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10 calorie-rich foods you don't realise you're eating

Jane Murphy / 24 April 2019 ( 29 April 2022 )

While most of us try to eat healthily, many of us appear to have a 'blind spot' when it comes to certain foods and drinks. So what are you forgetting?

Caesar salad with grated cheese and mayonnaise
Go easy with the grated cheese if you're watching your weight.

Your morning cuppa

Pop a teaspoonful of sugar in your tea or coffee and you'll be consuming an extra 16 empty calories.

But it's not just the sugar you add yourself that can make a difference: high-street hot drinks such as flavoured coffees, warm fruit drinks and hot chocolates may contain up to 25 teaspoons of sugar per serving, according to a report from Action on Sugar.

Researchers analysed the sugar content of 131 popular hot drinks and found that 98% would receive a red nutritional value label.

10 ways to eat less sugar

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Fizzy drinks

A can of cola contains around 9 teaspoons of sugar – that's 2 tsp more than the NHS's recommended intake of added sugar per day.

Diet fizzy drinks full of sweeteners have been found to increase appetite so it's best to wean yourself off and opt for water instead. If you don't like the taste of water try infusing it with flavours such as lemon and lime or by making iced tea or coffee. If you really love the fizz switch to fizzy water, you could even invest in a Soda Stream to turn your tap water in sparkling water and save money in the long run.

Standing-up snacks

You know the ones we mean: the biscuit you nibble while waiting for kettle to boil, the crusts you cut off a fussy eater's sandwich or that little bit of leftover cake mixture. It's all too easy to forget about the food we eat when we're on our feet.

Make sure every morsel you eat is a conscious decision – to be savoured and enjoyed. Try to sit down every time you eat to ensure you appreciate every calorie properly. You will feel more full – and be more aware.

A dollop of ketchup

Just under half of us admit our evening meals rarely go without a serving of tomato ketchup, according to a report commissioned by the Chilean Blueberry Committee. But seven in 10 people don't take into account that just one tablespoon of tomato ketchup contains around 19 calories and 4g sugar. This can add up over time, especially if you have it multiple times a day.

Salad dressing and mayonnaise

Ketchup isn't the only sauce or condiment we tend to forget about, of course. Drench your healthy salad in Caesar dressing, and you could be pouring over an additional 200 calories and 20g fat. A serving of mayonnaise, meanwhile, harbours around 94 extra calories.

Instead of pouring liberal amounts of creamy dressing on your salad opt for a drizzle of vinegar you enjoy the taste of, and a small amount of olive oil. Additional flavour can be added by sprinkling on fresh herbs or seasoning. If you want to add moisture grated carrot or thin slices of ready cooked beetroot are a good addition.

Other people's leftovers

Repeat after us: it still counts, even if it wasn't on your plate when dinner was served.

Grab a chip from someone else's plate or 'help' your friend finish her ice cream and you'll be consuming extra calories – obviously.

Mothers who habitually finish off their children's meals, for example, are unwittingly consuming an extra 1,404 calories each week, according to a survey commissioned by Weight Loss Resources.

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Grated cheese toppings

You may go easy on your portion sizes in a bid to cut calories when serving pasta or chilli – but then you can't resist a very generous sprinkling of cheese at the table.

Sound familiar? Remember, a one tablespoon serving of Parmesan contains around 40 calories and 3g fat, while Cheddar is not much better at 37 calories and roughly the same amount of fat.

A taste of honey

Liven up your morning porridge with a generous dollop of honey and you'll be adding another 64 calories and 17g sugar. So cut down a little, or sweeten it with fruit instead. A jar of unsweetened apple sauce in the fridge is a great way to quickly and easily sweeten porridge and yogurt. Warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg can also make food taste sweeter.

Honey vs sugar – which is best?

All that healthy stuff

Of course, you should be upping your intake of healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and oily fish – but it's still important to watch your portion sizes, and don't get lured in by prepackaged 'healthy foods'.

It’s easy to think that just because a food is healthy you can eat as much as you like, but you can have too much of a good thing. You’re less likely to overdo it with healthy food because it helps regulate your appetite – but portion control should apply whatever you’re eating, and fatty foods such as nuts and avocado are best eaten in moderation because fat is very calorie dense.

Weigh out your healthy snacks to check how many calories you are consuming.

The slimming Sixties: why it was easier to be slim in the 1960s

Your night-time tipple

A third of Brits admit they never stop to consider the calories in alcohol, according to the report by the Chilean Blueberry Committee.

But a pint of beer contains the same amount of calories as a large slice of pizza; a pint of cider is roughly equivalent to a sugary doughnut; and a large glass of wine tots up the same as a slice of sponge cake, warns Drinkaware.

The  lowest calorie alcoholic drinks include vodka (96 calories a shot) and gin (97 calories a shot) but mixers will have additional calories.

Are you drinking more than you think?

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.