Are You Sabotaging Your Diet with Unhealthy Sauces, Toppings and “Add-Ons”?

unhealthy sauces
By: Stacy Spensley

Sometimes it’s not what you eat that causes weight gain – but what you add to your food. For example, no one will argue that a bowl of spinach is healthy, low-calorie side-dish that’s loaded with antioxidants. On the other hand, spinach morphs into a diet-unfriendly dish when you douse it in butter, serve it creamed or add unhealthy sauces. Just like the samples we munch on at the grocery store, it’s easy to forget these aren’t “free” calories. They add up! Here are four add-ons that can sabotage your weight loss.


Enjoying a green, leafy salad is one of the best ways to get a jumpstart on your veggie quota for the day. Raw vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and low in calories – at least until you add croutons, nuts, a generous handful of cheese, chopped bacon, and top it off with a high-calorie dressing.

It’s even riskier when you order an entrée salad at a restaurant. Restaurants like to “enhance” the veggies in your salad  with such high-calorie items as fried chicken pieces, cheddar cheese and tortilla strips. Not surprisingly, some of these salads have 1,000 calories or more. Salads are a good thing when it comes to healthy eating, but be aware of what you’re putting on them. All salads aren’t created equal. Watch out for those high-calorie salad condiments, toppings and add-ons.

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt bars are popping up everywhere. When you visit one of these “healthy dessert” bars, and you choose a yogurt flavor and add your favorite toppings. On the plus side, some frozen yogurt bars have sugar-free selections but don’t fall for the “fat-free” options, they’re usually loaded with sugar.

If you’re trying to eat cleanly, this sounds like a winner, at least until you head over to the topping bar and load your cup with candy bits, cereal pieces, nuts, fruits and chocolate syrup. Even if you choose fruit and nuts, it’s easy to turn a 100-calorie dessert into a 400-calorie one. Another example of why it’s important to watch the add-ons. Frozen yogurt can be a good alternative to more unhealthy desserts, but stick with a light sprinkling of nuts and berries instead of the sugary toppings.


Coffee is almost calorie-free, so why is a trip to Starbucks such a threat to your waistline? It’s those add-ons again. A cup of coffee and skim milk will only set you back 20 calories, but upgrade your order to a white chocolate mocha, and you turn a 20-calorie drink into a 400-calorie one. Coffee is low in calories, but the chocolate, sugar, cream and whipped cream are add-ons that add up. Be aware of what goes into your coffee if you’re trying to stay slim and healthy.

Bread and Sandwiches

Bread isn’t inherently high in calories, but most people lose track of how much butter they’re spreading on it and how many times they’re dipping it into flavored olive oil. Spread on two pats of butter, and you’ve added 77 calories to your roll. Plus, bread made with white flour wrecks havoc with your blood sugar. Stick with whole wheat, high-fiber bread with no added sugar.

Sandwich add-ons can get out of hand too. A turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread is a healthy choice as long as the turkey is unprocessed. On the other hand, a slice of cheddar cheese has 113 calories and a tablespoon of mayo adds another 90 calories. See how quickly it adds up? Most people spread more than a single tablespoon of mayonnaise on their sandwich too. Mustard is a lower-calorie sandwich spread that still has great flavor.

The Bottom Line?

You can make healthy food choices, but still take in too many calories when you use a heavy hand with the unhealthy sauces, condiments and add-ons. If you’re having trouble controlling your weight, keep this in mind.


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Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.

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