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    Avoiding Hidden Calories Lurking in Your Diet

    Many people look in the mirror come the springtime, and are horrified to discover that they no longer fit into their favorite pair of shorts or nicest summer sun dress. They will often wonder how on earth this could have happened, especially since they don't eat that much and in fact have been trying to lose weight.
    In some cases, our habits sabotage us on our weight loss and diet plan without us even realizing it. In other cases, it’s the supposedly healthy foods we've been eating which are actually contributing to our weight gain.
    Studies have shown that if we live in either the northern or southern hemisphere, we consume far more calories in the winter than the summer. In America, for instance, the seasonal holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's contribute so many calories in terms of food and drink that experts suggest that the average weight gain is about 20 pounds in one short six-week time period.
    Clearly the eating and personal habits people indulge in during that period of time need to be looked at before a couple of days undoes an entire year's worth of "being good."
    Even more insidious these days, however, is the "diet food" or "health food" that disguises itself as something nutritious, but can derail your diet completely before you ever even know you're off track.
    For example, the diet meal replacement bars commonly used by people trying to cut their calories can actually have far more in them than the meals they are designed to replace. Fat, trans-fat, chocolate, sugar and salt would be just a few of the ingredients to watch out for as well with these tasty but treacherous treats.
    So-called natural snacks make from sweet potatoes and other tubers can often have far more oil and salt on them than the more commercially popular brands.
    Trail mix is another dreadful culprit, especially the kind designed for children, which often has colorful candies mixed in. The fat from the nuts is always going to be high in calories, and the dried fruit is often far more sugary than candy.
    In addition, dried fruit has to be treated with preservatives in order to keep it fresh. These chemicals can cause allergies in some people, and cause water weight gain in a similar manner to salt. The same is true of the artificial food coloring in the candies or rice crackers added, and since when is milk chocolate with a bright sugar coating a health food?
    Eating out is the biggest danger zone of all when it comes to hidden calories. If you want to go out with your friends to a local fast food place, the salad can sometimes be one of the worst choices on the menu due to cream-based salty dressings.
    The soup, salad and breadsticks combo may sound like a light lunch, but again, sodium, cream, and refined white bread undo what could be an otherwise healthy meal.
    The portion size too is another issue--since when is eating unlimited quantities of anything healthy?
    Portion size is also a key issue if we go back for a moment to the chips and trail mix. Most people think the portion listed on the food label is the whole bag. They would be shocked to discover it is only 6 chips. In the case of the trail mix, it is more than likely only one quarter of a cup, about the quantity that would fit into the palm of your hand if the food were spread flat without stacking.
    Many people who buy a mini frozen pizza would undoubtedly be surprised to note that in some cases the serving size is considered to be one-eighth of the whole pizza. Or even one quarter.
    Hidden calories can lurk in even the most healthy-seeming foods if you buy anything in a package, or go out to eat. Unless you cook for yourself, you will have no control over what you are eating. So if you're concerned about slimming down this spring and summer, and keeping the weight off, try to look at some of your worst eating habits and start gathering great low calorie recipes to cook from home to avoid hidden calories, fat, salt and sugar.

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