Those Little Foods Can Really Get You

I was talking with a friend the other day and she was bemoaning the fact that she was having trouble losing weight after the birth of her baby. (Her baby is now 18 months.) I told her that I completely understood but didn’t offer any advice because unless you ask me, I’m not going to just tell you what I think! (Good to know if we ever meet in person. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Anyway, she did ask me if I had any words of wisdom and not being able to think of anything profound at the moment, I asked her what she was eating. She is a great cook and serves her family healthy meals. She said she was having small snacks throughout the day and eating reasonable portions of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I asked her about her snacking choices. She said, “I know to choose healthy snacks so I eat almonds, walnuts, dark chocolate chips, and dried fruit.” Immediately my antenna went up.

I said, “How much of those snacks are you eating?” She explained that she would have a few handfuls of nuts and maybe a handful each of chocolate chips and dried fruit. I told her, “That’s probably a lot of your problem.” We looked on my phone and she was shocked to discover that a handful of almonds has about 300 calories, a handful of chocolate chips (4 tablespoons) has 280 calories, and that just 1/4 cup of raisins has 130 calories.

If she had that every day, that would be over 700 calories in snacks. In small snacks.

I told her that if she wanted to eat those foods then to make sure to measure them first so she would be able to allow for those calories in her day. She assured me that she would stop reaching her hand into the nut container, stop pouring a “few” chocolate chips into her hand, and to measure any dried fruit she ate.

This conversation made me realize how important portion control is. Not just being aware of the huge servings we have to watch out for in restaurants, but the portion sizes of small foods as well. It is so easy to grab a handful of this or a small bag of that and not realize how those calories affect our weight management goals.

While you may never eat your entire plate of pasta at Olive Garden because you know it has more calories than you need, you may inadvertently eat more small food calories than you intend.

As you are walking your path, I’d encourage you to be mindful of the calories in little foods and learn how tiny a portion of popular healthy choices of chocolate or nuts really is. After all, as the picture on the top of the post shows, just a single tablespoon of chocolate chips is 6 percent of a 1,200 calorie diet. That’s not bad at all, but if you eat 4 tablespoons, then that becomes 23 percent of a 1,200 calorie diet. Big difference!

Are there any small foods that you have learned to be mindful of how much you are eating? Any tips for us in controlling the portion sizes? Diane

23 thoughts on “Those Little Foods Can Really Get You

  1. Elizabeth says:

    There are lots of hidden calories in little snacks as well. They add up fast and I’ve found that unless you are weighing them you can’t properly count the calories. Try it out…. My chocolate chips say 70 calories for a tablespoon or 15 grams. From my experience there is a big difference. So in order to properly count my calories I’ve started weighing everything, including yogurt. I’ve lost 145 lbs in the last year and noticed a big difference in my results when I started using my food scale.

  2. Emergefit says:

    I’m glad you used almonds as a reference. Nuts are very calorie rich, and though they have very healthy properties, I always preach that a little goes a long way. Sauces and dreessings fall into this category as well, though they are not snacks. Even pretzles add up.. Wealth people will tell you that true thrift comes from watching the pennies. In weightloss, its in watching the penny calories!

  3. Marc says:

    Well I had no idea that chocolate chips had those kind of calories. Even the semi-sweet ones? I figured they’d be less because they were semi – do you know what I’m saying? My wife makes the best cookies on planet Earth. She has one of those big kitchen aid mixers and only knows how to whip up a batch of 12 dozen at a time. I am usually the one who does the shopping with her list, and in the past I always bought an extra bag of chocolate chips for me to snack on. Actually I was the official food taster/quality control inspector. I had to make sure that her cookies passed the high standards for servings to the grandkids:)

  4. Yum Yucky says:

    I pretty much away from snacking on sneaky foods, because mindless munching always get the best of me. Better to stay away. My hubs bought some candied almonds the other day. no No NO! I’m not going near it.

  5. Michelle says:

    I too, had been snacking on nuts and fruit (about 1/4 cup each) and thinking “it’s a healthy snack so it should be fine”, but then I looked at how much calories they had and decided to cut that snack down to perhaps once every few weeks. I think it had something to do with me not losing weight when I started trying.

    I also have to watch the fresh fruit. I know it’s good for me, but it can also have lots of calories that has to be accounted for in my day.

  6. Amanda says:

    “Any tips for us in controlling the portion sizes?”

