Hidden calories: How to spot and avoid them

Calories add up fast! Just 100 extra calories a day can add 10 lbs a year! Follow these steps to decrease the calories you may not realize you’re adding to your diet.

According to the 2010 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans, calorie needs are based on age, gender and physical activity level. For example, a 17 year-old male who is very physically active every day needs a different amount of calories than a 40 year-old female who is sedentary. It is important to know what your specific calorie needs are and to find the balance of calorie intake (how much you eat) and calorie burning (how much physical activity you engage in). Maintaining a healthy weight means finding that balance. Find out what your specific needs are by visiting the USDA’s Choose MyPlate website.

Throughout the day, many of us consume calories we may not even consider or factor into our daily calorie intake. Consuming just 100 extra calories a day can add up to a 10 pound weight gain in one year! Consider these sources for “hidden” calories in your diet:

  • Coffee for many of us is a must have morning wake-me-up – and sometimes an afternoon wake me up, too! If you add cream and sugar to your cup, you could be adding calories along with sweetness. For every teaspoon of sugar, you’re adding about 15 calories. For creamer, pay attention to the serving size. Usually a serving size is about 2 tablespoons and if you are pouring it out of a bottle, chances are you are pouring way more than 2 tablespoons. Choosing non-fat milk and a sugar substitute is a quick way to reduce these calories.
  • Condiments can also offer us taste at the expense of calories. Pay attention to how much ketchup, ranch, mayonnaise, sour cream, butter, etc. you use. Look at the Nutrition Facts label on each food package to determine serving size. Remember, the amount of calories is for one serving size. If you use twice the serving size amount, double the calories.

Try substituting these for your higher calorie favorites:

  • Hot sauce instead of ketchup on your morning eggs
  • Non-fat plain Greek yogurt for sour cream on your baked potato
  • Salsa instead of ranch for your veggie dip

Making minor changes in your diet can make a big impact on your health! Decrease your intake of those sneaky calories and improve your health.

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