The Truth About No-Calorie Foods

Sep 5 2018
Question@2x Hi Hungry Girl,

On a recent episode of your podcast, you mentioned that some zero-calorie foods actually contain calories and fat. How can this be, and what should I watch out for?

No-Calorie Confused
Answer@2x Hi No-Calorie Confused,

Yup, we covered this topic in “The Food Fakers Episode” of the show! Here’s the deal: According to the FDA, if a product has less than 5 calories per serving, the label can claim it has 0 calories. That may seem minor, but the stats can really add up, especially if the serving size is unrealistically small...

Zero-Calorie Dressings and Condiments

First of all, a lot of these don't taste all that great. Second, the true calorie counts are a bit of a mystery. My advice? Skip 'em altogether, and opt for low-calorie kinds. Hungry Girl picks: Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressings and Newman’s Own Sesame Ginger Dressing.

No-Calorie Sweetener Packets

The average no-calorie sweetener packet actually has 4 calories. That's still a calorie bargain compared to real sugar, which has about 11 calories per packet -- particularly since it takes at least two sugar packets to equal the sweetness in one no-calorie sweetener packet. And with so many varieties on shelves these days -- including stevia-based ones and other natural picks -- there really is something for everyone.

Nonstick Cooking Spray

The labels on most sprays say 0 calories... for a 1/4-second spray. Um, what? That's practically impossible to even count. A more realistic 1-second spray has 5 to 10 calories and about half a gram of fat. Still pretty impressive! There are times when regular oil works better than the spray, so just measure it out -- a teaspoon has around 40 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. P.S. Check out this lineup of all-natural sprays!

No-Calorie Butter Spray

While a 5-spray serving has less than 5 calories, a full teaspoon (about 25 sprays) has around 20 calories and 2 grams of fat. That's actually MORE than an equal amount of light whipped butter or light buttery spread, so keep that in mind if you tend to overspray. I’ve heard from some people that they unscrew the cap and pour it over their food... PSA: The entire not-so-large bottle has over 900 calories and more than 90 grams of fat!

Takeaway Tips!

If the serving size on a no-calorie product is much smaller than the amount you're using, or if you're using it often throughout the day, be aware that you're racking up calories, and keep track of them -- 4 calories per serving is a safe estimate. And if you use a lot of said product, you might want to consider low-calorie options instead, just so you have a better idea of how many calories you're actually consuming.

Hope this info helps!

Chew on this:

Today, September 5th, is National Cheese Pizza Day. This Squash-Crust Cheese Pizza is one of our favorite ways to celebrate!

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SmartPoints® value* not what you expected? We follow the same method as WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) when calculating the value of a recipe: We add up the SmartPoints® values* of the individual ingredients using the Recipe Builder, not the calculator. (Many foods have a value of zero and remain zero in recipes.)

*The SmartPoints® values for these products and/or recipes were calculated by Hungry Girl and are not an endorsement or approval of the product, recipe or its manufacturer or developer by WW International, Inc., the owner of the SmartPoints® trademark.