Nutrition Articles

The Worst Summer Calorie Traps

Treats to Think Twice about This Summer

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Summer is the season for back-yard barbeques, family get-togethers and lots of cool treats on hot days. But if you're not careful, a few sneaky snacks (or drinks) can derail a week's worth of healthy eating and fitness. Be on the watch for these surprisingly high-calorie tastes of summer.

Fresh Fruit Treats
Fruit is a sweet treat you can enjoy every day as part of a healthy eating plan. But don't let fruit-based seasonal dishes fool you into thinking that they're healthy or low calorie. There are tons of ways to turn fresh summer fruit into delicious desserts at home, but the fruit-topped treats you're likely to find when eating out probably aren't what you really had in mind for a healthy meal or snack.
Food Item Calories Fat
T.G.I. Friday's  Strawberry Fields Salad with Chicken and Balsamic Vinaigrette 800 54 grams
IHOP Berry-Berry Brioche French Toast 770 29 grams
Bob Evan's Strawberry, Banana and Yogurt Crepe 750 14 grams
Applebee's Seasonal Berry and Spinach Salad with Chicken and Strawberry Vinaigrette 620 31 grams
Au Bon Pain Strawberry Salad with Chicken and Balsamic Vinaigrette 440 27 grams
Au Bon Pain Blueberry Yogurt & Wild Blueberry Parfait 410 8 grams
Carnival Foods
You're well aware that most of the food options you'll find at summer fairs and theme parks aren't going to do you any favors. You'll probably be able to find a few choices that will fit into your daily calorie goals like giant dill pickles, chicken and steak kabobs or even cotton candy. But there's nothing wrong with indulging in a once-a-year treat that you really enjoy. Just know what you're getting into and eat a healthy meal before you go so you can limit yourself to one treat (or bites of several shared treats). Here's how much these popular fair foods will set you back, so you can plan accordingly for your indulgence.
Food Item Calories Fat
Giant Turkey Leg 1,136 54 grams
Funnel Cake 760 44 grams
Snow Cone 550 0 grams
Walking Taco 450-900 30-60 grams
Elephant Ears 300-500 15-20 grams
Fried Snickers 450 30 grams

Entrée Salads
There's nothing better than a cool salad for dinner on a hot evening. Just toss some leftover grilled chicken on top for a little protein and brighten it up with cherry tomatoes and carrot slices. A simple dressing of olive oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard or a yogurt-based ranch will add tons of flavor for a small number of calories. It makes sense to choose a salad when dining out, right? Not so fast. Many restaurant salads seem healthy but tend to skimp on the healthy, low-cal veggies and fruit and add way too much of the high-calorie salad toppings like nuts, dressing, and cheese. Sometimes a salad is the perfect choice, especially at fast-food places, but at fast-casual restaurants, salads can be hidden calorie mines.
Food Item Calories Fat
Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad with Oriental Vinaigrette 1,390 98 grams
Ruby Tuesday Carolina Chicken Salad with no dressing 1,181 52 grams
T.G.I. Friday's Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette 1,080 71 grams
Panera Chopped Chicken Cobb with Herb Vinaigrette 810 66 grams
Au Bon Pain Chicken Cobb with Light Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette 490 30 grams
Wendy's Berry Almond Chicken Salad with Fat Free Raspberry Vinaigrette 460 16 grams
McDonald's Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken with Low Fat Balsamic 320 11 grams

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About The Author

Megan Patrick Megan Patrick
Megan Lane Patrick has been a professional writer and editor for the past 16 years, and was a chronic dieter for at least 30. A combination of weight-loss surgery, mindful eating and daily exercise finally allowed her to maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. When she's not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.

