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
 

Iced Tea
Iced tea can be a refreshing no-calorie beverage or secret sugar trap depending on how it's prepared. Tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush, with different varieties depending on growing region and processing. All types of black, green and white tea provide antioxidants that are good for your heart and may be able to lower your risk for certain types of cancer. (Herbal teas, made from dried herbs and fruits, aren't true teas, but have beneficial properties of their own, are naturally caffeine free and make delicious no-calorie drinks.) If you brew your own tea and sweeten it yourself (even with a small amount of real sugar), you can enjoy it every day without worrying about derailing your healthy eating plan. But grabbing a bottle or cup of tea on the go is a tricky proposition. What often sounds like a "natural" or healthy iced tea can be loaded with sugar and other ingredients that add calories.

Drink Item Calories Sugar
Arizona Rx Energy Herbal Tea (16 oz) 240 58 grams
Arizona Raspberry Black Tea (16 oz) 180 44 grams
Starbucks Iced Chai Tea Latte (16 oz) 240 42 grams
Dunkin' Donuts Sweet Tea (16 oz) 160 39 grams
McDonald's Sweet Tea (16 oz) 150 36 grams
Lipton 100% Natural Green Tea with Citrus (16 oz) 140 36 grams
Starbucks  Shaken Iced Peach Green Tea (16 oz) 80 20 grams
Wendy's Strawberry Tea (Medium) 70 16 grams
 
Lemonade
This summertime favorite is incredibly refreshing on a warm day, but this sweet treat should be enjoyed occasionally, rather than every day. And lemons are good for you, right? They are, and you can certainly squeeze all the lemon you want into water for a splash of flavor and vitamin C (and virtually zero calories), but unless you use an artificial sweetener, the calories will creep up quickly in the sweetened varieties.
 
Drink Item Calories Sugar
Dairy Queen Lemonade Chiller (Medium) 390 99 grams
Wendy's All-Natural Lemonade (Medium) 290 72 grams
McDonald's McCafe Frozen Strawberry Lemonade (16 oz) 250 65 grams
Dunkin' Donuts Strawberry Lemonade Coolatta (16 oz) 240 60 grams
Country Time Bottled Lemonade (20 oz) 230 58 grams
Arizona Lemonade (16 oz) 220 52 grams
Panera Lemonade (21 oz) 160 41 grams
Starbucks Shaken Iced Green Tea Lemonade (16 oz) 130 33 grams
 
Smoothies
Fruit smoothies make an excellent breakfast or afternoon snack. When you make them yourself, you can control exactly how sweet they are and how much fruit (or veggies) they really contain. When you grab one on the go, however, you need to do a little research in advance to know exactly what you're getting. Something that sounds safe like "strawberry banana" could be a reasonable choice or it could be hiding a heap of sugar—or very little fruit at all.
 
Drink Item Calories Sugar
Smoothie King The Hulk Strawberry (20 oz) 964 125 grams
Dairy Queen Strawberry Banana Smoothie (Medium) 810 148 grams
Smoothie King Light & Fluffy (20 oz) 395 89 grams
Au Bon Pain Peach Smoothie (16 oz) 310 41 grams
Starbucks Strawberry Smoothie (16 oz) 300 41 grams
Panera Low-Fat Strawberry Smoothie with Ginseng (16 oz) 260 53 grams
McDonald's Strawberry Banana Smoothie (16 oz) 250 54 grams
 
Iced and Frozen Coffee
Everyone knows by now that iced and frozen coffee drinks can be delicious and refreshing on a hot summer day. But they're often calorie bombs just waiting to blow up your healthy eating plan. It's tough to tell at a glance which ones are just fine as an occasional treat and which ones you might want to skip in favor of something that will actually fill you up and satisfy your sweet tooth. In general, any coffee drink that's blended or contains large amounts of syrup, chocolate flavoring, cream or whole milk are the ones to watch out for. If you're not sure what's in your favorite iced coffee, ask! You can always make substitutions to cut down on fat and calories.

Drink Item Calories Sugar
Dunkin' Donuts Frozen Coffee Coolatta (Medium) 660 69 grams
Dairy Queen Cappuccino MooLatte (Medium) 570 79 grams
Panera Frozen Mocha (16 oz) 570 77 grams
McDonald's McCafe Frappe Mocha
(16 oz)        
550 71 grams
Starbucks Bottled Dark Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino (13.7 oz) 280 48 grams
McDonald's Premium Roast Iced Coffee (16 oz) 140 22 grams
Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Light (16 oz) 130 26 grams
Dunkin' Donuts Iced Latte (Medium) 120 15 grams
Starbucks Orange Spiced Iced Coffee (16 oz) 90 21 grams
Starbucks Iced Skinny Vanilla Latte
(16 oz)
80 10 grams
 
There's no reason not to enjoy all the tastes of summer from refreshing iced tea to a cool, filling salad. Just be aware of what you're eating and drinking so you can make delicious and healthy choices all summer long.
 
Nutrition information comes from individual restaurant/brand websites on July 11, 2013. Restaurants may change their ingredients, portion sizes and nutrition information at any time. Carnival food nutrition information is estimated based on averages since sizes and recipes vary.

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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I think many sno cone stands have the option of sugar free now.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • CHERRY-TREE
    In other words, let's prepare our own food.
  • BABY_AQUAMAN
    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.
  • JANETEMILY
    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!
  • Youch. It's hard to believe that McDonald's is at the *bottom* of some of these lists!
  • ANNEMARIE001
    Check the calories and fat on a DQ Blizzard! Yikes! They do not fit into my daily plan at all.
  • 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..
  • CIRANDELLA
    I'll have one of each...and then call my doctor in the morning.

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.



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