When it comes to maintaining a healthy diet, many people are surprised to learn that some foods they consider healthy or harmless are actually calorie dense. Here are some foods to watch out for.

1. Granola

Granola is often marketed as a health food, but it's typically packed with sugars and oils that drive up the calorie count. A single cup can easily exceed 400 calories, especially if it includes dried fruits, nuts, and sweeteners. Opt for low-sugar versions or make your own to control the ingredient list.

2. Smoothies

While smoothies can be a convenient way to consume fruits and vegetables, many store-bought or café-prepared options contain high-calorie ingredients like fruit juices, yogurt, and sweeteners. Some can contain as many as 600 calories in a single serving. Making smoothies at home with fresh fruits, vegetables, and a protein source like Greek yogurt or a scoop of protein powder can help keep the calorie count in check.

3. Salad Dressings

Salads are the epitome of a light, healthy meal, but the dressing can turn them into an unexpected calorie bomb. Creamy dressings like ranch, blue cheese, or Caesar can add hundreds of calories to your meal. Even seemingly healthy dressings, such as vinaigrettes, can be calorie-dense due to oils and added sugars. Use dressings sparingly or opt for homemade versions with olive oil, vinegar, and herbs.

4. Avocados

Avocados are nutrient-rich and a source of healthy fats, but they are also calorie-dense. One medium avocado can have around 250 calories. While they are beneficial in moderation, adding too much avocado to salads, sandwiches, or smoothies can contribute to an unexpected calorie surplus.

5. Nut Butters

Nut butters like peanut, almond, or cashew butter are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats, but they are also high in calories. Just two tablespoons can contain 190-200 calories. It's easy to overindulge, so measure out your portions carefully.

6. Trail Mix

Trail mix is a convenient snack, but it often includes calorie-dense ingredients like nuts, dried fruits, chocolate chips, and seeds. A small handful can easily reach 300 calories. Choose mixes with fewer added sweets and watch your portion sizes.

7. Energy Bars

Marketed as quick and healthy snacks, many energy bars are loaded with sugars and fats, making them high in calories. Some bars can contain as many as 400 calories. Look for bars with whole ingredients and minimal added sugars, or consider making your own.

Being mindful of these surprisingly high-calorie foods can help you make better dietary choices and maintain a balanced intake. Moderation and portion control are key to enjoying these foods without derailing your health goals.

Cover Photo by Dessy Dimcheva