We know what’s bad for our waistlines – sugary dessert, chips and anything that starts with fried. But are you aware that some foods with wholesome reputations can do more damage with their hidden calories than a chocolate bar? SKIN fills you in on what they are and why they are tipping the scale in the wrong direction.

Fat Trap #1: Low-Fat Goodies

Reduced-fat or fat-free cookies or ice cream are often perceived as wearing a health halo – sticking on a low-fat label can trick you into believing that tasty bag of cookies is better for you than the full-fat version – so we tend to supersize our portions without being wracked with guilt. In fact, people tend to chow down 25 to 44 percent more calories when given foods labeled as low-fat as compared to those labeled as regular fat. Moreover, just because foods are lower in fat doesn’t mean they’re lower in calories as manufacturers often replace fat with more sugar to satisfy the palate.

Slim Solution: These so­-called smart eats are just junk food in disguise. When your sweet tooth is demanding attention, take a real chocolate cookie – but just stop at one, instead of chowing down half a bag of fat-free ones. Your thighs will thank you.

Fat Trap #2: The Veggie Slam Dunk

No dietician will disagree that fresh carrot stick is a great nutritious, low-calorie snack – but only when it remains a carrot stick. For many of us, it’s a crunchy, bright orange vehicle and the perfect “healthy” excuse to scoop into that decadent creamy cheese dip (read: a truck load of fat, extra calories and salt). How much more can just a little creamy dip add? Well, 2 tablespoons of creamy dressing may pack about 145 calories and 15 g of fat. An addition of 100 calories each day can translate to about a 10 pound weight gain over a year.

The same can be said for the cheese or crouton bombs and the villainous vinaigrette that convert your salad into a calorie landmine.

Slim Solution: If you’re dying to dip, mix fat-free plain Greek yogurt with salsa or zingy seasonings such as horseradish or curry powder so that you still get full flavour and protein at less calorie-cost.

When constructing a healthy salad meal: Three-quarters should be vegetables (not potato) and fresh fruits; one-quarter should be a combo of lean protein (like skinless grilled chicken), plus a complex carbohydrate (such as quinoa); and drizzle no more than 2 tablespoons of add-ons (including low-fat dressing, together with nuts and shredded cheese).

Fat Trap #3: Dried Fruits

Cup for cup, dried fruit has 5 to 8 times more calories than their fresh counterparts because it has been dehydrated and is much denser. For example, fresh grapes have 60 calories per cup, while raisins have 460. Many brands also add sugar, amping up the calorie count even more.

Slim Solution: Go for the real thing instead!

Fat Trap #4: The Coffee Calorie Cow

Sipping coffee, or tea, isn’t the problem. In fact, both beverages have been linked to a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Unfortunately, the whole milk, whipped cream and syrups added to the cuppa are hip-seeking missiles that fatten you up faster than you can say “frappucino”. The half-and-half may seem like a harmless way to get calcium, but a few spoonfuls per cup, 2 to 3 times a day will quickly turn into an extra 200 calories.

Slim Solution: Lighten up your coffee with controlled amounts of skim milk or a skinny soy alternative. If you do use sugar or honey in your beverages, limit yourself to less than a teaspoon. Teas come in berry, flora and tropical fruit blends that add natural flavour to cut down the need for sugar and eliminate cream.

Fat Trap #5: (Anti-) Diet Sodas and Killer Juices

That can of diet soda may be your waistline’s worst enemy: Research from the University of Texas found drinking artificially sweetened sodas increased the risk of being overweight by 41 percent, possibly because the artificial sweetener cause your body to crave more calories. Diet soda sippers may be at higher risk of cardiovascular events like stroke and heart attack as well.

Many count on the bottled OJ or apple juice to achieve their recommended daily fruit-serving goal. However, a 16-ounce bottle of these sneaky sips has 12 spoonfuls of sugar or 55 grams of carbohydrates, the equivalent of five slices of bread.

Slim Solution: Reserve diet soda for an occasional treat. Get your fizz fix from seltzer with slices of fruit, or sparkling mineral water like San Pellegrino. Take your daily portion of fresh fruit which has more fibre to fill you up longer, or juice your own for pure goodness.

Fat Trap #6: The Granola-Cereal Saboteur

Granola may be loaded with good-for-you nuts and oats, but it’s too bad that they add oil to make it crisp and tons of sugar for ultimate yumminess – one bowl can rack up around 500 calories and more than 20g of fat before adding milk. Similarly, many high-fibre breakfast cereals may be adulterated with loads of sugar.

Slim Solution: Check the ingredients for sugar, fat and calorie-content. Added sugar comes in many forms, including corn syrup, white or brown sugar, honey and evaporated cane syrup, as well as natural sugars from dried fruit.


*This article has been selected Editor’s Choice for Jan 2012*