10 Calorie Comparisons That May Surprise You

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When you're trying to say “see ya” to some stubborn pounds, you’ll want to sidestep extra calories whenever possible. As you fine-tune your strategy to burn more and consume less, you'll likely be on the hunt for lower-calorie foods to help you stay within your target range.

While there are certain foods that seem inherently diet-friendly—like salads, yogurt and smoothies—be careful not to indulge without checking their nutrition information first. Some seemingly innocent foods can actually be calorie traps. Before planning your next week's worth of meals or heading out to a restaurant, check out these surprising calorie comparisons.

Pizza Versus Salad

It's easy to assume that veggies are always the lower-calorie choice, but this shocking side-by-side comparison proves that's not always true. You can indulge in two small slices of cheesy pepperoni pizza for fewer calories than a veggie and rice salad.
  • 2 slices of Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza (180 calories)
  • Starbucks Hearty Veggie Salad with Brown Rice (430 calories)

Taco Salad Versus Bacon Cheeseburger

Even if it has a little beef in it, a salad is always a better choice than a cheeseburger, right? Not when it comes to calories. This Wendy's taco salad matches the chain's infamous bacon cheeseburger calorie-for-calorie.
  • Wendy's Taco Salad (660 calories)
  • Wendy's Baconator Single (660 calories)

Chipotle Versus Taco Bell

Hitting the Taco Bell drive-thru might seem detrimental to your diet, but it can actually rack up fewer calories than a stop at Chipotle, which is known for its fresh, organic ingredients.
  • Chipotle Salad Bowl with lettuce, sofritas, brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies and tomatillo green chili salsa (560 calories)
  • Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch Supreme (520 calories)


Muffin Versus Cupcake

Given its grand-scaled proportions and high sugar content, a Starbucks muffin is basically just a dessert masquerading as breakfast. Indulging in a single-sized cupcake will net you fewer calories.
  • Starbucks Blueberry Muffin (350 calories)
  • Chocolate cupcake with frosting, homemade (~188 calories) 


Yogurt Versus Frozen Yogurt

Low-fat yogurt may seem like a smarter choice than frozen yogurt, but indulging in a serving of the real thing won't always result in a major calorie overload.
  • Chobani Flip yogurt (230 calories)
  • 1/2 cup Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia (240 calories)


Smoothie Versus Cheesecake

Just because it's packed with fruit and comes with a straw doesn't mean it automatically qualifies as diet-friendly. Although a high-sugar smoothie may sometimes have more health benefits than a slice of cheesecake, it usually packs just as many calories.
  • Smoothie King "The Hulk Strawberry" smoothie (964 calories)
  • 1 slice Cheesecake Factory chocolate mousse cheesecake (940 calories)


Big Mac Versus Sushi

Steering clear of the drive-thru is typically rule #1 of any diet plan, but the sushi bar could be just as dangerous as a fast-food burger in terms of skyrocketing your calorie count.
  • McDonald's Big Mac (540 calories)
  • Shrimp Tempuro Sushi Roll (508 calories)


Granola Bar Versus Cookie

Getting your hand caught in the cookie jar may not be the worst offense. Granola bars may contain more nutrients, but they can pack even more calories and sugar than a single chocolate-chip cookie.
  • Nature Valley roasted almond granola bar (190 calories)
  • McDonald's soft chocolate chip cookie (170 calories)


Soft Pretzels Versus Eggrolls

Low-fat pretzels may seem harmless enough, but when paired with the creamy beer cheese dip, this Applebee's appetizer exceeds the calorie content of the chain's cheeseburger eggrolls.
  • Applebee's pretzels and beer cheese dip (1,050 calories)
  • Applebee's cheeseburger eggrolls (990 calories)


Baked Potato Versus French Fries

To those counting calories, "fried" may as well be a four-letter word. In some cases, however, the baked version of a food is actually higher in calories. When it's topped with butter and sour cream, the Wendy's baked spud is more of a calorie concern than a small order of French fries.
  • Wendy's Baked Potato with Chives, Butter and Sour Cream (380 calories)
  • Wendy's Small French Fries (340 calories)

Of course, just because a food is low in calories doesn’t mean it’s good for you, as calories aren't the only consideration when it comes to healthy eating. However, it’s smart to get into the habit of checking your food’s nutrition information, and to make sure your body is getting the right amounts of macronutrients—protein, fats and carbs—as well as micronurients.

Which of these comparisons surprised you? What other foods have more (or fewer) calories than most people would expect?

Registered dietitian Laura Dilz contributed some of the food comparisons for this article.

