Uncovering rogue calories

Why you need to step away from the nuts and sidestep salad dressing

Seemingly healthy meal choices might be masking a multitude of sins.

Just how good for you are your go-to healthy options? You might not think it, but sometimes a salad can carry more calories than a cheeseburger. Now party season is here, it’s hard to resist all those canapés, mince pies and extra helpings of a roast dinner (it’s estimated the average person consumes 2,300 calories at Christmas lunch alone), but it’s the unknowingly safe options you’re eating every day that could be making you fat. Holistic health coach and nutritionist Kaya Peters helps navigate the minefield of not-so-innocuous nibbles.

These are a great source of healthy fats and protein but go easy on them (everything in moderation remember), because a cup of dry roasted, unsalted cashews is a whopping 786 calories. Opt for the lower calorie raw nuts (those which are cooked are often fried in oil, even if it doesn’t say so on the packet) and stick with a small portion – not more than half a cup. Kaya says: ‘Another great option if you’re craving a mid-afternoon salty bite is having a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds with soy sauce or sea salt. These are full of zinc and antioxidants and super satisfying, but less calories.’

Need your morning pick-me-up? Be mindful, café-bought coffees can carry huge calorific implications, with additions such as syrups, milk, sugar. and whipped cream. A Gloria Jeans’ regular vanilla latte is about 221 calories. Instead, grab an Americano or long black with a dash of low fat or skimmed milk. Kaya says: ‘Excessive caffeine intake can drain the kidneys and adrenals and cause hormonal imbalances, which add to weight gain, so having more than two cups of coffee a day is not recommended. Green tea is a great alternative, with zero calories and much lower caffeine content.’

A glass of fruit juice is often a daily part of breakfast, but with around 112 calories in one glass of orange juice, and none of the fibre of the fruit itself, you could be racking up the calories without knowing it. Kaya says: ‘Fruit juices really are a big no-no due to their high sugar content, and pre-packed ones often have all sorts of syrups and artificial ingredients added. Instead opt for veggie juice with green apple or berries. Juices work great for some, but are definitely not suitable for all body-types, so be mindful of how you feel when consuming raw juice and don’t just take health hypes as the ultimate truth.’

Salad dressing
Some are good and some are bad – very bad. It’s always best to opt for basic ingredients. Take French dressing for example; 80 calories for just a teaspoon of the stuff! Try balsamic vinegar instead. Kaya says: ‘Make your own dressing by mixing some organic yoghurt, Italian herbs, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Another great option is ginger juice, stevia drops, apple cider vinegar and lime. Experiment with flavours and stay away from store-bought dressings all together.’

A common misconception is that muffins are a healthy alternative. Store-bought muffins are full of sugar, fats and preservatives. A Starbucks muffin is around 415 calories. Kaya says: ‘Muffins, cakes, cookies and other flour-based products are guaranteed to make you puffy. Instead, bake your own cakes from almond flour and fruits, or have some figs and nuts if you crave something sweet.’

Dates and dried fruit
Though they’re in abundance here, dates should be consumed in small portions. At a whopping 282 calories per 100g, these little morsels can be a hidden calorie bomb. Kaya says: ‘In small amounts they can be very healthy, especially before workouts, but eating too much dried fruit can affect stable blood sugar levels, so is not recommended. Dried cranberries and goji berries are a safer option due to their sour properties.’ If you need an energy boost, stick to three dates – and not the chocolate-dipped ones.

White bread
It’s like cake, with no sugar. Really. One measly 100g serving of bread takes up around 350 calories of your daily intake. White bread has no real nutrients, and even brown loaves can be lacking – the keyword you’re looking for is ‘wholegrain’. Kaya says: ‘If you’re really serious about fitness, try to cut out bread as much as possible, except for the occasional gluten free or wheat-free slice. However, be careful with gluten-free products and read labels, as they’re often full of sugar and additives again. Whole rye bread is slightly sour and great for heart and artery health. Wheat is an allergen for many people nowadays and cutting it out might have amazing benefits for your digestive health and energy levels.’
Kaya Peters is also one of the UAE’s leading yoga teachers. Visit www.kayapeters.com.

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