Hungry Girl: 5 Food Fakers You Need to Know About

10/13/2014 at 09:30 AM ET

Granola
Claire Cordier/Getty; Inset:Courtesy Hungry Girl

Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of nine books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.

Food fakers are items that sound like they’d be diet-friendly choices… but they actually contain a lot more calories or fat than you’d expect. Here are some of the top culprits…

Granola

It looks so virtuous  — the oats, the nuts, the dried fruit — but this stuff is often cooked up with a lot more sugar and oil than you might suspect. (Just think about how it all sticks together in those crunchy clusters.) Plus, the given “serving size” is likely smaller than you realize. Many people eat it by the bowlful, like cereal, but the nutritional info given on the panel is often for just ¼ cup. A cup of granola (before milk) typically has more than 400 calories! If you LOVE granola, choose low-fat varieties, and use a single serving wisely — layer it with fruit and yogurt to make a filling parfait.

Smoothies

Like granola, smoothies have a “health halo.” They seem like they’d be so good for you, but a lot of smoothie shops use syrups, fruit with added sugar, heavy dairy add-ins, etc. An average smoothie can easily have 400 – 500 calories, or a lot more if you go for the mega-size cups! Plus, smoothies are often tossed back like refreshing beverages when they’re more like meal replacements. What’s a smoothie lover to do? Make your own at home. Use unsweetened frozen fruit, light yogurt, low-fat milks (like soy and almond), no-calorie sweeteners and even some veggies, if you’re feeling adventurous! Apparently Amanda Seyfried and Justin Long are way into green smoothies — give one of these recipes a try.

Kale Chips

“But, it’s KALE! Full of fiber, calcium, loads of vitamins.” Yes, but they’re also CHIPS. And conventional kale chips are made like any other chips — they’re fried in oil. The result is a single serving with roughly 150 calories and 9g fat, very similar to regular ol’ potato chips! Plus, most bags that look like individual portions actually contain two to three servings. You’re gonna want to make these at home. Don’t worry, it’s easy — just follow my simple directions. You get the crunch and the nutrition without the excess oil.

Restaurant Salads

If you haven’t heard by now, it’s time you did — salads are not always your best bet when navigating a restaurant menu! Not only are they ordinarily HUGE, but they’re also typically topped with heavy ingredients: cheese, bacon, fried chicken, crunchy noodles, tortilla strips, croutons, candied nuts. Factor in the salad dressing, and you might as well have gotten that cheeseburger. Wanna do it right? Special order: Just politely ask for some of the heavier toppings to be left off, and order the lightest dressing they have on the side. My top tip: Dip, don’t pour. As in dip your fork into the dressing, don’t pour the whole container over your greens!

Dried Fruits

If most of us sat down with a bowl or package of dried fruit, chances are, we’d just eat ’til it was all gone. After all, it’s only fruit…right? Actually, NO, not always. Dried cranberries are loaded with added sugar — have you ever tasted a fresh cranberry? Those suckers are tart! And banana chips get so crispy by being fried in oil! Ugh. Even if there are no extra ingredients, since it’s all shriveled, you’ll eat way more of it than you would of the fresh version. So just eat a piece of whole fruit, or if you want something a little snackier, try freeze-dried fruit. (You can often find it in the cereal, snack, produce, or even baby food sections of the grocery store.)

‘Til next time… Chew the right thing!

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tomfool on

Moral of the story: make all of these at home.

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