. The snacks aren't only high in calories, they are also high in added sugars. Before a workout try eating fruit instead. The natural sugar will fuel your sweat session and the water content can keep you hydrated. 

Learn more: How to Choose the Healthiest Protein Bar!

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8. Frozen Yogurt

Fro-yo sounds like a healthy ice cream alternative, but it can be very high in calories and sugar, especially if it's Greek-style frozen yogurt, says Moore. For example, a half-cup of Ben & Jerry's Banana Peanut Butter Greek Frozen Yogurt contains 210 calories and 26 g of sugar--that's more of the sweet stuff than the brand's chocolate ice cream.

Make sure you know the difference between the Best and Worst Ice Cream Treats!

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9. Smoothies

"If you get smoothies out somewhere, they can be very high in calories, up to 400 or 500," says Moore. It's better to make blended drinks at home where you can skip sugary syrups or fruit juice. To add vitamins and lower the calories and sugar in your smoothie, toss veggies into the blender, too.

Up Next: Whip It Good: the Best Post-Excercise Smoothies