Can’t fight that craving for a juicy burger? Sometimes it’s OK to cave in—if you indulge wisely. Enjoying a small hamburger, fries and milk instead of a large hamburger combo with pop, for instance, spares you about 701 calories and 24.2 grams of fat.While saturated fat and sodium are concerns for heart health, research proves that it’s actually excess calories that are causing our bellies to bulge. A moderately active 130-pound woman should aim for an average of 2,000 calories each day, says Charlene Chen, a registered dietitian in Vancouver. An easy way to avoid going over is to eat smart. So, we’ve analysed the nutrition information available for some of your favourite treats to help you make healthier choices.
At a cocktail party
INSTEAD OF a daiquiri (162 calories per 125 mL)CHOOSE red wine (90 calories per 125 mL)A glass of red wine isn’t just an elegant choice—it also packs 72 fewer calories than a daiquiri. Cheers!
Many hors d’oeuvres are chock full of calories and fat. “Booze can also enhance your appetite,” says Edmonton-based registered dietitian Heidi Bates. We’ve identified low-cal options so you won’t land face down in the punch bowl or pop a button. University of Guelph food science professor Massimo Marcone also recommends eating protein, such as chicken or tofu, beforehand so you’re less likely to gorge on pastry puffs.
two cream cheese-and-smoked salmon pastry puffs 129 calories; 8.1 g fat
10 cooked shrimp 53 calories; 0.6 g fat
76 calories; 7.5 g fat
BONUS Low-fat shrimp offer vitamins B6 and B12, proven to raise levels of HDL (or “good”) cholesterol.
four mini-quiches 254 calories
10 baby carrots and one stalk of celery dipped in 2 tbsp (30 mL) cheese-and-red pepper dip 132 calories
2 tbsp (30 mL) baba ghanouj with pita bread 254 calories
2 tbsp (30 mL) salsa with six tortilla chips 164 calories
BONUS Women who eat a lot of lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes, have a 30 per cent reduced risk of heart disease, according to a Harvard study.
rum and cola 222 calories
rum and diet cola 118 calories
At a coffee shop or juice bar
INSTEAD OF a whole wheat carrot muffin from Tim Hortons (408 calories; 20 g fat)CHOOSE an oatmeal-raisin cookie (151 calories; 6 g fat)Think a muffin is the better choice? Fat chance! A whole wheat carrot muffin from Tim Hortons serves up 257 more calories and 14 more grams of fat than an oatmeal-raisin cookie.
Canadians love lattes and frozen coffee. The problem: some contain more than 400 calories. Even an innocent-looking smoothie can pack a high-fat punch. Consider them desserts and choose low-fat milk and smaller sizes to shave off calories.
24-oz (710-mL) Booster Juice Berry Twister yogurt smoothie 388 calories
12-oz (355-mL) Booster Juice Berry Twister yogurt smoothie 194 calories
194 calories just by downsizing
Starbucks Grande Iced Caramel Macchiato with whole milk 270 calories; 10 g fat
Starbucks Grande Iced Latte with non-fat milk 100 calories; 0 g fat
170 calories; 10 g fat
Timothy’s regular white hot chocolate 444 calories; 16.3 g fat
Timothy’s regular hot chocolate 312 calories; 13 g fat
132 calories; 3.3 g fat
BONUS Better memory. Milk is a source of thiamine, crucial for energy production and brain function.
at the corner store
INSTEAD OF 10 potato chips (108 calories; 7 g fat)CHOOSE 10 pretzel sticks (19 calories; 0 g fat)When a snack attack hits, go for pretzels, with 89 fewer calories than the equivalent number of potato chips and 0 grams of fat.
Sometimes all it takes is something sweet or salty to lift our spirits (and taste buds). But we all know that most processed and refined treats are a high-calorie source of few vitamins and little protein or fibre. When you do indulge, suggests Chen, keep portion sizes small or share with a friend.