    As Type-A as it seems, I have separate sets of measuring spoons and cups — one for home, one for the office. I am good at eye-balling different sizes (a tablespoon, a quarter-cup, etc) but every couple of weeks or so I actually measure out my foods to make sure objects on my plate aren’t larger than they appear ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I know, it sounds obsessive, but it works for me. Also, I’ve got a little cheap (like less than $20 on Amazon) food scale at home that is totally my crack. I weigh out my ice cream on that sucker. And I weigh THAT out EVERY time, because I guarantee you I will look at my bowl and think “No, that’s not quite a serving. I need just a little bit more to round it out…”

    And I’m telling you, there isn’t a SINGLE time where I’ve really needed that little big more, LOL

  7. KarenJ says:

    For a while I was eating healthy foods, but not measuring quantity, and I found my weight was beginning to creep up again. With the amount of calories I can eat a day to maintain my weight, snacking has to be kept under control, so now I measure out 15 almonds (1/2 ounce) and my soy crisps (1 ounce) so I know for sure how many calories I’m putting into my body. I try to keep all my snacks at 100 calories maximum. This is a really important point for weight loss or weight maintenance, so thanks for bringing it up Diane!

  8. vickie says:

    And most dried fruit has sugar added. Have to really be careful to find dried fruit that is plain.

    Oil roasted nuts are common. Flavoring added to nuts is a huge problem.

    Again, have to really look to find raw or dry roasted. ( eat raw nuts with nothing added, and dry roasted peanuts with NO salt)

    And SALT added to nuts is a whole other topic of problems.

  9. Taryl says:

    I’m MORE likely to measure my snacks than meat/salad meals for just this reason – it’s not the meals that I have sneaking overages on, but the high calorie snacky stuff!

  10. Krissy says:

    This is so true! I have to watch my peanut butter portions. One tablespoons is fine, but more than that and it’s really hard to stay under my calorie limit. If I’m not mindful, I can throw 3-4 tablespoons on a sandwich or a piece of fruit without thinking.

  11. Sarah says:

    Even though I KNOW this I did it myself earlier this week. I bought a bag of mixed nuts and raisins to have instead of cake for lunch. Nice and healthy. Then I was a hungry in the afternoon so I ate some more. And a few more.

    Got home and weighed the bag. I’d eaten 100g – 450 calories! Eek and D’oh.

  12. Dr. J says:

    It seems to me that the words “If I am not losing the weight I want to it is because I am eating too much,” needs to be written where every “dieter” can read then.

  13. suzanne says:

    I have to admit I measure most foods. The exception would be veggies! The two things I have to measure are cheese and wine both of which I’d overdo if I didn’t.

  14. Bella says:

    I’ve been trying to be very healthy and have been doing a lot of reserach. Turns out some of the foods I thought would be a great addition to my diet are a lot higher in calories than I expected. I was eating an avocado a day thinking of all of the goodness that comes from them and then I learned one avocado alone has about 200 calories! Yikes. I won’t cut out avocados from my diet but I’m definitely eating them less, a lot less.

  15. L says:

    I have found that recently I’m grabbing a cashew here and an almond there, with a quarter of a granola bar in between. No wonder I’m not seeing the weight disappear more quickly. I wonder if it might be a good idea to immediately divide the nuts when I bring them home, and package them in bags with the calorie count on the package? Something to think about–and a quick visual cue to me of what I’m doing when I open that pack. Thanks, Diane!

  16. Siobhan says:

    For me, snacking makes me hungry, regardless of what the snack is (including plain raw vegetables). I really do better not eating at all between meals …

  17. julie says:

    Hmm, I snack on fruit, veggies, and dark-chocolate covered nuts. No fooling myself, though, I only eat one or two choco-nuts. I try not to go crazy with the fruit, either, as I can (and will, if I allow it) eat 2-3 as a snack. Obviously, fruit is limiting as it’s so full of water (unless you’re eating dried fruit, which I usually avoid unless camping), but adds up very quickly. Same with veggies, carrots, celery, pole beans, radishes, are quite limiting since they’re so full of fiber and water and make me stuffed and uninspired to continue.

    Bread and cheese are stored in freezer, no easy access. Popcorn can be made, no quick access. There are snacks at my house to be had, but all except the fruit/veg/choco-nuts require planning, thawing, effort.

  18. Douglas says:

    A client of mine had recently switched over to a Paleo-style of eating in the hopes of improving overall health AND losing weight.

    According to her blood pressure monitor, the health improvement was well on the way…but according to her bathroom scale, things weren’t so great. In over a month of eating Paleo, she had only lost 3 lbs.

    Her diet?

    Moderate fruit intake, lots and lots of veggies, moderate animal protein and a small amount of seeds & nuts.

    It turns out that she had no idea what a small amount of seeds & nuts actually means. She was plowing through handfuls of them over the course of the day.

    Gotta watch out for those calorie dense foods ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. blackhuff says:

    I find that there’s a lot of people, which do snack healthy but have no clue as to how much they are allowed in portions or calories. Thus they can’t lose weight nor maintain it.

  20. Cindy says:

    I am still not ready yet to tackle my protion size problems so I eat a fair amount of rice cakes. They give me the crunch that I am craving and I feel full. Once I have conquered the sports injuries and the eating 3 healthy meals I will deal with my portion sizes on my rice cake snacks. I find there is only so many issues I can take on at one time.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Good for you on realizing what you can and cannot do right now. I don’t see anything wrong with eating something low in calories that helps you stay on your goals! I hope your injuries get better soon.

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