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The Most Deceiving Foods (They Have More Calories Than You Think!)


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At 89 calories and 8 grams of fat per tablespoon, Tahini (also known as sesame butter) is a pretty calorically dense food. While it's full of healthy ingredients like B vitamins and even rich in calcium, it's also super easy to go overboard. Stick to a ping pong ball-sized serving (about 2 tablespoons) to keep your calories in check.


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While we love quinoa as a tasty and versatile protein source, many dieters mistakenly believe it's a much lower-calorie alternative to rice. In reality, one cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, putting it on par with brown rice (which has around 218 calories per cup). Enjoy it in your favorite healthy dish, just be sure to portion it out like you would rice or pasta (1/2 cup or about the size of your fist).


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They certainly aren't nutrition villains, but raisins are considered a 'calorically dense' food, meaning that you can consume a lot of calories by ingesting only a small amount. For example, one small 1.5-ounce box contains 129 calories. You can eat two full cups of grapes for the same amount, making this one snack you're better off substituting (if you are really hungry) in order to maximize your calories.

Rice Cakes

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Rice crackers just sound lighter, don't they? Well, don't let their name distract you from their calorie count—most brands have as many calories per serving as their regular cracker counterparts. While they can have a place in your healthy diet, you're much better off snacking on something that fills you with nutrients too, not just empty calories.

Grape-Nuts Cereal

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It's often advertised as a healthy way to start your day, but a bowlful of Grape-Nuts cereal can pack in 416 calories (per cup, without milk). What is even more surprising is its sodium content. With 580 mg of sodium per cup (and it's not exactly packed with fiber either), there are much better breakfast options out there.

Peanut Butter

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We have a love-hate relationship with peanut butter. We love the taste and its proven ability to help build muscle, burn fat, and even fight heart disease, but we hate that those benefits only apply when you enjoy the creamy spread in moderation. In other words, spooning it straight out of the jar (multiple times a day) is not a good idea. Why not? Consider this: two large spoonfuls can pack almost as many calories and fat as a Snickers bar! At around 100 calories per tablespoon (about the same as regular butter), your best bet is to enjoy peanut butter sparingly in recipes like these (and then put away the jar!).

Chia Seeds

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This superfood seems to be all the rage these days, and we admit they go great on cereal, in smoothies, etc. Just don't pour chia seeds on with abandon—a single tablespoon still contains 70 calories, meaning you can easily add an extra 200 calories to that smoothie without even realizing it.

Dark Chocolate

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Don't get us wrong, we're huge fans of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate, it's just easy to get carried away with this delicious treat. Some bars can contain as much as 600 calories. The lesson? Just because it's dark doesn't mean you can eat more of it. Snap off a one-inch square to enjoy each night after dinner. "Too much [dark chocolate] may constipate you or leave you wired before bedtime," says Amie Valpone, Nutrition expert and author of The Healthy Apple blog.

Greek Yogurt Cups

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With about twice the protein and only half of the carbohydrates as regular plain yogurt, Greek yogurt is an excellent food to include in your diet, especially if you're trying to lose weight. A ¾-cup serving has about 150 calories. Not bad at all. The problem is most of us can't handle the taste of plain Greek yogurt, and we may end up smothering it in honey or other toppings to help sweeten the flavor—and rack up the total calorie count.

We don't suggest denying yourself Greek yogurt, just stick to plain, lower fat brands and keep your portions and toppings in check.

Gluten-Free Cookies

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"Gluten free" seems to be the new diet buzzword on food labels these days. And while you may choose (or need) to avoid gluten in your food, don't get tricked into thinking that eliminating gluten automatically means you'll lose weight. Those 'gluten-free' cookies are still cookies and still contain calories—maybe even more than similarly sized regular cookies. Indulge in gluten-free treats just like you would with any other dessert.

Whole-Wheat Bread

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Don't let the "whole wheat" label fool you—most commercially prepared whole-wheat bread contains the same amount of calories (sometimes even more) than white bread. Be sure to check the label of your favorite brand—some 'reduced calorie' whole-wheat breads add more sugar or high fructose corn syrup to make up for the flavor lost with the extra calories.


