Invisible Calories

Just a bite here, a sip there, and before you know it, you’ve consumed a lot of extra calories you may not even account for.

Studio 5 Contributor Melanie Douglass R.D., NASM breaks down the truth about
snacking and what she calls “invisible calories”.

As a dietitian, I’ve always thought of invisible calories as the small things people forget to include on a food log. But after some serious research and a thorough review of participant food logs, I’ve realized invisible calories are so much more. Not only are each and every one of us affected by daily underestimations and forgotten itty-bitty calories, but the impact of these calories–ranging from massive to minor–is something that is not invisible to our bodies. Every extra calorie is a burden; nothing is forgotten; and it starts to add up.

This isn’t an exact science because each one of us is so very unique, but in general, our food-weight gain relationship looks a little like this:

100 extra calories per day can lead to a 10-pound weight gain — per year!

250 extra calories per day can lead to a 2-pound weight gain — per month!

500 extra calories per day can lead to a 1-pound weight gain — per week!

It doesn’t matter how easily, quickly, painlessly or thoughtlessly such calories go down. The point is, we consume them… and if we don’t account for those calories on a mental level, then we can’t make the necessary counter-decisions to balance our food intake. This is something you’ll only need to see, hear and process once! Take a moment to think about your personal source of invisible calories. Once you know more, you’ll then be empowered to make informed health decisions and balance your intake a little more each day.

Here are 3 food log examples that show how sly, little, invisible calories can add up to make a huge impact on your health:

**Note, the examples below only show the unaccounted, underestimated, problematic foods found in otherwise healthy diets. Most participants actually ate balanced, calorie-appropriate meals each day.


6 Tbsp of coffee creamer 210

1/2 an order of chips and salsa 300

1 cup of cheese 440

2 small Rice Krispy Treats 140

Grand Total: 1090 calories

The takeaway:

1) Creamer consumed in such small amounts, so it doesn’t seem important

2) “Chips and salsa” always consumed in vague, seemingly trivial amounts

3) Cheese is calorie dense, every ounce = 100 calories!


8 grapes 22

1/4 of a banana 34

Crust of PB & J 80

3 bites Mac-n-cheese 60

1 handful black licorice 65

4 crackers 65

2 hard candies 50

3 dark chocolate squares 126

Grand Total: 502 calories

The takeaway:

1) Classic example of how “bites” here and there can add up

2) Bites of fruit and veggies add up, but still way less offensive than other snack foods

3) Each bite of food adds about 10 – 30 calories (except chocolate, which can triple/quadruple that rule)


1 slice sweet bread 400

1 large bottle gatorade 112

1 bottle of soda 250

2 bites of pizza 60

Grand Total: 822 calories

The takeaway:

1) Sweetened and/or bakery breads are dense and NOT equal to a regular slice of bread. Regular bread is only 100 calories per slice!

2) Liquid calories add up!

If you want more info, contact Melanie via the Studio 5 Ask the Expert page,

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