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Super Fitness Weight Loss Challenge: What are hidden calories and how do you avoid them?

Hidden calories are bites, sips and other small ways of consuming calories that may seem negligible at the time, but can add up to several pounds.

TOLEDO, Ohio — A new year means new goals. And for many of us, those goals include better eating habits and losing weight.

Maddie Perry, a dietician for ProMedica, said hidden calories are something to look out for when picking your next meal.

Hidden calories are bites, sips and other small ways of consuming calories that may seem negligible at the time, but can add up to several pounds and have a serious impact on health.

Perry said dressings and marinades immediately come to mind for her when thinking about hidden calories. While you don't need to avoid hidden calories entirely, it's something to remain conscious about.

"With a dressing, you might think, I'm putting it on a salad or a grilled chicken breast, but it might be high in fat. With fat will come excess calories, so that's one thing to look for," she said.

Perry said to consider alternatives for a variety of hidden calories. For example, oil-based dressings are healthier alternatives to creamier dressings.

She also recommends looking at nutrition facts, because sugars, sodium and saturated fats should have limited intake.

"Those three are the things that can ultimately, if had in excess, provide a bit too much nutrition and cause health issues," Perry said.

While eating at a restaurant, you may not know the calorie count for certain items, so what can we do to help make sure you're not in that hidden calorie area?

"With those things, look for 'red flag' words when you are having food: creamy, fried, even sautéed sometimes can be one word that can stick out," she said.

Calories are also hidden through ingredients used in cooking. A common cooking ingredient like butter has many substitutes.

"My favorite thing is to switch to olive oil," Perry said. "That's what I recommend and I personally think it has better flavor than butter when you are cooking with it."

Seasonings like salt, pepper and garlic can also add more calories.

"You can also have different herbs or spices to season instead of using salt or butter as well," she said. 

While salt doesn't add a lot of calories, it's still something to watch out for. If you need more flavor, Perry recommends adding garlic or onions.

"I like this product called Mrs. Dash," she said. "It's a no-salt seasoning and they have multiple different types of seasonings now. They have Italian, taco, you can pick out whatever you want but it doesn't add the salty or any additional calories."

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