By Sabrina Rogers
If you're trying to lose those love handles, you've probably been avoiding cheesecake and fries. Although this is definitely a good start, there are many other foods out there that may seem "safe" when, in fact, they are actually very high in calories or fat. Don't be fooled; the following 12 foods are actually not as good for you as you may have thought.
You may notice that I recommended a few of them, such as popcorn and frozen yogurt, in my article on 20 Snacks Under 200 Calories. But the point here is that, since many foods come in high and low-fat versions, you really have to read the labels to ensure that you're choosing the right ones.
In this case, you really have to read the label. While some brands are relatively low-calorie, others have even more calories than light ice cream. Thanks to a ton of added sugar, some premium brands pack up to 185 calories per half cup.
The right choice: Make sure that no matter what kind of low-fat frozen dessert you choose, it has no more than 120 calories per half-cup.
Keep in mind that vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean that what you're eating is healthy. The chickpea-and-herb balls are fried and covered in creamy dressing, which means that a falafel pita can contain up to 550 calories and 32 grams of fat. The only good news is that Middle Eastern foods are generally low in saturated fat and high in iron, calcium and fiber.
The right choice: Choose hummus in a whole-wheat pita and you'll save 280 calories and 26 fat grams.
Most of these seemingly healthy snacks have almost no fiber and are easy to eat in huge quantities because they're not satisfying. Many even have more calories per serving than the regular version in order to compensate for the lack of tasty fat. The result? You could end up consuming a lot more calories than if you just ate a reasonable portion of the high-fat food you were craving in the first place.
The right choice: Simply choose a healthier snack such as veggies and fat-free dip or buy fat-free snacks in small quantities in order to avoid stuffing your face.
At the movies, you should definitely skip the popcorn. The smallest child-size bag, without the extra butter, packs up to 300 cals and 20 grams of fat. The microwave kind can be even worse; many brands have almost 400 calories and 26 fat grams per bag.
The right choice: Air-pop it or choose a reduced-fat microwave version. If you wish, season with garlic chili powder, or sprinkle on some Tabasco sauce to add flavor.
With less than two grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, olive oil is healthier than most vegetable oils and it may even reduce your risk of heart disease. However, keep in mind that it's still oil; one tablespoon contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat, so go easy if you don't want to sabotage your diet.
The right choice: Use only a small amount for cooking or try olive oil cooking spray. A one-second spray has only seven calories and less than one gram of fat.
They may be convenient, nutritious and low in fat and calories, but most are full of sodium, which can raise both your blood pressure and risk of heart attack. Plus, the minuscule portions are not satisfying enough for most men, which can lead to overeating later.
The right choice: Don't eat more than one prepared food that contains more than 600 milligrams of sodium per day. And look for the word "healthy" on labels; it can't be used if the food has more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving.
These were designed for hard-core athletes, so drop that bar if you're not one of them. Although they're not bad for you, they can contain up to 300 calories and more protein than you need in an entire day. Now is that really necessary?
The right choice: Before you work out, have a piece of whole-wheat toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter (180 calories) or a fat-free yogurt and half a banana (220 calories).
Although grilled is definitely better than fried, most fast-food grilled chicken sandwiches are full of fat due to all the cheese and creamy toppings they're smothered in. For example, Burger King's BK Broiler chicken sandwich contains 530 calories and 26 fat grams.
The right choice: Ask them to hold the sauce or simply opt for a healthier restaurant. A good choice is Subway's six-inch chicken sub, which has only 332 calories and six grams of fat.
Granola may seem "natural" and healthy, but that doesn't mean it won't make you fat. Most granola bars contain tons of hydrogenated oil, which means that two-thirds of a cup adds up to about 380 calories and 20 grams of fat.
The right choice: The good thing about granola is that it's a great source of fiber, with more than eight grams per serving. Fortunately, there are many other sources of fiber to choose from, such as a satisfying bowl of instant oatmeal (Tip: Stick to the individual packets, which are a good serving size). Or you can try low-fat granola with fruit and skim milk, which will save you around 17 grams of fat and 170 calories per serving.
The tuna itself is very healthy; besides the fact that it's low in calories and fat, it is a great source of protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The problem with this fishy favorite is all the mayo that usually goes into it. Get this: A typical tuna sandwich at a restaurant contains up to a whopping 720 calories and 43 grams of fat.
The right choice: Try to avoid it altogether when eating out because the mayo is often already mixed in, which makes it difficult to ask for less. At home, use fat-free mayo and whole-wheat bread to save up to 180 calories and 18 grams of fat.
Although they may seem healthy, most muffins are nothing but cake in disguise. And I'm not just talking about those double-chocolate monsters; even bran muffins will bust your diet with up to 600 calories and 25 grams of fat. Plus, since most don't even have that much bran, they're not the great source of fiber you think they are. As for fat-free muffins, be aware that many of them contain tons of sugar to compensate for the lack of fat, which can be just as bad for your waistline.
The right choice: If you really can't resist, choose a muffin with less than five grams of fat and six grams of sugar, as well as about five grams of fiber. Or try a bowl of bran cereal with fat-free fruit-flavored yogurt, which will save you up to 400 calories and 24 grams of fat.
You're probably wondering how fattening lettuce could possibly be. While it's true that most vegetables contain few calories, the culprit in most salads is the dressing. In fact, if your salad is drowned in creamy ranch or blue cheese dressing, you could be getting as many calories as you would with a huge plate of fries. Believe it or not, the most popular salad in the U.S., Chicken Caesar, is also the most fattening. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a typical chicken Caesar salad contains an unbelievable 660 calories and 46 grams of fat.
The right choice: Use fat-free dressing at home. When eating out, ask for dressing on the side and use the "fork method." Dip your fork into the dressing, shake the fork, then spear the salad; you'll save up to 20 grams of fat.
No matter how health-conscious you are, you're always at risk of falling prey to bad foods in disguise. The best way to avoid them is to read food labels when you're grocery shopping.
When eating out, ask for any suspect sauces and toppings on the side and don't be afraid to ask the waiter about the ingredients and preparation of the various dishes. After all, it's your gut, not his ...