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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MARGE116 5/6/2021
KITTYHAWK1949 5/5/2021
Very interesting but there is more to food than just calories to consider. Report
This doesn't really apply to the unhealthy foods here, but calorie count isn't everything. I know we program ourselves to think it is. Just remember that 2,000 calories of legit healthy foods is better than 1,000 empty calories. Report
Knowledge is important. Sometimes we think we are eating healthy but in reality (without knowledge) are not. Sometimes I play the game if I don't know then I can't be responsible.
Interesting article Report
EVIE4NOW 10/2/2020
Some surprises here but I don't eat very much of anything listed and certainly not every day. Report
why do i feel like covering my eyes when i see the Backed Potato vs. Fries section? Report
Wooow Report
Interesting article. There are many foods on this list I would never order as both options are high calorie, not to mention what the fat, sodium and other nutrients are. Report
It's not just about the calories as some of these choices you would still be hungry and eat more. I would be satisfied with the granola bar and not need to eat again for hours but a cooking would definitely leave me hungry. Report
Cheeseburger eggrolls, who would have thunk it, SparkFriends?!? We also have to be mindful of the healthy options as it may have more calories and provide the daily amounts of nutrients that we need. Choose your battles. Report
This article makes me think calories are not all created equally. MAYBE some of the foods compared are less calories, but NONE of them are nutrient dense. I choose whole foods, thank you very much.

On the other hand if we're in a situation where we have to choose from these options, it's good to be able to make the least damaging choice possible. Report
I'll take the soft pretzels every time Report
Interesting food for thought (pun semi-intended). My very first reaction was that the calories listed for the two slices of pizza were wrong. Other than that, the side-by-side comparisons are interesting. It does serve as a reminder that our choices may not be as healthy as we think. Report
I think the point of the article is simply to encourage you to read labels. So many salads at restaurants and fast food places are full of more fat and calories than you would realize. A lot of foods are presented as healthy, but really aren't (smoothies are a great example). The take away is just to be aware. Report
This article is terrible. By comparing foods side by side and weighing in on calories alone, even though there's a line or two here and there that calories aren't the only consideration, the overwhelming take away here is that nutrient dense foods (full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, good fats, etc., ) are worse for you than junk foods (those that are nutrient void/deficient/otherwise low in nutrient value) with lower calories could be the better option. This is a massive fallacy. Report
While the calories truly surprise me I am wondering how many of the egg roles amount to that calories. Report
While the calories truly surprise me I am wondering how many of the egg roles amount to that calories. Report
Some of these things don't compare well. You need to be aware of what "empty calories" are. You've got some very healthy choices here, that you say are not diet friendly. However, if you want to have energy throughout the day, you would do well to eat over 300 calories with each meal. I don't know what planet you're from! Report
At first glance this was a wee bit scary. After looking it thru again it seems this article is just about calories which has been mentioned in other comments. Agree with quite a few of the others. Fat and nutrition is a bigger factor in these choices. Just have to remember to read thoroughly. Report
What! I love this article! Report
It is scary to think that some "healthy" options are worse than options that many think are bad. Report
Just about every one surprised me! Report
Very interesting. Report
Sorry, but you're wrong. A slice of Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza (from a medium sized pie) has 250 calories EACH, so that is 500 calories. Evidently you looked at the chart where it said the serving size was 90 grams and took that to be the calorie count. Look again! Report
I’ve never even heard of a cheeseburger egg roll...sounds gross. Report
The calorie count surprised me, but I don't eat at restaurants of any speed any more. Report
Interesting. Report
Would have been better if it was real food and not take out/fast food Report
Since this just a "calorie" comparison, it is to be taken as just that....nothing else. My choices are mostly based on salt. As a result, there is not much of any listed that I should eat..Even more of a different outcome when considering fiber and/or fat. Report
Very interesting and some surprising amounts of calories, bet the fats are right up there too, and more than needed sodium for a day Report
Food for thought, pun intended. Report
So of these are really surprising! And scary to think you are choosing a healthier option. Report
Wow interesting comparisons! Report
Eye opener though for me the comparison for yogurt vs frozen doesn't work for me sizing size of frozen never satisfy me I'm the kind that would eat the whole pint sad but true Report
This article would be good if the complete nutritional information were given not just calories. You are not mentioning fiber, good fats, carbs, sodium, etc. Report
Nothing surprising... when you compare only calories, not serving size or any other nutrients, you can make anything seem better or worse than something else. Report
Love these Food Showdowns But they’d be more helpful if they reported Carb Content as well as Calories. Some of us don’t count calories... just carb grans. (69 lbs down here. #KETO Rocks!) Report
Great information. Thank you. Report
Interesting !!! Report
Well yes this might be the calories of each item, but most of the healthier options are bigger and more nutritious. Calories are not that clear cut when it comes to the content you get then from. Report
Wow! Indeed, looks CAN be deceiving! Report
some of the "healthier seeming" options may have more calories but they are also larger servings that will leave you feeling full for much longer than the lower calories option which was mostly bite size by comparison
it would mostly appear that both options should be occasional not staple Report
This is interesting in terms of calories but in terms of good healthy eating, the lower calorie option is not the best option. For instance the cookie is empty calories... whereas the granola bar has lots of fiber in it. Not a good article at all in my humble opinion Report
Read this article, but take it with a “grain of salt”...... Seems “lifestyle “ bloggers sit at home, leafing through magazines, and make up their own articles to sell to websites. Report
The pizza hut calorie information here is way off. The pizza hut website says that one slice of small pepperoni pizza is 140 calories on it's own... considering most people order medium or large pizzas you are looking at more like 240 - 400 a slice!!! And that is assuming your pizza was made as it was supposed to be without a heavy handed cook slathering on extra sauce and cheese and butter seasoning spray. Report
My 600 calorie smoothie. Go for the ham and eggs. Also beware of salad toppings. Easy to add hundreds of calories. Report
Lots of surprising information. Thank you for this one! Report
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 and 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