Prepared salad kits. They're a great idea in theory—a convenient way to pack a little more produce into your day—but in practice, they often house loads of excess calories in the form of full-fat cheese, oil-soaked croutons, and generous pouches of creamy dressing, sometimes leaving you with a salad that has more calories than three Hershey’s bars! The solution? Opt for kits without all those high-cal extras, or at least try to use only half of the fattening add-ons.
Bran muffins. Many people assume that any food containing boring, high-fiber bran has to be good for you, but the truth is that most muffins are the nutritional equivalent of a large slice of cake—containing upwards of 500 calories and 20 grams of fat—and bran varieties are no exception. If you want to reap the health benefits of bran without deviating from your healthy plan, go for yogurt sweetened with fruit and a sprinkle of bran flakes, instead.
Premade smoothies. We could all stand to have more fruits and veggies in our lives, but smoothies aren’t always the best way to get our fill. Many store-bought blends are packed with excessive amounts of fruit and heaps of sugar and/or syrups, resulting in a cup of produce containing 600 calories or more! Even if you order no-sugar-added options, you’re likely still taking in more calories than you realize—a few pieces of fruit can add up quickly. You’re much better off using your own blender.
Bottled iced tea. On its own, tea is a 0-calorie drink packed with antioxidants, but when you buy it bottled, you’re likely getting more sugar water than anything else. You could make your own iced tea without adding sugar and have a jelly donut (not recommended) for fewer calories than most bottled options! Brew your herbs yourself, or look for iced teas without added sweeteners.
Wheat and multigrain bread. Unless your wheat, 7-grain, or multigrain bread lists “whole grain” or “whole wheat” flour as the first ingredient, then it’s no better than white bread. Look for loaves that say “100% whole wheat” on the label, and beware of “unbleached wheat flour," which, yep, is just as bad as the white stuff.
Banana chips. A large banana is 120 calories of low-fat, nutrient-rich produce. A serving of banana chips? Not so much. They’re often deep-fried and coated in corn syrup, leaving you with tons of unnecessary fat and sugar grams disguised as a healthy snack. Instead, take fresh bananas, slice them into chip-sized discs, and place them in the freezer in baggies for a refreshing treat without the added calories.
Sports drinks. Unless you’re an endurance athlete exercising intensely for an hour or more, you don’t need the extra potassium and sodium found in sports drinks like Gatorade to keep you hydrated, and the majority of us don’t need the extra calories, either. A light 30-minute workout at the gym barely burns off the 125 calories you'd down from a typical 20-ounce sports drink. Stay hydrated with classic H20 instead.
Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse “Lyssie” Lakatos—otherwise known as the Nutrition Twins—are registered dieticians, certified personal trainers and authors of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever.
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