Hidden Calories: 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Diet Without Even Realizing It

Have you been sticking to a diet and exercise program but you still can’t seem to lose weight? The problem could be a habit that has gone unnoticed: mindless eating. It’s possible you could be derailing your best efforts by eating additional calories without being aware of it. It can be easy to eat more than you planned if you travel a lot or if you’re busy and sometimes grab meals on the go.

Are your dieting efforts going to waste? Here are five ways you could be sabotaging your diet without even realizing it.

1. You don’t pay attention to what you drink


This drink likely contains diet-destroying calories. | iStock.com

A beverage is part of just about every meal you consume. Sadly, a drink can hide tons of calories and sugar. Before you know it, you’ve gained a bunch of weight and you have no idea where it came from. A beverage can have as much, if not more, calories than an entire meal, so it’s important to pay close attention to what you’re sipping.

The remedy

young woman drinking water

Substitute water in place of sugary drinks. | iStock.com/fizkes

Try to substitute your favorite sugary drinks with low-calorie beverages. It might not taste so great at first, but you’ll get used to it pretty quickly. Substituting your beverages with smarter choices can eliminate about 650 calories from your diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so it’s beneficial to look at the calorie information on the side of your drinks. Also, take this opportunity to start drinking more water. You can even add some fruit slices for additional flavor.

2. You’re an emotional eater

Sad woman lying on the couch at night

Do mood swings cause you to eat? | iStock.com/tommaso79

Do you reach for a doughnut or bowl of ice cream when the cares of the world start to get to you? Psychologist Jennifer Kromberg says emotional eating often results when we’re not fully aware of what we are doing. It’s an attempt to find quick comfort. However, this can result in quickly packing on pounds. Said Kromberg in her Psychology Today column:

Emotional eating can be a direct result of not being conscious of what or why you’re eating. Therapists call this unconscious eating. Unconscious eating is when you’re done with your meal and you continue to pick at it, slowly eating the remaining portion that you intended to leave behind. It can also be putting peanuts or crackers or any other food in your mouth, just because it’s in front of you.

The remedy

 woman looking at menu

Engage in mindful eating. | iStock.com/nd3000

When you feel stress coming on, try to get up and take a walk. This healthy activity will not only get your body moving but also clear your mind. By the time your walk is over, you’ll be so relaxed that food will be the last thing on your mind. Also engage in mindful eating. This practice requires you to slow down when you eat, pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth, and notice how the food makes you feel.

3. You eat on the go

woman eating behind the wheel

Eating on the go could wreck your diet.| iStock.com/AdrianHancu

When you lead a busy life, it can be difficult to sit down long enough to enjoy a full meal. Consequently, you might grab an energy bar on your way out the door or order a salad from your local drive-through. What you might not realize is that energy bar could be packed with sugar. And that drive-through salad isn’t so healthy after you’ve soaked it in salad dressing and topped it off with cheese.

Dietitians Katherine Brooking and Carolyn Williams told Cooking Light that granola bars might sound like a quick, healthy snack, but they could be hiding tons of unhealthy ingredients and added calories. “Many energy bars are filled with high-fructose corn syrup, added sugar, and artery-clogging saturated fat. Plus, some bars (particularly meal replacement varieties) contain more than 350 calories each — a bit more than ‘snack size’ for most people,” reported Cooking Light.

The remedy

Couple making salad together in the Kitchen

Try cooking meals at home. | iStock.com

If you tend to skip breakfast in the morning because you’re always running late, try waking up at least an hour earlier or preparing it the night before. This way, you’ll have enough time to make your meal at home. This way you can control the ingredients and the portion sizes. You also won’t be as hungry when you get to work, which might otherwise lead to overeating.

4. Your hand is always in the office candy dish

Donuts and candy with sugar spread and written text in unhealthy nutrition

Can’t resist? | iStock.com/OcusFocus

If you work in an office where there’s always a bowl of candy or a box of doughnuts, then you know how tough it can be to resist. It seems as if there’s always an occasion for a sweet treat or an office party complete with fattening foods. You vowed to not attend the next pizza party, but the smell of tomato sauce and cheesy goodness just couldn’t keep you at your desk. Unfortunately, your work clothes are probably getting uncomfortably tight.

The remedy


Meet away from the candy and other sweet treats. | iStock

If you’re always tempted by the goodies, stay as far away as possible. If the co-worker you want to talk to has a big dish of candy or cookies on his or her desk, try having your conversation in a conference room instead. This way, you won’t have to look at — or smell — those tempting goodies. It will be hard at first, but your waistline will thank you.

5. You like to eat while you party

friends at a party

Most parties have lots of good food. | iStock.com/ monkeybusinessimages

Parties are filled with good music, great conversation, fun people, and lots of food. It’s easy to get distracted and eat mindlessly while you talk to friends and dance the night away. However, those party foods could come back to haunt you. Even if you only eat chips with dip or a few finger foods, those snack-size treats could cost you. Sauces, dips, and other condiments can contain a lot of hidden calories.

The remedy

friends eating at a restaurant.

Eat before the party. | iStock.com/bowdenimages

Your best bet is to eat a full meal before you leave your home. Otherwise, you’ll eat everything in sight once you reach your destination. This could throw your diet off track not only for that one night, but also for the next couple of weeks. So, do yourself a favor and make sure your tummy is full before partying it up.

Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.