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Hidden Calories Exposed: Tips for Making Smarter Food Choices

Determined to get more healthy and fit this year? Become your best version ever? Beware of cunning calorie surprises! There are quite some products that seem good for you, but don't be deceived by hidden calories.

I'll give you six products with hidden calories and healthier alternatives as a better option.

  1. Granola and muesli bars

A bowl of yoghurt with some fruit and store bought granola sounds like a great option for breakfast. I am afraid I have to let you down here... granola is not the same as oats. Of course it contains oats, but often a lot of sugar as well. This way it has more calories than it looks like. The same goes for muesli bars; so please check the list of ingredients carefully when shopping.

Store bought granola contains 175 calories per 40 gr.

1 muesli bar contains 108 calories.

Want healthier options?

Just try to eat plain oats or choose raw muesli as a nice topping for your yoghurt. Still prefer some crunch? Make your own granola and bars, so you know what's in it and what not.

I'll share my basic granola and muesli bar recipe...


When well-balanced, granola can be a good fiber and protein combo and especially when being careful with the use of sugar and fat, you can enjoy it to the fullest and have a good start of the day!


- 1 full cup of oats

- 100 gr almonds

- 100 gr pecans

- 50-60 gr mixed seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

- 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or speculaaskruiden)

- tad bit of olive oil (vegan alternative acquafaba)

- 2 tablespoon of honey (vegan alternative dade sirup)

- large bowl for mixing

- baking paper

- lots of love 💕

How to:

- add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix

- add the vanilla or almond extract and mix

- add the oil and mix

- add the honey and mix

- baking paper on the oven tray and add the mix to the tray

- bake in a pre-heated oven at 160°C for 30 minutes

Of course, when the granola is ready, you can add lots of other great ingredients such as dried fruit, other nuts, or what I also love to add as a delicious extra is cocoa nibs or coconut flakes.


Used to buy oats bars or similar for example as a snack, but then again I was thinking… I can make these myself! What I love the most of making such a snack myself rather than store bought is that you know what ingredients are in it and what not. Besides, often store bought bars, cookies etc. are more easy to make than you think and often much more yummy!

These lovely banana oats bars are filled with energy and can be used as pre workout snack for a good workout, post workout snack to recover fast, a quick and easy breakfast when you’re in a rush, or when you’re just lacking some energy and would like a more healthy snack other than for example a piece of fruit or veggies.

These are more nutritious and healthier than a packaged bars, and no sugar or fat (oil) is added. Besides these bars can be easily customised with different add-ins based on your personal preferences. Made with staple pantry items, you don't need to buy fancy pancy ingredients, these are easy-to-make and can be stored for a few days up to a week. This easy and tasty basic recipe is created by dieticians from the Food & Sport Advisory Centre in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Let’s stop the talking and get baking!

Ingredients (for 10-12 bars)

- 4 ripe bananas

- 150 gr rolled oats

- 1 teaspoon cinnamon

- 1 teaspoon baking powder

- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- 60 gr nuts (I used cashew and pecan, but use whatever you fancy)

- 60 gr dried fruit (I used cranberries, but of course apricots, raisins or dates are also great)

Optional ingredients

- dash of honey (I didn’t add, the sweetness of the ripe bananas is perfect for me)

- dark chocolate (85%) or cocoa nibs

- scoop of protein powder

- blueberries

How to?

- Pre-heat the oven at 180C

- Add the bananas, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and vanilla in a blender and mix till nice   and smooth

- Chop the nuts and dried fruit and stir in the banana & oats mixture

- Place baking paper in an oven tray and divide evenly

- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes

- Let is cool down and cut into 10-12 bars

2. Salad dressings and toppings

When eating a salad, you expect you are being healthy. This is not always the case. Supermarkets, restaurants and even you are lusciously using dressings and toppings. Especially many store bought dressings are full with added sugar, fat, cream and other ingredients that turn your salad into a calorie bomb. Adding toppings such as avocado, nuts, seeds, croutons and cheese are super yummy, but be moderate.

Honey & mustard dressing contains 257 calories per 100ml.

Yoghurt dressing contain 243 calories per 100ml.

Want healthier options?

It is always better to make the dressing yourself and then a vinaigrette is the best option here. Use some olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice mixed with fresh herbs to your liking.

You can also make your own honey & mustard dressing and yoghurt dressing. Biggest difference is that you won't add any preservatives etc.

3. Nuts

Nuts are a wonderful source of protein, but eating the whole bag without knowing what you are actually munching can result in a high-calorie party! Do eat nuts, but just a handful a day is more than enough. What can also help, is add nuts to your lunch or supper and integrate them in a meal.

4. Quinoa

Quinoa is a great source of protein, fibers and nutrients. It is a great base in your diet, but when eating too much also mean too many calories. Besides, quinoa is also a good source of carbs, so if you need to be careful with your carb intake, please keep this in mind.

1 cup of quinoa (106 gr) contains 375 calories.

Want healthier options?

Just don't eat too much quinoa, 30-40 gr would do. Add quinoa to a salad, so your main ingredients are veggies. A really nice fresh quinoa salad is with some edamame, cucumber and chicken.

5. Coffee

A plain black coffee does not have lots of calories of course, but a latte macchiato, cappuccino or frappuccino, especially store bought contains loads of sugar, and fat hence lots of calories. Besides, what goes perfectly with a nice cup of coffee? Cake, cookies and other yummy sweet munchies.

1 latte macchiato contains 38 calories

1 small (tall) cappuccino with full fat milk contains 39 calories

1 frappuccino with whipped cream contains 320 calories

Want healthier options?

Think your daily cup of coffee in the morning to wake up is a bad habit? Not necessarily. Just drink plain black coffee, or a cappuccino with skimmed milk and of course just not too much coffee overall.

6. Gluten free products

You probably think... gluten free sounds good to me! Somehow we tend to believe when a product is gluten free it is healthier than the regular option. Often enough this is not the case at all! Reason being the gluten free are also more free from other ingredients like fibers and nutrients. And to keep the flavours, often extra fat, sugar or salt is added... Think twice.

1 cup of normal pasta contains 161 calories

1 cup gluten free pasta contains 268 calories

1 average normal cookie contains 73 calories

1 gluten free cookie contains 80 calories

Want healthier options?

When there are no medical reasons to go for gluten free products, just don't. It is important to remember that gluten free does not equal more healthy. Besides, often gluten free products are more expensive than the "normal" option. Be a rebel and eat normal! ;-)

What does this all mean? Please keep in mind that often these so call healthier products is just good marketing. Stick to the basics, control your portions, be careful with sugar and salt intake and you'll come a long way.

My blog @irisfoodforthought shares lots of great, tasty, easy and nutritious recipes to try! Enjoy healthy eating!


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