Foods That Add Hidden Calories to Your Healthy Dishes from 12 Foods That Add Hidden Calories to Your Healthy Dishes

12 Foods That Add Hidden Calories to Your Healthy Dishes

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Foods That Add Hidden Calories to Your Healthy Dishes

A healthy lifestyle is fueled by nutrient-rich foods that give your body the energy it needs. Just because it's considered a “health food” it doesn't mean you should consume it in unlimited quantities. Without going to the gym, the time it takes to burn off deceptively-calorific foods (like hummus, rice cakes and quinoa) might make you think twice.

For instance, the calories in muesli bar take up to 100 minutes of household cleaning to burn off – while just two spoons of almond butter take up to 13 minutes of carrying bags upstairs. Budget Direct has created an infographic, on which most of the following list is based, showing how long you should exercise to burn off extra calories.

But it’s also important to remember that “healthy” doesn’t mean low-calorie. So while these foods make great additions to your diet, be mindful about how much of them you actually eat.




You may not think about the calories you’re adding to your meal when you’re buttering your bread, Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area, says. But a teaspoon of butter contains 34 calories, and you may use even more than that, she adds. “I like to suggest instead that you ‘butter’ your bread with roasted garlic, which also has a creamy mouth feel, with just 4 calories per garlic clove.”



You might have heard that oils such as olive oil offer heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. “However, they can also add significant extra calories to dishes, if you’re not careful about measuring out smaller portions or if a restaurant chef is preparing a meal for you and you have no idea how much oil he added,” Gorin says. One tablespoon of olive oil is about 120 calories, so those calories can really add up, she adds. “One of my favorite alternative ways to get heart-healthy fats is to eat olives. You get the fats for way [fewer] calories—for instance, one container of Pearls Olives To Go! Pimento Stuffed olives is just about 75 calories and offers 6 grams of heart-healthy fats.”


Salad dressing

Salad dressings can be pretty high in calories, thanks to ingredients like oil, sour cream, and added sugar, Gorin says. “I like to make my own salad dressing that contains minimal oil and sugar and gets a lot of its sweetness from 100 percent grape juice made with Concord grapes.” The grape juice adds a burst of vitamin C for immune support and polyphenols for a healthy heart, Gorin adds. “My grape vinaigrette salad dressing has just 45 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, while a ranch dressing can contain 140 calories for the same serving size!”


Packaged fruit and nut mix

A favorite of those with an active lifestyle, fruit and nut mix offers fat for sustenance and protein for muscle repair. The varieties are almost endless, but calorie-counters beware: pre-packaged bags are often heavy in calories. Homemade versions are just a delicious and a healthier option – unless you’re moving house, in which case you’ll burn those calories and then some.



Though essentially just dried out grapes, the concentration of sugars makes sultanas relatively high in calories compared to their less wrinkled cousins. In fact, you can have twice as many grapes for half the calories. Or eat a full serving of sultanas and erase the guilt by tidying the house and giving the floor a good mop.



A delicious Middle Eastern dip made from chickpeas, garlic, tahini and lemon juice, hummus has a guaranteed place in fridges and on dinner party tables. As delicious as it is, it’s also relatively calorific. But there’s good news: if you can’t keep it to a couple tablespoons, you can work off those extra calories with some garden landscaping.

Nicole S Glass/

Canned coconut milk

Coconut milk gives authentic taste to curries and stews and is a delicious non-dairy base for smoothies. But those calories add up quickly. You can still achieve that creamy texture with a more moderate serving size – or try a nut milk (like almond milk), which has about an eighth of the calories.


Muesli bar

Muesli bars are marketed as a healthy on-the-go snack, offering protein and fat to fill you up and carbs to keep you moving. But most bars have added sugars and flavoring that pack on the calories. If you’re dealing with between-meal hunger pangs, opt for a handful of raw nuts instead.


Chia seeds

Chia seeds are one of the latest superfoods to come to prominence – and they’re packed with nutrients like fiber and omega-3, which enhances brain and heart health. But they’re also pretty heavy in calories. Counteract this by halving your portion size and sprinkling the seeds on unsweetened smoothies or yoghurt.


Rice cakes

A dieter’s staple, rice cakes actually don’t offer much in the way of nutrients. Top one with a nutritious spread like all-natural natural nut butter to remedy this issue. If you’re looking for a fun way to burn off rice cake calories, get yourself ready and go for a whirl around a ballroom dance floor!


Almond butter

This tasty spread is a great peanut alternative and chock full of good fats – but it maintains that high calorie count. Mitigate this by reducing your portion size and spreading it on apple slices, rather than bread or crackers.



An increasingly popular base for healthy salads and main dishes, quinoa seems to have taken the place of potatoes and pasta. Despite being a complete protein, it also offers plenty of carbs and calories. Your lunchtime Mediterranean quinoa salad is the perfect excuse to take your bicycle out for an afternoon spin. Less than an hour will balance the scales for a large portion.