Why Can’t I Lose Weight? Part 7…Hidden Calories

Patty Baiano

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Hidden Culprits that Sabotage Weight Loss Part 7 – Hidden Calories

It’s a lot easier to consume excess calories than you think and it may be the reason why you are not achieving the weight loss success you desire regardless of how good you think your diet is.


One of the major saboteurs of successful weight loss is the unconscious consumption of “hidden” calories. Calories which we don’t take into account, but are still a part of our everyday diet. It’s a lot easier to consume excess calories than you think and it may be the reason why you are not achieving the weight loss success you desire regardless of how noble you think your diet is.

In addition to making smart food choices and watching your portion sizes it’s extremely important to closely monitor everything you put in your mouth. You’d be surprised to find how many unconscious calories you may be consuming every day, and all it takes is an extra 500 calories to sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Take a few minutes to read about some of the common sources of hidden calories and realistically assess your eating habits. Start keeping a food journal to help track what you eat for several days and you may be surprised at how many hidden calories you are actually consuming.

Unconscious eating occurs when we eat without paying attention or when we disregard “licking the spoon” or “tasting the sauce” (get this…an unconscious lick of a spoon of peanut butter after making your toddlers sandwich can cost you 50 calories! I know that seems trivial, but if you’re on a VLCD medical diet like the hCG Diet Plan, that unconscious lick of the spoon was 1/10 of your calories for the day!)

The bottom line is that you are 50% more likely to avoid eating for unconscious reasons if you are writing down everything you consume. In the process, you may also be surprised at how many extra calories you’re eating without even realizing it. Just that awareness can save you at least a few thousand hidden calories a week!

So here’s the top hidden calorie sources:

Nibbling Calories

A lot of people don’t count the tiny bites they take here and there throughout the day. Sampling the sauce you’re making for dinner, nibbling on a cookie from a plate left by a thoughtful co-worker in the lunch room, grabbing a piece of candy or handful of mints from a bowl by the cash register, sampling a slice of cheese or meat at the deli counter etc.

Unplanned food consumption can result in hundreds of hidden calories a day unless you are careful about keeping a food diary. Get diligent about tracking everything you eat and subtract the calorie value from your next meal. This is where a good calorie counting diary can play a valuable role in your diet efforts. When you’re more aware of the calories of ‘that one mint’ combined with the slice of turkey you tested at the deli counter, you’ll be less likely to subconsciously graze on extra calories when you’re dieting.

Often times these hidden calories are snacks that you pick up and eat without even realizing what you’re doing. You may work out for twenty minutes and then grab a handful of almonds because you’ve read that they’re a great post-workout snack not realizing that you just consumed about 200 calories (about ¼ of your daily allowance for weight loss.) Don’t get me wrong, a handful of almonds are a great snack when thoughtfully planned, but when done unconsciously they can undo all your diet efforts.

Packaged Foods

Hidden calories are contained in foods, usually manufactured foods, with poor or misleading labeling. Substantial amounts of fats and/or carbohydrates can be “hidden” in diet foods that you wouldn’t even realize unless you read the label. A large size “low fat” Frappuccino or latte, for example, can pack up to 500 calories from sugar and conversely “sugar free” foods can be loaded with fat calories.

You have to be a very savvy label reader and educate yourself on how manufacturers cleverly disguise food additives you are trying to avoid with alternate names (i.e. Sugar can be disguised as: dehydrated cane juice, corn syrup solids, Dextrin, Dextrose, fructose, fruit juice, agave nectar etc.)

It’s always best to avoid packaged foods whenever possible. Try to get into the habit of preparing small Ziploc sandwich bags with healthy snacks and keeping them within easy reach in the fridge or a small cooler that you can take to work. I like to slice grilled chicken breast into finger size pieces and bag them with celery or carrot sticks. Or keep an open bowl of grapes at eye level in the fridge. When you open up the door to unconsciously graze they’ll be right there to remind you to eat something healthy.

Calories from Your Kids

This is a monster saboteur for new moms & dads alike. Let’s face it no one wants to waste food (i.e. money). So you taste a few forkfuls of mac and cheese when preparing it for your kids (54 calories) then instead of throwing away the half cup or so that’s left over you unconsciously scrape it in your mouth instead of the garbage and viola there goes another additional 200 calories.