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While nuts like
pecans are a great source of protein, heart-healthy fat, and tons of vitamins and minerals, they are also rich in calories. A 1-ounce serving of pecan halves contains 196 calories. Stick to a single handful of the healthy snack to reap the benefits without packing on pounds.

Olive Oil

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Just 2 tablespoons of olive oil add 238 calories to your meal—likely without you even realizing it. And when was the last time you stuck with a 2-tablespoon serving while cooking? Olive oil is full of healthy fat (the kind that may even help you drop pounds), just remember that it's also full of calories so use it sparingly.

Refried Beans

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This Mexican side dish is delicious, but it's not as low cal as it's other bean counterparts—a single cup of canned refried beans will set you back about 237 calories (which doesn't include any cheese toppings). Opt for refried pinto beans instead, which come in at only 180 calories per cup.

Coconut Milk

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Coconut Milk may have the potential to speed up your metabolism and help boost your weight-loss efforts, but that doesn't make it calorie-free. One cup of coconut milk has a hefty 552 calories and an astounding 57 grams of fat! Be sure to check your favorite brand's label and try to find one with 100 calories or less per serving.

Gruyere Cheese

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While cheese isn't exactly a diet food, certain flavors pack a lot more calories than others into a very small size. Gruyere, Parmesan, and Manchego cheeses are some of the worst—weighing in at around 120 calories per ounce. No matter what kind of cheese you choose, keep the size and shape of four die in mind when you're slicing up cubes. That's the ideal portion size.

Trail Mix

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This seemingly healthy snack can cost you almost 700 calories per cup! Trail mix can include a wide range of ingredients, but you're almost always better off skipping store-bought brands and making your own at home. Our suggestion: Mix 1 ounce of walnuts and about a teaspoon each of raisins and chocolate chips. The result is satisfying snack for about 250 calories.


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These naturally sweet and chewy fruits are a delicious and healthy alternative to candy, but dates are still calorie dense (with 23 calories each) and can have you racking up your daily intake fast if you eat them mindlessly.


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Chickpeas are a great way to add fiber and protein to salads and soups, or even to enjoy as a standalone snack. Just keep your serving size in check—one cup of canned chickpeas (a standard amount for side dishes) has 286 calories.

Baked Tofu

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Though tofu is typically low in calories, watch out for baked or flavored packaged varieties, which can up the calorie content considerably (such as baked teriyaki tofu which has 140 calories per 3 ounces). Better to buy it plain and then flavor it up yourself with this quick and delish dinner idea.

Ramen Noodles

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You may have lived off them in college, but they'll never be deemed a smart snack choice. One block of prepared ramen noodles has around 380 calories, putting it into the meal, not snack, calorie category. Turn your noodles into a healthier, well-balanced meal with this recipe idea.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

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It has broccoli in it, how bad can it be? Depending on how its prepared, one cup of cream of broccoli soup could set you back almost 500 calories! (Wouldn't you rather have dessert?) Make your own soup at home using lighter ingredients, or try any of these filling, diet-friendly soup recipes instead.


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While salmon is a very healthy protein source, it's not as light on calories as you might think. One salmon fillet (about a 6-ounce serving) could have about 400 calories and 20 grams of fat, according to the FDA. Keep your serving size in check (3 ounces or about the size of your checkbook) and prepare yours at home (we love this recipe for Roasted Herb Salmon) to avoid access calories while still reaping the health benefits of this delish fish.


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Sure, guacamole is packed with heart-healthy and potassium-rich avocados, but don't forget it's also packed with calories. One cup (which sounds like a lot but is easy to eat during a party, especially when you add calories from chips for dipping) contains about 360 calories. Enjoy guac in moderation, and trade your chips for veggies to keep it waistline friendly.


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Granola is often portrayed as a health food, but did you know that one cup of homemade granola can serve up a full dinner's worth of calories? At 597 calories and a whopping 29.4 grams of fat per cup (exact totals may differ based on ingredients), this is one of those 'health' foods you should skip if you want to lose weight.


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Watch out for this creamy, calorie-rich rice dish. A 1-cup serving can easily weigh in at 600 calories (or more). Enjoy this much lighter (and easy-to-make) recipe for Wild Mushroom Risotto instead.


