The other day my kitty Peeps (who is famous for her obsession with cantaloupe) climbed up on my lap while I was eating grapes, stuck her paw into the bowl, scooped out a grape, tossed it on the floor, and pounced on it like it was the most exciting cat toy ever. A few days later I found it shriveled up under the dresser, like a freshly made raisin. Another food she loves to play with is grape tomatoes. Aside from being round and “kitty sized” they have something else in common – they’re both mostly water – 82% of grapes and nearly 94% of those tiny tomatoes are pure H2O.
Water has no calories, so the higher the water content of a fruit or veggie, generally the lower the calories. One pint (about the size of two baseballs) of grape of cherry tomatoes take a while to eat and will fill your tummy for just 54 calories. A cup of grapes, which contains more natural sugar, provides 60 calories.
Fruits and veggies that are denser in carbs and sugar and lower in water are typically higher in calories, because less of what you get per bite is calorie free fluid. For example, a medium Russet potato, which is 73% water provides 168 calories and a medium banana at 75% water has 105 calories. It’s not that potatoes and bananas are bad and grapes and tomatoes are good, but to prevent calorie overload it’s important to corral your portion sizes of the former, and that’s especially important this time of year.
I am a huge supporter of eating local, in-season produce but fall fruits and vegetables can be a lot more caloric than summer selections (because they’re less watery). One way to tell is to think about what a fruit or veggie would look like if it’s been smashed or dried. For example, if you threw a tomato or melon against a wall it would splat. If you did the same with a potato it would thud. Dried peas, which have lower water contents, look pretty much the same as fresh, but sundried tomatoes and raisins shrivel by about three quarters.
So when you’re in the produce aisle or at your farmer’s market apply the “splat & shrivel principle” and buy smaller versions of heartier, starchier fruits and veggies. Here are a few examples of what you’ll save by downsizing:
Large Russet potato – 290 cals
Small Russet potato – 134 cals
Large banana – 120 cals
Small banana – 90 cals
Large apple – 116 cals
Small apple – 77 cals
Preventing an excess 100 calories a day from creeping into your diet can avert a 3 pound weight gain between now and the New Year (think a tub and a half of Crisco worth of body fat!).
Happy fall – it’s my favorite time of year – how about you?