Not all foods are created equal when it comes to the impact on body weight. Some are higher in calories than others. Others are tougher to eat in small portions. Still others are both rich in calories and impossible to consume in small amounts—which spells double trouble for the waistline.
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If this delicious ring of dough is your breakfast of choice, you may be setting yourself up for an upward ascent on the bathroom scale. “Bagels cause weight gain because they’re very dense,” says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., a nutritionist in New York City and author of The Portion Teller Plan.
One wheat bagel – without any toppings – is as high as 400 calories.Want to eat healthier, but can’t give up your daily bread? Try an English Muffin—they generally weigh in at about 120 calories, and are imminently toastable and toppable.
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To make matters worse, many people slather their bagels with cream cheese. “Cream cheese is high in fat and high in calories, and it’s easy to use several tablespoons without realizing it,” Young says. Just one tablespoon contains 50 calories and five grams of fat. If you’re still craving a bagel, order a mini, or scoop out some of the center – and ask for reduced-fat cream cheese.
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Sure, it has vitamins, and some even have bone-building calcium. But the sweet flavor of juice makes it easy to unwittingly consume more than you should. And at 122 calories for an eight-ounce glass, those calories can pile up fast, says Joan Salge Blake, R.D., a clinical professor of nutrition at Boston University and spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You really have to be careful about the amount,” she says. Limit juice to a small glass at breakfast, and sip water or plain tea instead.
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Few things are more satisfying than cookies and milk, especially when your sweet tooth is in overdrive. But truth is, most cookies are high in sugar and fat, Young says. Even if they aren’t, it’s tough to eat just one. Try eating pre-portioned cookies, or creating your own mini-bags with just two cookies.
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You might think you’re being nutritionally sacrosanct with a salad made up of leafy greens and colorful veggies. But douse it with heaping amounts of high-fat salad dressing, and you’ll be piling on calories, too, Blake says. When it comes to salad dressing, we know the creamy varieties are alluring, but look for low-fat varieties, and watch how much you use. Or try a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkling of heart-healthy olive oil. If you opt for pre-made dressing, Young recommends about 1 to 2 tablespoons, max.
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It’s tempting to hit the vending machine for a 4 p.m. chocolate bar when that afternoon slump strikes. But beware of this easy-to-eat diet derailer. “Candy bars are often big portions of sugar and fat,” Young says. And since they don’t contain any protein, you’ll feel hungry not long after your sugar high crashes. Try satisfying your sweet tooth with a “fun” size bar instead.
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America’s love affair with morning lattés and cappuccinos in all variations may be contributing to our burgeoning waistline, Blake says. “These coffees are unbelievably high in calories, especially the ones with a lot of syrup,” she says. A Starbuck’s “Grande” size Caffe Mocha made with reduced-fat milk contains 260 calories and 8 grams of fat—and that’s without the whipped cream. Even more villainous are the ones made with whole milk and cream.If you must indulge, order the smallest size possible, and ask for skim milk.
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Many of our favorite foods are now laden with this rich dairy product, from pizza and burgers to omelettes and egg sandwiches. Although cheese does have some nutritional virtue—it’s got bone-building calcium—it is also high in heart-unhealthy saturated fat and calories. One slice of cheddar has 114 calories and 9 grams of fat.A better option: reduced-fat versions.
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Maybe you’ve gotten away from potato chips and are now noshing on veggie varieties instead. If you think you’re being healthier, think again. According to Blake, some brands of veggie chips are simply potato chips with a sprinkle of vegetable flavoring thrown in and just as many calories.Instead of chips, try noshing on air-popped popcorn, which is a whole grain. On the go or can’t find your airpopper? A single-serving size bag of baked chips is a smarter choice than the full-fat real-deal, says Young.
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Whether it’s white rice, plain pasta, or white bread, many people pack in extra calories by indulging in refined grains. “You can eat these foods very quickly, and you don’t get full because they aren’t made with fiber-rich whole grains that can fill you up,” Blake says. “And a cup of pasta is about 200 calories.”For a healthier option, try whole-grain varieties.