An acai bowl looks healthy, but it can add up to 800 calories to your diet. Picture Glenn Hampson
An acai bowl looks healthy, but it can add up to 800 calories to your diet. Picture Glenn Hampson

How many calories you’re eating

THE foods we enjoy at our local cafe are often surprisingly high in calories - so much so that your weekend brunch could actually contain more energy than you need to consume in an entire day. So if you frequently pick-up foods on the run and are noticing that your clothes are feeling tighter, here are some of the main culprits.

For many of us our local cafe is the first place we visit each day as we pick up our daily coffee, smoothie or juice on our way to childcare, work or on or way back from the gym. Now it is the jumbo sized smoothies and juices that can result in a calorie overload with a large smoothie or juices adding up to 400-500 calories and up to 8 teaspoons of sugar. Much more of an issue though tends to be the quick breakfasts we grab on the run that bump up our cafe calories - the muffins, banana bread and Turkish toasts that can equate to as many as 500-600 calories in a single serve. Muffins and banana breads are basically cake made from white flour, sugar and butter or margarine; and it is the jumbo sized slices of Turkish toast that offer the equivalent amount of carbs as 3-4 slices of bread and that is before you consider the amount of butter or margarine that soaks into its holes. The moral of the story? Stick to small coffees, smoothies and juices and leave the cakes and muffins for special occasions.

And if you must pick up toast, choose small slices of wholemeal or Sourdough where possible.

Yes, they’re eggs, but serving them like this makes them pretty unhealthy. Picture: AAP / Claudia Baxter
Yes, they’re eggs, but serving them like this makes them pretty unhealthy. Picture: AAP / Claudia Baxter

Now onto lunch - the difference between lunches you would make at home versus lunches you buy at the cafe is the different amounts of salad vegetables, grains and fats that cafes use. For example, most cafe salads are made up of rice, pasta or other grains and use a lot more added fat in the form of avocado, lashings of dressing and cheese which bumps up the calorie load significantly. The average cafe salad will contain up to 800 calories, when a lunch salad at most should contain just 400-500 calories. Other popular cafe meals including quiches, burgers and toasted sandwiches also tend to be heavy on the carbs and fat thanks to the large slabs of bread, lashings of pastry and side orders of chips that come with many cafe meals. The best lunch options at a cafe that offers calorie control - an omelet, toasted wrap or filo or frittata served with salad.

Nobody is pretending this is a health food, but even a small burger and fries will pack way too many calories into one meal.
Nobody is pretending this is a health food, but even a small burger and fries will pack way too many calories into one meal.

When we catch up with friends over a coffee, it can be a simple pleasure to enjoy your hot drink with a sweet treat and the good news is that there are some options that are much better than others. Generally speaking cakes and pastries served at cafes will contain at least 300 calories and 20g of fat. On the other hand, lower calorie sweet treats such as biscotti, friands or small protein balls now available at many cafes can offer the sweet hit you are after with half the calories.

The other time in which many of us visit the cafe is for our weekend brunch, and some of the most popular favourites including eggs bene, acai bowls and a breakfast fry up can again add 600-800 calories into our day. The key to breakfast success at the local cafe is to load up your order with protein rich options such as eggs or smoked salmon along with plenty of extra vegetables but then to go easy with the jumbo sized pieces of toast, creamy sauces and remember that sweet smoothie or acai bowl is more like a dessert than a nutritious breakfast options.

0503 - Cafe calorie calculator

Cafe Calories

1) Coffee

Worst Choice = Regular mocha

It may just appear to be a coffee but the mix of full cream milk and high sugar chocolate powder or syrup means that this regular sized coffee serves up a massive 10g of fat and almost 30g of sugar.

Cafe Mocha = 230cal, 9g fat, 28g carbs

Best Choice = Small skim cappuccino

This popular favourite will give you at most 2g of fat, less than 7g of sugars with all the pleasure of a 'real' coffee.

Small skim cappuccino = 65cal, 2g fat, 7g carbs

2) Cakes

Worst Choice = Chocolate Mud Cake

It may taste amazing but a single slice of a rich chocolate cake (without the cream or ice cream) contains almost 20g of fat, most of which is saturated and at least 9 tsp. of sugar.

Small (75g) slice of chocolate cake = 310cal, 17g fat, 45g carbs

Best Choice = Plain cupcake

Who would have thought a cupcake could be a good choice but with a simple mix of flour and sugar, you can get away with ½ as many kJ as a slice of cake, which you can even reduce further if you skip the icing.

