By Sarah Haan, for SparkPeople
Halloween marks the beginning of a two-month season packed with parties and desserts-now that's scary for anyone who is trying to manage his or her weight. Beyond the fun-size (and therefore calorie-controlled) candies of Halloween, several fall treats are big calorie bombs. Be on the lookout for these surprisingly high-cal foods, which can add up fast if you let your guard down.
Pumpkin Flavored Baked Goods
Pumpkin itself is a healthful food. Plain pumpkin puree contains a dose of vitamin A and fiber for a small amount of calories. But pair it with sugar, cream cheese frosting, shortening and butter and you've got a high-cal treat dressed in a healthy-looking orange outfit. Restaurants and coffee shops are the biggest villains, promoting their pumpkin scones, muffins, donuts and breads, which can contain up to 630 calories per serving. Don't let "low-fat" versions trick your either; low-fat is not the same thing as low-calorie. Your best bet is to avoid all of these pumpkin treats, unless you look up the nutrition facts before you bite and decide that it can fit into your day. Homemade treats, frequents at parties and offices, aren't necessarily better either, so be careful!
TRICK: You can bake your own pumpkin treats using less sugar and fat, plus whole-grain goodness. Use a mini muffin tin to help with keep your portions in check and steer clear of these seasonal baked goods!
Hot Seasonal Beverages
Sometimes there is nothing more enjoyable than sipping a hot drink on a crisp fall day. Many coffee joints offer special seasonal beverages during the holidays. While plain coffee is low-cal, seasonal lattes and drinks contain a lot of sugar, and most boast a heavy dose of cream, too. A medium pumpkin spice latte with whole milk is 410 calories at Starbucks, and its competitors don't do much better. As liquid calories do not aid in fullness or satiety, these calories probably are not worth it!
TRICK: Order a small beverage (if you must) and lighten the load by requesting fat free milk and holding any whipped topping. Freshly brewed chai tea can be a great alternative that is virtually calorie-free, but look out for blended drinks that are ready to serve; they often contain cream, syrups and lots of added sugar. Many coffeehouses use a sugar syrup as the base for their chai; ask that yours be made with real tea and no added sugar. Request hot water and a teabag of chai tea (black tea with spices) with some low-fat milk on the side. Watch out for these high-cal hot beverages!
Caramel Apple Anything
Yes, it's obvious. If you cover a healthy fruit with sugar, it becomes a less healthy choice. Simple caramel apples seem innocent, but they can pack 300 calories onto that little wooden stick. Pop extra sprinkles, candies or nuts onto the outside of the apple and it'll amp the calorie level even further. It's also good practice to avoid caramel apple desserts and baked goods from most restaurants. Most don't even contain a single serving of fruit and more than their fair share of calories and fat (see chart below).
TRICK: Enjoy your apples by cutting them into wedges and dipping them into low-fat caramel dip, fat free vanilla yogurt or peanut butter. The following high-cal treats are far from healthy.
The most important thing to remember during the fall season is to think before you bite. Don't make excuses about desserts or baked treats being "healthful" just because apple or pumpkin is in the name, and monitor your intake of tiny-size treats, which can easily add up to BIG numbers of calories. Think about what these seasonal treats are doing for your body and put your label reading skills to work and stay in control of your choices.
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By Sarah Haan, for SparkPeople