Next you go to the movies and order popcorn (who can resist a few kernels of that buttery goodness right?) afterwards a restaurant for lunch and your child leaves a pile of chips or French fries on their plate for you to munch on. Then you pick on a leftover chicken nugget from your kid’s dinner plate and you polish off another 50 calories. Next you finish off the grape juice from your kid’s juice box and there goes another 30 calories up the straw. If you’ve been doing the math, you’ve consumed 500-750 “hidden” calories from your kids in just one day!

Portion Sizes

This is hard one for a lot of people, especially in the U.S., where we’re used to being served giant plates of food in restaurants. I have some friends that actually rate restaurants not by the quality of the food, but by how much you get on the plate! Start reading labels and pay attention to portion size, you’ll be surprised at how little 500 calories looks on a plate but you’ll get used to it over time.

Most of us eat far more than what’s recommended as a true serving size. A serving of protein is about 4 ounces or the size of a deck of cards, not a dinner plate. Serve yourself ahead of time to control your portions. When you go out to eat, ask for a to-go box at the start of your meal and pack up half of it to take home with you before you even start eating.

Again, this is where a good calorie counting diary can play a valuable role in your diet efforts, when you know exactly how many calories you’re consuming you’ll be less likely to overeat and consume extra calories.


It is easy to over eat with some foods more than others, because they contain a lot of calories, even in small portions. The worse culprits are the calories we don’t even consciously count as part of our meals like butter and spreads, salad dressings, mayonnaise, cheese, chips, biscuits and crisps. Use condiments sparingly and avoid the chips, biscuits and crisps altogether.


Everyone who’s ever dieted knows to avoid soda…even diet soda. Carbonated beverages are just plain bad for you. The carbonation in all soft drinks causes calcium loss in the bones and aspartame may be equally as bad for your body as high fructose corn syrup.

Although switching from regular soda to diet soda may save you calories, some studies suggest that drinking more than one soda a day—regular or diet—increases your risk of obesity and related health problems such as type-2 diabetes.

Also be aware that “designer” coffees with cream, milk, syrups or sugar can be high in calories. If you must partake, avoid the “venti” sizes and cut back or cut out the sugar. A Starbucks venti Eggnog Latte is 630 calories and a White Chocolate Mocha is 550 calories! That’s half of the amount of calories you should be eating a day just to maintain your current weight!

As you can see, you could easily drink your entire days’ worth of calories away. Drinks don’t fill you the same way as food, so it’s unlikely that drinking high calorie drinks will affect the amount you eat for the rest of the day. Alcoholic drinks are also calorific, so if you want to lose weight you should consider reducing the amount you drink. A pint of beer is equivalent to about 182 calories, a small glass of wine about 85, and a gin and tonic about 85. Two or three drinks of an evening add considerably to your daily calorie input.

Shopping and Snacking

Ever walk through a Costco or gourmet marketplace with sample stations all over the place? Cheesy quiche or fattening pastries, I guarantee they’re not passing out samples of diet food! A day of shopping can make you work up an appetite. The times when you are tired and hungry make you the most susceptible to unconscious snacking.

Steer clear of the sample tables and make sure you always have a healthy snack with you so you never have to eat in the food courts of malls where the only foods available are loaded with fat and excess calories. Before you order a slice of supreme pizza with extra cheese or a plate of stir-fry wok chicken with a side of MSG, consider that you are most likely getting your entire days’ worth of calories saturated fat in one sitting, and in some cases, even more.

Watch Out for Restaurants

A typical meal at a restaurant is going to be loaded hidden calories. Everything from the bread slathered with butter that you nibble on before the meal, to the high fat cooking methods in which your meal is prepared can load you up with unnecessary calories. If you must eat out, skip the sauces & butter, request that your veggies be steamed and use balsamic vinegar or lemon juice as your salad dressing.

Here’s a personal experience I’d like to share about restaurants and calorie counting: I was on the hCG Diet and had to eat at a restaurant for a business dinner. When I ordered my food I asked for a broiled chicken breast and steamed broccoli. I specifically emphasized NO oils, fats, or butter whatsoever and even told my server that I was on a very strict diet. When my food arrived I could actually see traces of butter in my plate. When I called over my server and pointed it out she said “The Chef thought the food would be tasteless without any fat so he added a little butter. It’s only a small amount for taste.” …I rest my case.

Summary: By taking into account the hidden sources of calories and eliminating them where possible, you can help yourself achieve the overall calorie reduction that you must in order to lose weight. It may not be easy but it’s worth it!

Best Regards on Your Journey to Health & Fitness!

Patty B

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