Small cupcake = 140cal, 7g of fat, 24g of carbs.

3) Slices

Worst = Caramel Slice

An extremely dense mix of chocolate, biscuit and caramel means massive kJ, fat and sugar, especially when you consider the large serving sizes of cakes and slices that are usually sold at coffee shops.

Caramel Slice (80g) = 400cal, 24g of fat, 44g of carbs.

Best = Friand

The small serving size, coupled with almond meal means that this tasty morsel is lower in saturated fat and sugar than many other sweet treats.

Friand (60g) = 170cal, 8g of fat, 17g of carbs.

4) Sweet Treats

Worst = Banana Bread

With more than 20g of fat per slice, and that is without the butter and more than 60g of carbs, this energy dense snack is not a healthy option.

1 thick slice banana bread = 260cal, 22g of fat, 62g of carbs.

Best = French Macaron

While they may look high in sugar with their bright colours, a single macaron, made largely with sugar and egg white contains just 5g of fat.

1 medium macaron = 100cal, 5g of fat, 14g of carbs.

Always remember. This is cake. Not bread.
Always remember. This is cake. Not bread.

5) Biscuits

Worst = Large choc chip cookie

Often thought of as a better option compared to cakes and pastries, the jumbo sized cookies generally found at cafes are a nutritional disaster packed with plenty of saturated fat and sugar.

1 jumbo choc chip cookie = 385cal, 19g of fat, 49g of carbs.

Best = Almond biscotti

The simple mix of almonds, flour and a little sugar means that this sweet treat is one of the lowest kJ options at the cafe.

1 piece of almond biscotti = 75cal, 10g of fat, 8g of carbs.

6) Bread

Worst = Turkish Toast with vegemite

You would think that a bread based option would have to be better than a sweet cake or treat but the large serving sizes of Turkish bread, teamed with plenty of butter means that this simple snack can equate to as much as 40-60g of carbs and more than 20g of fat

1 serve of Turkish toast = 450cal, 20g fat, 40g of carbs.

Best = Sourdough with no butter

Smaller slices mean fewer kJ and avoiding adding fat via a spread means fewer kJ again. Remember that a large slice of cafe toast is equal to 2 regular slices.

1 serve of Sourdough = 160cal, 4g fat, 30g of carbs.

7) Fruit Drinks

Worst = Fruit Smoothie

With a mix of fruit, milk, yoghurt and grains, a simple smoothie can equate to more energy than a meal and more than 10 tsp of sugar.

Banana Smoothie = 350cal, 5g fat, 65g carbs

Best = Vegetable juice

Choosing a vege only mix means that you slash kJ and bump up nutrition.

Vegetable juice (beetroot, celery, carrot, ginger) = 120cal, 0g fat, 16g carbs.

8) Savoury Snacks

Worst = Ham and cheese croissant

Not only do you mix the butter from the pastry but the addition of ham and cheese blows the fat content of this snack through the roof

Ham and cheese croissant = 550cal, 30g fat and 45g carbs

Best = Frittata

Generally made without cream, a small frittata can be a protein rich, filling snack with minimal fats.

Small frittata = 285cal, 12g fat and 8g carbs

No doubt delicious, but do you really need to ‘spend’ 550 calories on a snack? Picture: AAP / Danny Aarons
No doubt delicious, but do you really need to ‘spend’ 550 calories on a snack? Picture: AAP / Danny Aarons

9) Sweet drinks

Worst = Iced coffee or chocolate

The mix of high sugar flavouring, plenty of milk and cream leaves you with a fat and sugar overload

Iced chocolate / coffee = 500cal, 30g fat and 51g total carbs

Best = Iced frappé

Made with more ice then milk and minus the cream, this refreshing choice can be as low as a regular cup of coffee

Coffee frappé = 230cal, 0g fat and 30g total carbs

10) Salads

Worst Choice = Caesar Salad

Often served with much more bacon, cheese and dressing than salad itself, a single serve of Caesar can contain as much as 30g of fat.

Chicken Caesar Salad = 420cal, 30g fat and 25g total carbs

Best Choice = Chicken and Spinach Salad

The greater the amount of salad ingredients, the better the salad will be for you and adding lean protein such as chicken or tuna will help to convert any plain salad into a meal, and always ask for dressing on the side

Mixed green / spinach salad with chicken = 320cal, 10g fat and 16g total carbs

 

 

Susie Burrell is a dietitian and nutritionist. Follow her on Twitter @SusieBDiet


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