125 mL Häagen-Dazs Cookie Dough Chip ice cream 310 calories; 20 g fat (12 g saturated)
125 mL Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Fudge Brownie Lowfat Frozen Yogurt 200 calories; 2.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
110 calories; 17.5 g fat (10.5 g saturated)
BONUS A cheery disposition. Some research suggests that eating sweets can improve your mood by increasing levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, in your brain.
two chocolate chip cookies 159 calories; 8.2 g fat
two arrowroot cookies 44 calories; 1.4 g fat
115 calories; 6.8 g fat
at a greasy spoon
INSTEAD OF a clubhouse sandwich 718 calories; 38 g fat
CHOOSE turkey breast on multi-grain bread—but hold the mayo 277 calories; 4 g fat
YOU’LL SAVE 441 calories; 34 g fat
Diners are famous for their high-calorie entrées (case in point: Denny’s Original Grand Slam breakfast serves up pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, 665 calories and 49 grams of fat). But you can order comfort food without condemning your arteries or your waistline. Choose grilled or poached items over fried, and ask for toppings such as butter and syrup on the side so you can monitor how much you use, suggests Bates.
three pieces of french toast with 3 tbsp (45 mL) syrup 1,289 calories; 71 g fat (24 g saturated)
a veggie-and-cheese omelette 494 calories; 39 g fat (12 g saturated)
795 calories; 32 g fat (12 g saturated)
BONUS Better skin. Eggs contain biotin, and studies have shown that a deficiency of this B vitamin can cause dermatitis.
two fried eggs, hash browns, four strips of bacon and two pieces of toast 1,167 calories; 87 g fat
two poached eggs, two pieces of back bacon and one piece of whole grain toast 299 calories; 15 g fat
868 calories; 72 g fat
INSTEAD OF one slice of President’s Choice (PC) Quattro Formaggi Rising Crust Pizza (353 calories; 1,092 mg sodium)CHOOSE two slices of PC Wood-Fired All Dressed Thin Crust Pizza (358 calories; 838 mg sodium)Thin crust is a must. Two slices of PC Wood-Fired All Dressed Thin Crust Pizza still have about the same amount of calories as one slice of PC Quattro Formaggi Rising Crust Pizza, with 254 fewer milligrams of sodium.
Quick-fix frozen and microwave dinners often have high sodium levels. Too much sodium, says Chen, can strain the kidneys and possibly lead to hypertension later in life, a risk factor for both heart and kidney disease. Read labels carefully and avoid products with more than 350 milligrams of sodium per serving.
President’s Choice (PC) Lightly Breaded North Atlantic Sole Fillets and 100 g McCain’s Straight Cut french fries 430 calories; 21 g fat
PC Yellow Fin Tuna Steak and PC Organics Garden Salad Mix 168 calories; 0.5 g fat
262 calories; 20.5 g fat
BONUS Healthy eyes. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, certain omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna significantly reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Healthy Choice Mixed Grills Steak With Teriyaki Dipping Sauce 490 calories per meal
Healthy Choice Chicken Enchiladas 360 calories per meal
at a fast-food restaurant
INSTEAD OF Burger King’s king-sized fries 600 calories; 30 g fat (8 g saturated)
CHOOSE Burger King’s small fries 230 calories; 11 g fat (3 g saturated)
YOU’LL SAVE 370 calories; 19 g fat (5 g saturated)
For years, pizza and burger joints have instilled fear in the hearts of dieters. But restaurants such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s have introduced healthier menu items. “Now, there are good choices to be found in fast-food restaurants,” says Bates.
McDonald’s large triple-thick chocolate shake 1,167 calories; 25 g fat
McDonald’s small cola 144 calories; 0 g fat
1,023 calories; 25 g fat
Wendy’s Chicken BLT salad with regular dressing, bacon bits and croutons 657 calories; 44.6 g fat
Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken salad with fat-free dressing and no almonds or rice noodles 242 calories; 1.6 g fat
415 calories; 43 g fat
Clock calories, not time
Vancouver dietitian Charlene Chen dismisses food fibs that crop up time and again.
If you exercise within 30 minutes of eating fatty food, it won’t be stored as fat.
The fat eaten won’t even have been digested yet, let alone burned. While exercise helps use up calories, it can’t prevent foods from being stored as fat if you exceed your recommended daily intake of about 2,000 calories.
Eating carbs at night will pack on the pounds. Eating protein during the day will help keep them off.
Calories are calories no matter where you get them. Although protein makes you feel fuller longer, it contains the same calories per gram as carbs.
Any food eaten after 7 p.m. is more likely to be stored as fat.
It’s not when, but how much you eat that counts. Your metabolism doesn’t stop working, even when you’re sleeping, but it does slow down. As long as you don’t consume too many calories and exercise regularly, you won’t gain weight.
Get the facts
How to find nutrition information:
Ask at the counter or check with a manager (most places won’t offer nutrition information voluntarily). Then take it with a grain of salt. In a recent study, University of Guelph food scientist Massimo Marcone discovered that fast-food servings can vary by about 25 per cent compared with the nutrition information available, so you could be eating more calories and fat than you bargained for.