Hidden Calories

Sozo is not a calorie counting place. Our goal is to guide you to make decisions regarding nutrition and eating based on what will fuel and nourish your body well to keep you at your healthiest and happiest. That doesn’t mean you can completely disregard caloric intake-the amount of calories consumed is still important to weight loss, gain, and maintenance. 

What are Calories?

Calories are a small unit used to measure the amount of energy in food. The average adult needs about 2,000 calories each day to keep their bodies functioning. Everything you do, from walking to working to playing sports to cooking, requires energy. The majority of the calories you eat, however, are used up by functions within the body, such as breathing, nutrient transport, digestion, heart pumping, muscles growing, etc.

In order to lose weight, you will need to be consuming less calories than your body uses throughout the day (this is considered an energy deficit). 

In order to be in an energy deficit, you can decrease the amount of calories eaten in a day and increase the amount of energy you expend through physical activity- or a mixture of both!

If you have a weight-loss goal and are choosing to consume less calories in your day, this does not mean you are going hungry! In order to fully understand this concept, you need to know the difference between energy-dense foods, and nutrient-dense foods. 

Energy-dense and Nutrient-dense foods: 

Energy-dense foods are those that have the most calories per gram, typically consisting of a high-fat content. For example, that Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese from McDonalds is a very energy-dense food. This particular burger comes in at 740 calories, or making it a meal with medium fries and a medium soft drink brings the calories up to 1,260. 

Nutrient-dense foods are those that have the most nutrients per gram- think fruits and veggies! These foods often have less calories, and more of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs.

One way to consume less calories without going hungry is to swap those energy-dense foods with foods that are nutrient-dense. Typically, you can eat larger quantities of nutrient-dense foods for less calories. 

Where Calories Hide

Even if this is your plan, there are still some ways calories can sneak into the diet, and because they aren’t very filling- you may not even notice them! Here is one of my favorite pictures to help explain this concept:

Each of these stomachs are filled with the same number of calories, but the foods that are the most energy-dense (or have the highest amount of calories) take up the least amount of space in the stomach.

Here are some foods to be aware of if you want to cut-back on the calories you consume:

Dressings: Many dressings are oil or cream-based, both of which are typically high in calories. Just two tablespoons of Caesar dressing contains close to 200 calories, which may be close to the same amount of calories as the salad itself. When using these types of dressings, you have my permission to use a fraction of the amount given to you- see if you can use just enough to make your salad delicious, without adding additional calories that won’t help to fill you.  Better yet, many dressings don’t use oil or cream. Frequently these are vinegar or citrus based. Here is a super easy vinegar based dressing to try out . That one is simple and easy, but have fun with it, search recipes and find one you love!  

Sauces: Like dressings, sauces are often high in calories frequently in the form of fat and sugar. Let’s compare red sauce (left) vs Alfredo sauce (right). Notice that for the same amount of calories, you can eat twice the amount of red sauce. Red sauce has fewer ingredients, no cholesterol, and less fat.

Let’s check out this potato salad with a mayonnaise base.

Some store-bought “salads” are filled with sugar or oil. When choosing a packaged sauce or condiment, first check the label – does it have a lot of added sugar or oil? Is there a better sauce with less sugar or less oils? 

Here is a healthy veggie-packed alfredo

Healthy vegan stuffed sweet potatoes

Beverages: Many beverages, like sodas, lemonades, sweet teas, and fruit juices, are both energy-dense, and lacking nutrients. A 12oz can of coke won’t be filling, does not provide vitamins or minerals, and is 150 calories. Just plain water is great, but if you want some flavor add a couple orange slices, mint, basil, berries, cucumber or a mixture of these. 

Protein Powders: Protein powders and bars are usually marketed as healthy for you, but they are often high in calories, especially due to sugar. Powders are added typically to other foods or drinks, which can push the caloric intake rather high. This is another great food to check the serving size and label of before consuming. Here are some examples, notice the first powder includes ingredients such as ‘xantham gum’, ‘guar gum’, and ‘natural flavor’ (which is not a very regulated term). 

Fried foods: Fried foods are typically very high in calories, fat, and won’t keep you feeling full very long. They also lack many important nutrients. When foods are fried, they absorb additional fat after being coated in typically a flour base. We may think of fried foods like fried chicken or french fries. But many things you might order at a restaurant may seem healthy – buffalo cauliflower or  brussel sprouts, for example, but they are actually fried. This may be a “healthier” alternative to french fries or cheese dip as an appetizer, but make sure you are aware of how they are cooked so you are making the decision to eat the extra calories and they aren’t just sneaking in. Here are some great airfryer recipes for some of your favorites:

Air Fryer Cauliflower

Air Fryer Brussel Sprouts

Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries

Take-away practices: 

  1. Read labels. See if the food you are consuming will be filling while providing the nutrients you need to keep your body healthy. 
  2. Pick fresh, whole-foods over processed. 
  3. Practice mindful eating. Thinking about what portion size you want and how you are fueling your body best. 

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