1. You use your veggies like a shovel to fill your pie hole with lard.
While it may seem like a good idea to watch TV with a plate of crisp crudités on the coffee table in front of you, that jar of peanut butter sitting right next to it can spell trouble. Sure, peanut butter provides healthy fat and protein, but it also has 94 calories per tablespoon. And 2 tablespoons of creamy dressing can pack 145 calories and 15 g of fat. "Eating just one hundred calories more each day can translate to about a 10-pound weight gain over the course of a year," says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.
If you're dying to dip, mix fat-free plain Greek yogurt with salsa or zingy seasonings such as horseradish or curry powder. Prepared hummus or black-bean dips coat raw veggies with protein, fiber, and flavor.
2. You delude yourself into believing that fried sweet potatoes are "healthy" french fries.
Besides the beta-carotene (a disease-fighting carotenoid that our bodies convert to vitamin A) that's responsible for their vibrant color, sweet potatoes provide vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and fiber—all for about 100 calories in a medium potato. But when you fry these and other vegetables, the fat and calorie counts skyrocket. Not only that, but a study in the Journal of Food Science found that certain vegetables, like zucchini, actually lose some of their antioxidant power when fried.
A baked sweet potato is the worry-free choice (mash in 2 tablespoons of a creamy fat-free dressing for extra flavor); eat the skin and you'll also get at least 4 g of fiber. If you're just not satisfied with a baked spud, buy a bag of oven-ready frozen fries; choose ones with 0 trans fat and no more than 0.5 g saturated fat per serving.
3. You drown foods in enough olive oil to sink the Titanic.
Extra virgin olive oil is high in "good" monounsaturated fat—the kind of fat that can help lower LDL cholesterol—but it also has about 477 calories and 54 g of fat per ¼ cup. If you don't measure the amount of oil you use to sauté, grill, broil, or roast, you can end up with way more than you need.
When grilling or broiling, use a pastry brush or nonaerosol pump to lightly glaze food with oil, says Jennifer Nelson, RD, director of clinical dietetics and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. If you're making a stir-fry, wipe a paper towel dipped in olive oil around the wok before adding ingredients. You can also make your sautés sizzle with wine, soy sauce, chicken broth, or 100% carrot, tomato, or vegetable juice. And try poaching your fish in low-fat broth or watered-down orange juice; the fillets will soak up some of the liquid, which will make you feel fuller, says Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University and author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan.
4. Your salad is a high-calorie fat bomb that is your daily calorie intake in a troff.
The virtue of a salad starts to wilt when you add more than one calorie-dense topping, such as cheese, nuts, dried fruit, or croutons. Cheeses can register high in bad saturated fat, and though nuts have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that may help raise good (HDL) cholesterol, a small serving of walnuts (about 7 pieces) can add up to about 185 calories and 18 g of fat.
Nelson offers an easy-to-remember ratio for preparing main-dish salads: "Three-quarters should be fresh fruits and vegetables, and the last quarter should be a combo of lean protein, like chicken, plus a complex carbohydrate such as wheat berries or quinoa. Then allow yourself two tablespoons of calorie-dense items." For major nutrition impact with minimal calorie load, forgo dried fruit in favor of fresh pomegranate seeds; they're potent in polyphenols, and researchers at Case Western Reserve University found that pomegranate extract may be effective in reducing the inflammation that can lead to arthritis.
5. Your coffee hits your thighs like a sack of wet cement dropped off a Sky Scraper.
Sipping coffee or tea plain isn't the problem. In fact, both beverages have been linked to a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry also suggests that drinking coffee may reduce your chances of type 2 diabetes. But major calories and saturated fat come with added ingredients such as sugary syrups, honey, whipped cream, and whole milk (1% and 2% aren't much better). And while honey may seem like a natural, healthier alternative to sugar, the fact is it has 21 calories per teaspoon versus sugar's 16.
For a low-cal, lower-fat drink that feels like a sweet treat, choose coffee beans in tempting flavors such as chocolate almond, hazelnut, or white chocolate, rather than using syrupy mix-ins, and lighten your coffee with fat-free milk. Teas, too, come in sweet vanilla, berry, and tropical fruit blends. And if you use sugar or honey in your beverages, limit yourself to about a teaspoon.
7. You're good all day but at night you make love to 3 extra large pizzas.
You're the Jekyll and Hyde of snacking—restricting calories so much by day that by night you're ravenous. After dinner, you trek back and forth to the fridge. Before you know it, you're cuddled up on the couch with a sleeve of Oreos.
Start with a breakfast that's really satisfying—like steel-cut oats, eggs, or Greek-style yogurt. Then at lunch, combine healthy carbs, protein, and fat. And truly savor your treats. Dean Ornish, MD, author of The Spectrum, does a "chocolate meditation." Take a single piece of the best chocolate you can find and let it dissolve slowly in your mouth, paying attention to the complex flavors. You'll get more pleasure with fewer calories.
8. You think snaking before dinner is part of your food fore-play.
You're starving by the time you get home from work (join the club). You inhale whatever you get your hands on, whether it's healthy or not.
"Planning is key," says Patricia Bannan, RD, the author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight. Before you get home, eat something light and nourishing to tide you over. If you're starving while you cook, munch on raw veggies such as sugar snap peas. Set yourself up for success by knowing meals you can cook quickly, such as frozen veggies with a rotisserie chicken and microwaveable brown rice.
9. When clean out your car, it looks like the trash bin at McDonalds.
If you feel like you live in your car, you probably consume a lot of calories there, too. Maybe you wolf down snacks straight out of the bag, with little idea of how much you've inhaled, or you pull into the nearest drive-thru for a shake.
Preempt unrestrained noshing by packing portable snacks that are calorie-controlled such as small bags of cashews or an apple. Even half of a PB&J on whole wheat will do the trick. And if those fries are still calling out to you, "drive home via another route so you won't pass your favorite fast-food restaurants," says Janna L. Fikkan, PhD, a health psychologist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, NC. "It doesn't have to be the shortest way home, as long as you avoid the drive-thru."
10. You graze at the office to the point where you chew on the sugar cubes by the coffee maker.
Between the office candy bowl, the vending machine, and a coworker's homemade brownies, your office probably stocks more snacks than a 7-Eleven. And since you're only nibbling, the calories don't count, right?
Launch a counteroffensive by bringing in healthy snacks—say, tamari-roasted almonds or dark chocolate—that you actually prefer over the junk. Knowing that these treats are tucked away will give you the strength to resist the disastrous jelly doughnuts. With healthy fare within arm's reach, you won't need to raid your colleague's candy jar.
How many of these mistakes are you making in an average day? Let us know in the comments below!
H/T: Prevention Magazine