Special Report

Summer Snacks That Are Actually Ruining Your Diet

Hristina Byrnes

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1. Low-fat, low-calorie foods

“Reduced ‘whatever’ products contribute to overeating,” Alexis Penney, a registered dietitian at Shanti Nutrition in Boston said. In essence, you’re trying to trick your body into thinking it’s eating the same thing but with fewer calories. “But your body is smart and ends up looking for those calories elsewhere to make up for it.” Also, in the Mediterranean countries, she noted, where some of the healthiest people live, they eat full fat products, but their portions are smaller. “I find this to be the sweet spot,” Penney said. Choose the real thing and eat less of it. You’ll feel more satisfied all around.

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2. Summer cocktails

“It’s not always the amount of calories but the type of calorie,” said Lainey Younkin, a registered dietitian at Lainey Younkin Nutrition in Boston. Calories consumed from alcoholic beverages are often referred to as “empty calories.” Cutting out alcohol is often recommended for people who are trying to lose weight because alcoholic drinks contain a lot of calories — 7 per gram, compared to 4 in protein and carbs — and people tend to eat unhealthy foods with alcohol.

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3. Store-bought smoothies

Few drinks seem to be better than a smoothie in the summer. It’s cold and it has fruits and vegetables, which makes it healthy, right? In some cases. Many store-bought smoothies are high in sugar, according to Younkin. “You’re best off making your own with 1-2 servings of fruit, some protein like nut butter, Greek yogurt, or protein powder, and healthy fat like avocado, nut butter, or flaxseed.”

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4. Pretzels

Pretzels may originate from Germany, but they are an American staple food now. Americans love them so much they even have pretzel-eating rituals. This fulfilling snack is omnipresent — at sporting events, the beach, bars, and even on the street. But maybe sometimes they should be avoided. “I don’t like my clients eating a ton of processed food because of its ingredients and high calorie content,” said Gabriela Rivera, a nutritionist practicing with clinical nutritionist Kay Spears in San Antonio, Texas.

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5. Pita chips

Have you been to a summer party where pita chips and hummus were not served as an appetizer? Rivera said she would not usually recommend pita chips to her weight-loss clients for the simple fact that “if not careful, a lot of them can be eaten and cause a caloric surplus.” They are also highly processed and usually high in sodium, she noted.