Member Comments

  • I try to be positive, but since I often eat a salad meal at a restaurant year round, this is a little depressing. We often eat out when I don't have a chance to preplan with nutrition stats ahead of time and this has seemed like a safer route. Maybe you could revise the lists to reflect the best choices and not just the worst - like someone else mentioned I assume the dressings are the main issue. One thing I try to determine is if the oil in salad dressing is healthy or not so healthy fats. Also, I've worked to learn to enjoy oil and vinegar on salad.
    . A lot of the other "traps" are really not my issue. We are used to being a sugar free household and this is usually true at restaurants, carnivals, etc. - 2/5/2016 5:02:24 PM
  • Everyone should know that carnival food isn't going to be good for you along with most of the things that were listed. It doesn't mean you can't indulge though if you chose to. If I'm going to the State Fair, I'm going to be prepared to take in more calories. In moderation for everything. - 8/5/2015 12:45:55 PM
  • On the iced coffee drinks, I usually find any iced or blended coffee too sweet so I ask for it "half-sweet" (half as many pumps of syrup, so 3 instead of 6 on a medium mocha). You can probably get most coffee drinks "half-sweet" if the barrista has to add the syrups.

    Of course, you could always get a plain coffee-frappe (milk, ice, and espresso) which would just have the milk calories and sugars.

    Carnival food... no mention of triple scoop ice-cream cones as a calorie bomb? All the "carnival foods" mentioned are not standard in Canada. - 6/27/2015 1:58:47 PM
  • All of the sources you have cited are fast-food restaurants, known for their high calorie items. That's like saying pasta is terrible for you because Olive Garden serves a fettucine dish that is a heart attack on a plate! I would have liked to see something more along the lines of cheeseburger grilled on white bread=this many calories; a better choice would be a turkey burger with blah blah, only xx calories. I hoped to see some comparisons or poor vs better choices. I don't eat those foods at any of these restaurants. I thought the article was misleading. Very disappointed. - 7/3/2014 10:04:31 PM
  • The 10g of sugar in the Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Latte comes from the milk. And so.... that's somehow bad? Doesn't make any sense. - 7/2/2014 12:44:25 PM
  • I think many sno cone stands have the option of sugar free now. - 7/1/2014 9:21:57 AM
  • Out of curiosity, just looked up snow cone on SparkPeople. The calorie counts range from about 240 to about 340 -- way under the calorie count mentioned in this article.

    I'm also thinking that the high calorie salads are made much higher calorie by the assumption that you take the entire container of full-fat dressing and dump it on the top, rather than dipping a fork as many of us do. Unless you're buying one of those "lettuce with deep fried chicken on top" salads, there are certainly ways to enjoy fruit and nut salads without spending 1000 calories! - 7/1/2014 7:44:43 AM
  • I get some of these calorie counts (the chocolate shake style "coffee drinks" are a killer), but some of these are very confusing to me. A snow cone is just shaved ice with syrup -- so how could it possibly have 550 calories -- MORE than a deep fried candy bar? And I don't quite get how a salad with nuts could have MORE calories than a big bowl of pasta, for example. - 7/1/2014 7:41:45 AM
    In other words, let's prepare our own food. - 7/1/2014 5:29:11 AM
    This is, honestly, basic knowledge, for most of it. I mean, anyone watching their waistline would avoid french toast and I feel that we should all avoid the fried snickers. - 7/30/2013 12:02:41 PM
    We don't go to restaurants like Friday's very often, but I do love Panera Bread. Their website was one of the first to feature nutrition information, so I learned long ago to avoid their salad dressings, and add my own! - 7/29/2013 10:31:02 PM
  • Youch. It's hard to believe that McDonald's is at the *bottom* of some of these lists! - 7/29/2013 8:41:39 PM
    Check the calories and fat on a DQ Blizzard! Yikes! They do not fit into my daily plan at all. - 7/29/2013 9:51:40 AM
  • Oh my God!!! Pecan salad from TGI Friday's 1080 calories? And I thought that this dish was a good option when I was eating out with friends.. - 7/29/2013 7:06:03 AM
    I'll have one of each...and then call my doctor in the morning. - 7/28/2013 8:58:16 PM

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