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The bread may be in crumbs, but that doesn't make it calorie-free! A 1/3-cup serving of breadcrumbs has about 110 calories, which means if you decide to bread your dish, you'll need to add an extra 100-150 calories to it (depending on your serving size), and much more if it's breaded and fried.


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At about 27 calories per small slice, adding the word
"pepperoni" to your pizza order is an easy way to add a ton of extra calories (to an already high-calorie meal). Top your pie with veggies instead to save more than 100 calories per slice.


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Air popped popcorn can be a great low-calorie snack, but not all kernels are created equal. One small bag of popcorn at the movie theater could be loaded with up to 630 calories and 50 grams of fat! Your best bet is to pop your own at home and sneak it into the theater or buy a kid's size from the concession stand (and still share it).


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Don't be fooled—even though most are fat-free, many pretzels can contain more than 200 calories per serving (and for very little nutrition). If you do want to munch on a few, dish out a single serving and then put away the bag so you aren't tempted to eat more (And more. And more.) until you feel satisfied.

Non-Dairy Ice Cream

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While some non-dairy ice cream alternatives can be lighter than the real deal, not all of them are—so be sure to check the label of your favorite brand. Some popular brands like Tofutti Vanilla dish out 210 calories and 13 grams of fat per 1/2 cup, while a 1/2-cup serving of vanilla ice cream comes in at 145 calories and 7.9 grams of fat.


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Smoothies can make the perfect healthy meal or snack—when you mix them at home. Ordering on the go is when you get into trouble, as some smoothie chains blend in 400 calories (or more) per 20-ounce cup, turning this healthy treat into a dessert!

Beef Liver

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While liver is packed with protein and zinc, it's also full of calories and cholesterol. The average single serving has 516 calories and a whopping 1,124 mg of cholesterol. If you can't live without liver, enjoy this meal in moderation to keep dinner calories in check. Otherwise, choose lean protein sources such as salmon, trout, or turkey breast that have less than half as many calories.

Salad Dressing

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We know you've heard this one before, but its worth repeating—many of your favorite salad dressings can boast as many calories and fat grams as a full meal. One 3-ounce serving of Caesar salad dressing, for example, has 390 calories and 42 grams of fat! Make your own lighter version at home (we love this slimmed-down recipe for Chicken Caesar Salad). Or play it safe away from home with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to keep your salad light and healthy.


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Mayonnaise may be a sandwich staple, but spreading just two tablespoons on your bread adds an extra 180 calories to lunch. That's about the same as eating an additional sammy made with turkey, vegetables, and mustard.

Condensed Milk

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Often used in dessert recipes, at 65 calories per tablespoon, condensed milk is definitely a condensed source of calories. If your recipe calls for condensed milk, try using the fat-free version instead to save on calories and fat but still get plenty of flavor.


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This delicious Spanish dish is full of rice, vegetables, and seafood—sounds healthy, right? It depends on how it is prepared. Many restaurants use a lot of oil in the cooking process, resulting in more than 500 calories per 1-cup serving. Instead, make your own light and healthy version with this quick and easy recipe.

Ground Beef

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Depending on what kind you choose, plain, unprepared ground beef can contain 350 calories and 28 grams of fat (or more) per small 4-ounce serving. Aim to purchase 93-percent lean or higher to save on excess calories and fat without skimping on flavor in your favorite recipe.

Potato Salad

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Potatoes are a great weight-loss food, so how bad can potato salad be for your waistline? Pretty bad! One cup of packaged potato salad has about 460 calories. (Try this recipe for potato salad that uses Greek yogurt instead to lighten things up).


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Often marketed as butter's healthier cousin, margarine isn't exactly low in calories. Yes, it clocks in lower than 100-calorie-per-pat butter, but just one tablespoon of margarine still has 45 calories, so don't go crazy with it.


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Love Indian food? If you're watching your weight, you may want to steer clear of curry at restaurants. Most curry dishes are high in fat and calories (especially meat), and can range between 400-600 calories per serving. (That's why we love making this chicken curry recipe at home instead).


All calorie totals courtesy of Calorie


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