We all know that eating a whole pizza or a block of chocolate is a lot of calories (even though we like to deliberately forget this when inhaling these). But there are other popular snacks and drinks which might surprise you with how calorific they are.
“Most people know the high calorie foods. We’re all aware of how high calorie fast food is, but maybe we don’t know how high it is,” accredited practising dietician Caroline Trickey told The Huffington Post Australia.
“People sometimes go to McDonald’s and think to get something ‘healthier’ like a McFish meal, but what they don’t realise is that it’s over 800 calories -- that’s nearly half of what a person needs per day and it’s only one of the three meals.”
It’s not just meals and snacks that provide an overload of energy. Popular drinks are another surprisingly calorific food source we consume on a daily basis.
“One of the areas where people don’t realise the calorie content is when they drink things,” Trickey said. “They’ll have a smoothie for breakfast, but still eat their bowl of cereal. So they’re adding that on to what they’re already having but don’t understand why they’re not losing weight.”
Although it's important to take note of how high in energy these foods are, according to Trickey, it’s more important to differentiate the good calories from the bad.
“I would rather people not consider calories, but instead focus on a healthy balance of fresh, whole foods,” Trickey said.
For example, people might focus on the calorie content of nuts. A handful of almonds (around 14 nuts) is 100 calories, which is the equivalent of one Tim Tam. Yes, it’s incredibly tempting to opt for the Tim Tam, but the calories are virtually empty and, compared to the almonds, it simply won’t fill us up -- and we all know how easy it is to eat a whole packet of Tim Tams.
“Even if a whole food is higher in calories, it’s definitely a better choice,” Trickey said. “A handful of nuts might have the same calories as a cookie, but they’re very different calories.
“The way your body breaks those foods down is very different from whole foods -- they provide really important nutrients. Your body knows how to break whole foods down better and use those nutrients, and they are going to fill you up for longer.
“Junk food is more likely to be stored than be used for good.”
One reason why we may be consuming these calorific (and often unhealthy) foods so often is because we don’t know what is going into them.
“That’s another thing. If you don’t cook, you won’t actually know what goes into food,” Trickey said.
Caesar salad -- 714 calories (for a Coffee Club Caesar salad)
“We think ‘salad equals healthy’ but Caesar salad is definitely not a healthy meal,” Trickey said.
“If you think about what’s in Caesar salad -- yes, there’s lettuce but there’s croutons (which can often be deep fried), a load of cheese, bacon, and then the dressing, which is made out of egg yolk, oil and usually cheese. So you’ve got fat, fat and more fat.”
Subway cookies -- 215 calories (for one chocolate chip cookie)
“People go to Subway thinking they’re having a healthier takeaway meal and then the person behind the counter asks, 'Would you would like a cookie with that?'. And many will get one, not realising the cookie has got almost as many calories as the actual sandwich they have ordered. But we don’t think of that because it’s just one little cookie," Trickey said.
Croissant -- 541 calories (chocolate croissant), 452 calories (almond croissant) and 251 calories (70 gram plain croissant)
“If you’ve ever made croissants before, you will know what goes into them: layers of pastry and butter in between. This is where, if you cook, you will be less likely to go to it as a first option,” Trickey said.
Doughnuts -- 300 calories (one Krispy Kreme chocolate iced doughnut)
“Doughnuts are just white flour and sugar which are deep fried. It’s a combination of an incredible amount of calories and, again, not healthy calories," Trickey said.
Steak/meat -- 682 calories (large T-bone steak with fat), 239 calories (lamb cutlet with fat)
“A lot of people eat T-bone steak and will think it’s not that big, but in reality it’s enough for two people," Trickey said. "There’s also the trend now to keep the fat on steak, which is a huge increase in your calorie intake.
“It's the same with lamb cutlets. Most people eat 3-4 cutlets, which adds up very quickly in terms of calories.”
Granola -- 294 calories (for ¾ cup)
Sugar and fat are the two suspects for granola being high in energy (and for being so delicious).
"There aren’t many store-bought granolas that are low in sugar, and people don’t want to eat boring muesli, which is just oats and untoasted nuts," Trickey said. "People look for flavour so, unfortunately, these are often your unhealthy options."
"You can definitely make your own granola and it doesn’t take that long."
Hummus -- 388 calories (for ½ a cup)
“Typically hummus has oil in it, which is high energy, so that’s one thing that can increase the calorie content of hummus," Trickey told HuffPost Australia. "If you are buying hummus, it might not necessarily be a healthy oil, either. They can just use any old vegetable oil.
“There’s definitely commercially available dips that don’t have oil in it. Just be selective about your hummus and read the ingredients list.”
Although high in calories, hummus is a filling, sustaining and healthy option.
“Hummus is a good source of protein and fibre, which both help you to feel full, making it a great snack. It’s not one of those snacks which you eat and then need to eat an hour later,” Trickey said.
Muffins -- 581 calories (McCafe Blueberry Muffin)
Don’t be fooled by the blueberries -- muffins pack a big calorie punch.
“This is another one with high calories, especially those enormous Texas size muffins. They can have 600 calories in them," Trickey said. "If you sat down and ate a decent-size healthy meal for lunch, the muffin would have more calories than your meal."
Banana bread -- 614 calories (for one slice from McDonald’s)
“Another surprisingly calorific food is banana bread. It’s such a big thing to have for breakfast at cafes, but one slice of banana bread can be 600 calories," Trickey said.
"One slice of banana bread from Boost Juice (for 140 grams) is 304 calories, and a slice from 7-Eleven (for 90 grams -- that’s pretty small!) is 306 calories."
Protein bars and shakes -- 366 calories (for one Aussie Bodies protein bar), 227 calories (Muscle Milk Protein drink)
“Protein is not calorie free, which is what a lot of us don’t realise. We think if we have excess protein we’re not going to store it," Trickey said. "Protein has calories, too, and if you don’t use those calories you are going to store it.
“What I frequently see is people exercising a lot and still gaining weight. But they're having several protein shakes a day, added in on top of what they’re already eating, so it's no wonder because those shakes have 200-300 calories in it.”
Smoothies -- 464 calories (Boost Juice Mango Mantra smoothie 610ml)
“Drinking your calories is one where people get caught out. You might be shopping and get hungry, and buy a smoothie as a snack before lunch, but it’s got 400 calories," Trickey said.
Starbucks drinks -- 494 calories (Starbucks Grande Strawberries and Cream frappucino with whipped cream)
“We might think it’s just a coffee so it’s calorie free, but it’s all the added elements (like the liquid flavour, chocolate syrup and whipped cream) they have in there which make it so calorific," Trickey said.
Coconut water -- 55 calories (per cup)
While just one cup of coconut water doesn't contain many calories, if you're drinking a large carton every day as you would water, the calories can quickly add up.
"At around 55 calories per cup, if you have it in place of water and drink 3-4 cups a day, that’s an extra 165-220 calories in a day," Trickey said.