Zero-Calorie Foods: 10 That Aren’t Really Zero Calories


Fat-free dressing

The calories in a single tablespoon of fat-free dressing may be zero, but even if that were true (which we know isn’t), who uses a single tablespoon? “Most people try to have a big salad to fill them up, and that means more dressing,” Bonci says. “Yes, the calorie-free dressing may have fewer calories than most regular ones, but the more you use, the more calories you’ll accumulate.”

Macro bubble and foam on the glass wall of colaYORIK/Shutterstock

Diet soft drink

You see calorie-free claims on diet soda because it contains artificial sweeteners, gel, and fiber that are not absorbed by the intestinal tract. But there’s more to worry about than a few extra calories. “The concern with artificial sweeteners is that they confuse the brain in terms of sweetness sensing, insulin signals, and hunger/satiety signals,” says Shilpi Agarwal, MD, a family medicine physician based in Washington, DC, and the author of The 10-Day Total Body Transformation. “In the long run, we know that people who consume a lot of artificial sweeteners — for example, diet soda drinkers — are actually heavier [and] gain more weight.” The evidence linking diet soda and weight gain is worth more research.

Matcha green tea cooking process in a bowl with bamboo whisk.  Black slate background.  Top view.Anna_Pustynnikova/Shutterstock


Matcha is full of antioxidants that are good for you, according to research published in the Chromatography Magazine, but unlike green tea, it is not calorie-free. Why? Matcha is a powdered green tea that is prepared by whisking the powder with hot water, which means you ingest the tea leaves. On the plus side, the calories are very minimal, and matcha offers significantly more nutritional benefits than you’d get with traditionally brewed leaf tea. In fact, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of matcha is equivalent to eight to 10 cups of regular tea in terms of its antioxidant power. Here are other healthier alternatives to your morning cup of coffee.

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