Lifewatch: Eating out calorie watch

Reported by Claire Hosmann  email
Posted by Heather Setzler  bio | email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -- When you're on the go or out on the town, it can be tough to eat healthy, but what you might not realize is that so many foods have sneaky calories that can ruin your diet.

It's a day at the ballpark and it's hard to find fresh, healthy food.  So do you go for the soft pretzel or the good old-fashioned hot dog?

These are the kinds of choices many people need to make everyday.  The problem is, the decisions can be tricky.  Too many foods are either marketed as being healthy or they have hidden nutrition pitfalls.

"There are hidden ingredients in there that you don't know about that really add up calorically and fat grams and sodium," said Colleen Gerg, a registered dietitian.

Gerg says, as far as the pretzel / hot dog debate, go for the hot dog.  The pretzel has nearly 500 calories.  The jumbo hot dog, including the bun and a packet of mustard, has about 280 calories.

"There's a lot of sodium and a lot of fat, but at least you're getting some protein," said Gerg.

This time of year it's easy to grab a smoothie and think you're getting a healthy treat. A lot of them are made with fruit and some of them even have extra protein, but if you look carefully at the nutrition information, you'll see that sometimes smoothies can add up to a whole lot of calories and sugar.

Smoothie King's medium orange Ka-bam smoothie has more than 700 calories and 166 grams of sugar.  Gerg says that's the equivalent of three 16-ounce bottles of Coke.

Gerg says some store bought smoothies contain syrups and lots of added sugar. That makes it a sweet treat, but it also piles on the calories. A better option is raw fruit along with a serving of low-fat vanilla ice cream.  It's less than 250 calories and 20 grams of sugar.

Chinese take out is another dinner you need to watch out for.  PF Chang's orange peel chicken with rice is nearly 1500 calories, but a spring roll, half an order of ginger chicken and broccoli and half a cup of brown rice is 670 calories.

Gerg's best advice in these tricky situations: while sometimes it's tough to avoid processed foods, whenever possible stick to those that at least look natural.

"The more that the food looks like the way it came out of the ground or the way that it was before it was cooked, the better off you're going to be."

Other tips when eating out:

  • Avoid anything on the menu that says loaded, jumbo, fried, or sauteed.
  • Always ask for your dressing on the side.
  • Eat half an entrée and save the rest for your next meal.