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Losing Weight

How to Spot a High-Calorie Food

Eating for weight loss comes down to a simple rule: Fill up on nutritious, low-calorie foods while avoiding high-calorie foods. But when you're in a restaurant or grocery store, what should you watch out for?

Here are some useful ways to spot high-calorie foods that can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. High-calorie foods are:

1. Low in fiber or have no fiber: If a food contains no fiber, it is probably too high in calories. Dairy products, meat, and eggs contain no fiber. As a simple rule of thumb, animal-derived products never have any fiber at all, because fiber comes only from plants. And products made from white flour have had most of their natural grain fiber stripped away in the milling process, which is why they are white. Here are some examples of foods that have little or no fiber:

  • Ham and cheese omelet
  • Plain bagel
  • Yogurt

Cookies—even the low-fat ones—can pack a high-calorie punch because they have had most of the fiber removed, so it is easy to eat too many at one time.

2. High-fat, high-protein animal products like dairy, meat, or eggs: Meat, fish, cream, milk, yogurt, and eggs contain too many calories to be a healthy part of your diet. These foods have lots of fat and protein, but no fiber. Sometimes people eat fatty fish, such as salmon, because they imagine fish fats to be good for them. But fish fat packs in just as many calories—and is just as fattening—as lard, chicken fat, or any other kind of fat. Processed foods that contain animal products are also high in calories. Here are some examples of high-fat, high-calorie animal products:

  • Cheese pizza
  • Bacon cheeseburger
  • Low-fat vanilla ice cream

2. Processed foods that use oil or sugar as main ingredients: Some processed foods get a majority of their calories from oil. They are also usually low in fiber. Foods high in fat and sugar are too high in calories—and they are easy to overeat. Here are some examples:

  • Potato chips
  • Soda
  • Margarine

3. Fried foods: Foods that are fried get a majority of their calories from oil and are very high in calories. Here are some examples:

  • Onion rings
  • French fries
  • Tempura

4. Naturally high-fat plant foods: There are not many high-fat plant foods. The ones you might find are nutritious, but are high in calories, so it is best to consume them sparingly if you're trying to lose weight. Here are some examples:

  • Nuts and nut butters
    (e.g., peanut butter)
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • High-fat soy products
  • Coconut curry
 

One more tip: When you're trying to spot high-calorie foods, it's helpful to read food labels. Pay special attention to the information on total fat, fiber, serving size, and ingredients. Choose foods for which the number of calories is less than the number of grams in a serving. Learn more about food labels.