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AJB121299 5/2/2018
nice Report
ERING0615 4/8/2018
In my opinion, this is not a very good article; all calories are different. A rice and broccoli salad has more nutrients than 2 slices of pepperoni pizza, which has way more than 180 calories (maybe they meant per slice?). You have to look beyond calories. I look at sugar carbs a fat, especially trans fat. A wedge of cheddar cheese has more fat than an equally sized slice of chocolate cake. Which is better for you, though? Report
Very informative article. Report
BWRETLIND 3/23/2018
great bit of information to keep at hand Report
SCDALYNCH 3/2/2018
That was an eye opener. thank you Report
CONTROUBLE 1/28/2018
Satiety is also important - the Chipotle salad is much more filling and better for you than a single taco no matter how much cheese it has. Report
Oh Gosh! The caloroes in these things!!! So not worth it!!! Report
This was a good exercise in comparing foods. Many of the comparisons had "good" food alternatives made less "good" by additions which could be left off or eaten around. For example, I think a real potato would still be healthier than french fries, and request the toppings on the side. Most restaurants, even fast food, will do requests. Report
These are all fast food options, a place I never frequent Report
According to Pizza Hut's website, 1 small hand tossed slice of pepperoni pizza is 130 calories. 2 slices would be 260 calories. Still not too bad compared to that salad I guess. Report
BONDMANUS2002 8/24/2017
very interesting Report
ANAH_ACE 8/17/2017
What an eye-opener! Report
BMC140 8/16/2017
This reminds me of the cereal manufacturers' attempts to make Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs look healthier by using whole grains. The taco salad is still going to be more nutritious because of higher fibre and vitamins and lower fat, sodium and sugar content, especially if you use minimal dressings. These factors greatly affect how the body uses those calories. Please give the whole picture when comparing food for those who are new to the weight loss journey. Report
CANDYLIND 8/15/2017
Most of these comparisons are "apples to oranges" - especially in light of the fact that someone trying to lose weight shouldn't be considering EITHER choice on some of the lines. It also fails to take into consideration that you don't HAVE to get all the high calorie toppings and additions on those salads; when you are out to eat and "trapped," sometimes that taco salad with just lettuce, tomato, chili, and salsa, leaving out the cheese and tortilla chips, just might save your day from being a train wreck. Report
BONDMANUS2002 8/13/2017
interesting Report
Great information!
BONDMANUS2002 8/10/2017
good information Report
HOLLYM48 8/5/2017
Great comparisons! Report
ZELDA13 8/5/2017
So interesting. I'm realizing that what I may consider to be more diet friendly is certainly not the case. I really like to be able to check a nutrition website before I have to decide. Report
while we all know this article has some gaps of information and is misleading nor does it focus on other nutrients. It does go to show that there are a lot of things people eat trying to be healthier that aren't truly better options. I know plenty of people that eat muffins thinking they're healthy, when they aren't that healthy in most cases. I think what this really shows is appearances can be deceiving and you should really look into foods before putting them in your body. Report
BERRY4 8/2/2017
There is much that is misleading in this article--the first of which is the picture or so-called representations of what is being compared. And, it ignores the reality of nutritional benefit vs. calorie-count.
Check out Dr. Hyman & his info on ...eat-more-not-less-food for burning fat. Report
BERRY4 8/2/2017
see above Report
BONDMANUS2002 8/2/2017
interesting Report
Quite interesting goes to show you looks can be deceiving Report
LIN1263 7/29/2017
I bake at home so for cakes I would replace 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup stevia & 1/4 cup sugar,so less calories still. If you do not use sugar it confuses the body and it it turns the food into fat, with a bit of sugar it is used immediately for energy. So in all sweet foods homemade is better with a small amount of sugar to work best. Report
DGIGGLES3 7/23/2017
Not like I eat out ever, but interesting. Report
JVANAM 7/19/2017
Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
- Aristotle Report
SHOAPIE 7/18/2017
Interesting Report
MSLOUIE3 7/18/2017
Junk vs junk still equals junk! Report
MAKROSE475 7/17/2017
What a joke of an article. There is no way 2 slices of pizza hut pizza is 180 calories. Also comparing crap vs crap doesnt produce a healthy option. Pretty poor attempt at being an informative article. Report
MBRANDO 7/17/2017
The integrity of SP articles appears to be waning. First an article on how to target weight loss to your back and now this...c'mon SP don't become the tabloid of weight loss sites. :( Report
*ALICEMARIE* 7/17/2017
Useless a a bit misleading article with out complete nutritional info. Report
4LMHJCR 7/17/2017
The information did not surprise me, but what did surprise me is the lack of information regarding the other nutritional information in addition to the calories for each item. Report
None of these surprised me. But, the picture of a tall stack of cookies-instead of one-gave me false hope...for a second. Report
Number one, these images are hugely misleading; size, proportions, and quantity are just wrong, wrong, wrong.

And Pizza Hut doesn't sell any pizza that's 90 calories a slice. For pepperoni, the lowest is 110, and that's for a thin crust tiny pizza, not the monstrosity pictured here. https://m.nutritionix.com/pizza-hut

Is this a sponsored post? Report
JANET552 7/17/2017
Interesting info Report
BOWDIDDLE 7/17/2017
WOW....OMgosh.....what an eye opener for me! Thanks for the article. Report
GEORGE815 7/9/2017
Good information presented Report
All of that stuff comes from fast food places. I might have more interest if some casual dining places were included. Or compared home cooked foods. Report
SHOAPIE 7/4/2017
Interesting. Report
RHOOK20047 7/2/2017
Good information contained here. Report
CATHYMARIE2014 7/2/2017
That is very interesting, I can see why its important to pay attention to calorie count when you plan ecspecially when dining out. Report
RAME123 7/1/2017
This is why you must plan! Chart before you eat! It will save you! Report
CATS_MEOW_0911 7/1/2017
Always shocking how many calories can be in food! Report
HEDSTS58 7/1/2017
For comparison of what might seem to be healthy to what might be taken as junk or unhealthy choices was interesting. Report
HOLLYM48 7/1/2017
Great article! Report
Great - thx! Report
NANCYPAT1 7/1/2017
Thanks Report
NANCYPAT1 7/1/2017
Thanks Report
SYLBA61 6/30/2017
the chocolate cupcake was the biggest surprise to me.Most of the others I don't have a problem avoiding, but oh, chocolate cupcake. It is nice to know that I can choose it sometimes without too much guilt. (not real often) Report
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