By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
Wondering why the scale is stuck even though you’re eating healthfully? It may be that you’re being duped by diet deceivers—foods that may seem (or even be) nutritious but actually pack a lot of fat and calories. Beware of these five seemingly slimming bites.
It seems low calorie, with just 50 to 80 calories per two-tablespoon serving, but hummus is so delicious that it’s easy to scoop up a 3/4 cup. For an appetizer, stick to about 3 tablespoons with half a small whole-wheat pita. Or make a hummus sandwich your main course, using about 1/3 cup hummus in a medium whole-wheat pita stuffed with tomatoes and lettuce.
Most smoothies, including those made with frozen yogurt, fruit juice and fresh fruit, can be more like large desserts than a healthy boost. You can easily slurp down 800 calories depending on what you toss in your blender. Take a cue from the way we treat smoothies at Best Life; they serve as either a complete, balanced breakfast (like this Berry Smoothie) or as a 120- to 175-calorie snack (made with 1 cup of soy milk and a banana, for example).
Store-bought, flavored yogurts run up to 200 calories per 6-ounce container, with loads of sugar. (Artificially sweetened versions are lower in sugar and calories, but the jury’s still out on whether fake sugar can help you lose weight.) Want yogurt for breakfast or as a healthy snack? Opt for plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt, add fresh fruit, nuts and a teaspoon honey (21 calories, 6 grams of sugar). Otherwise, save the sweet stuff for dessert.
Some cereals are so caloric that pouring even a small serving (say, ½ cup) would leave you with no calories to add milk, fruit, nuts or any other healthy topping. In general, you get more cups for the calories with flaky cereals, like Wheaties or Nature’s Path Flax Plus Multigrain. (For more on which cereals make the healthy cut, check out The Cereal Showdown.)
In order to bundle up all the beans, chicken, salsa and extras that go into a standard wrap or burrito, you need a really large wrap, which can cost you 300 or so calories. My solution is to use an 8-inch whole-grain tortilla, bring up two opposite sides until they touch leaving the two ends open, sort of like a cannoli, and eat it carefully. Yes, some will drip out, but it still tastes great. (Check out my “Cheaper Than Fast Food” video for an open-faced black bean burrito recipe.) Or skip the wrap altogether and have 100 to 130 calories of whole-grain corn tortilla chips or 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice instead.