4 “Healthy” Foods With Deceiving Portion Sizes
I'm often plagued by daydreams of rich vanilla ice cream swirled with caramel ribbons, salty potato chips, tiramisu with layers of Kahlua-soaked ladyfingers, creamy mascarpone and chocolate mousse. While all of these decadent treats are loaded with fat and calories, each can be consumed in portions containing less than 100 calories. It is possible to indulge and observe a low-calorie diet at the same time -- so long as you indulge in a hefty dose of restraint.
However, indulging in packaged snack foods can be a dangerous threat to the low-calorie diet. Packaged foods are often marketed as "100 calories or less" but when you check the back of the package, you'll see that they are basing this off of misleading portion sizes. For example, some small bags and packages contain two or 2.5 servings per container. Who wants to indulge in just three spoonfuls of ice cream or nine potato chips?
Before you devour a small bag of light chips, verify the calorie amount for its serving size because packages advertised as 100 calories may have a very small portion size. If a serving is only a few bites, you'll likely consume multiple servings or be left feeling completely unsatisfied.
Here are four popular snacks with tricky portion sizes. I've suggested a satisfying alternative for each food, so you can indulge and stay fit at the same time.
1. Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt. Ben and Jerry's delicious Cherry Garcia froyo is marketed as a low-fat snack. However, a portion that's less than 100 calories equals half of the allotted serving size -- about a quarter cup. This serving size amounts to a few spoonfuls and is likely more of a tease than a fulfilling snack.
Satisfying Solution: Homemade Frozen Yogurt. Yogurt can transform into frozen yogurt in the freezer. For a high-protein, low-calorie treat, I use three quarters of a cup of nonfat or low-fat plain Greek yogurt and stir in a half cup of fresh raspberries or blueberries. Stir them into the yogurt and freeze 30 to 45 minutes for a delicious treat.
2. Pita Chips. While choosing baked pita chips over fried potato chips or flavored corn chips may seem like the healthy choice, an ounce of Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips equals about 10 chips and contains 130 calories and 270 milligrams of sodium, which is closely comparable to the 140 calories and 210 milligrams of sodium in 11 Nacho Cheese Doritos chips.
Satisfying Solution: Kale Chips. If you're a salt junkie like me, kale chips taste way better than they sound. Store-bought kale chips are usually expensive, so I make my own. Separate the kale stems from leaves to create one cup of leaves. Coat them with a light dressing of olive, add salt and bake at 400 degrees until crisp, about 30 to 40 minutes.
3. Nuts and Seeds. Nuts are undoubtedly a great addition to a healthy diet: They're loaded with protein, unsaturated fats and antioxidants. But this doesn't mean you should treat them as an all-you-can-eat buffet item. High fat, calorie and sodium content (with salted varieties) means that nuts need to be consumed in careful moderation. To enjoy a 100-calorie snack of nuts, you need to stick to less than 1 oz. This means, 14 almonds, 11 cashews or seven walnut halves.
Satisfying Solution: Pistachios. Instead of eating just 14 almonds, you can enjoy about 30 pistachios in a 100-calorie serving.
4. Smoothies. All smoothies are not created equal. Many store-bought varieties contain added sugar. A large Smoothie King Trim Down Mangofest smoothie contains 570 calories, while Fruit Blast Smoothies from Baskin Robbins range from roughly 700 to 880 calories for a large one.
Satisfying Solution: Truly Skinny Banana Smoothie. Combine half a banana or half a cup of berries with a quarter cup of nonfat vanilla yogurt and a handful of ice, then blend until smooth for a 100-calorie treat.
Whether you want to indulge in a 100-calorie snack by eating one bite of tiramisu, six Frosted Mini-Wheats, a handful of pistachios or a bowl of nutrient-dense kale chips, it's important to be aware of the nutritional value and portion size of your foods.
Readers -- Do you enjoy any of these treats? Which ones are your faves? Do you pay attention to the portion size in snacks and foods advertised as low-calorie? Have you been "tricked" by any of these products in the past? What are some truly healthy low-calorie snacks you would recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Amanda Russell is a top-rated fitness and lifestyle writer, professional keynote speaker, Olympic-trained athlete, model, spokeswoman, founder of FitStrongandSexy.com and one of the industry's leading experts in fitness, wellness and change. Amanda hosts and executive produces the online web Fitness series: Fit Strong and Sexy. To watch Amanda’s show, visit AmandaRussell.TV.