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Nutrition Articles  ›  Seasonal & Holiday Tips

The Worst Summer Calorie Traps

Treats to Think Twice about This Summer

-- By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer
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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. As a SparkPeople editor, she’s able to combine her love of writing with her passion for health and fitness to help other people achieve their goals. When she’s not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.

Member Comments

    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
    Helpful article; will not be likely to find calorie counts at carnivals so I like how everything is revealed here. I grew up overseas and had not tasted funnel cake and elephant ears until a few years ago; definitely a one-time only experience. I was staggered by how oily and sweet these were. Not to mention messy to eat while walking. I feel like looking up where funnel cake originated; I enjoy knowing the history of foods. Another food that reminds me of this is Indian fry bread. - 7/28/2013 8:59:56 AM
  • Add to the list of the worst summer calorie traps: "Half price shakes after 8" - 7/28/2013 8:26:11 AM
    I love funnel cake and had no idea. Thank you.
    - 7/28/2013 6:53:49 AM
  • A Elephant ear is not a scone scone is like a tea biscuit , Elephant ear is more like a crispy dough.... Very tasty but O so bad for you! I grew up in a Hungarian household and my Mom made these sinfully delish! :) - 7/28/2013 3:51:09 AM
  • A Elephant ear is not a scone scone is like a fea biscuit , Elephant ear is more like a crispy dough.... Very tasty but O so bad for you! I grew up in a Hungarian household and my Mom made these sinfully delish! :) - 7/28/2013 3:48:47 AM
  • I know snow cones are basically sugary syrup, but I had no idea they are that high in calories! Definitely won't be having one any time soon! - 7/25/2013 12:22:40 PM
  • I appreciate the information about the fruit treats and salads. Carnival foods - well I never expected that to be health food, but fruit and salads are often my go-to choice when we eat out. I'm happy to see that more restaurants are offering heart healthy choices and provide the nutritional information for at least some of their entrees. - 7/20/2013 8:52:24 AM
  • I am thrilled to know I do not eat these things! When I go to Disneyland, I eat 1 frozen banana, a small salad without dressing or high calorie goodies, & I buy 1 fried chicken breast at the Plaza & remove ALL the skin & a little from the outside. They are huge! I also BRING my 100 calorie pack of Smart food popcorn AND 1 bag of Trader Joe's Lite kettle corn. PLUS an apple. Yes, these ARE all in my food tracker range. I go many times a year. Even in mexican restraunts I am able to order a salad, plain & ask for grilled chicken, salsa is my dressing. . I add a tablespoon on avo & lot's of salsa, to a hot, warn corn tortilla & this helps me skip the chips. I have not been to a fair, in awhile, but even the turkey legs are SO HIGH in sodium, I skip them, too!

    Thanks for this info, it was quite an eye opener! - 7/19/2013 3:34:59 PM
  • Thanks for all the information. - 7/18/2013 7:06:08 AM