If you’re like most people, you occasionally indulge in high-calorie foods that have little nutritional value.
It’s okay to enjoy the occasional treat, but you need to keep in mind that calories add up fast. Unhealthy snacks also have a direct impact on your cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can derail an entire afternoon.
Unfortunately, the majority of people have no clue how many calories are in the foods that they eat but justify them on spending 30 minutes jogging or in the gym. Most of us believe that our exercise program will somehow make up for the way we eat.
We often times find ourselves using the excuse that we can eat whatever we want because our exercise offsets the excess calories taken in. The truth is, this way of thinking is typically a set up to fail.
So, we have lined up 8 unhealthy snacks we love, how many calories they contain, and how much exercise it will take for you to burn these off.
If you want to learn more about healthy snacks, with 50 snack ideas, check out our healthy snack guide!
What makes an unhealthy snack?
Whether because of the sneaky calories you don’t realize you’re getting, or toxins in the packaging you never suspected were there, there are many snacks that could be sabotaging your health.
The most common unhealthy foods include highly-processed items such as junk foods which are high in calories from sugar or fat, with little dietary fiber, protein, vitamins or minerals.
On the flip side, a healthy snack is high in nutritional value (protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber) but relatively low in calories, total fat, saturated fat (no trans fat), sugar, and sodium. And the most important part of that equation is “high in nutritional value.“
To help you choose the best and healthiest snacks, here’s our ultimate guide to Healthy Office Snacks.
So now, let’s compare our favorite high-calorie foods to the amount of exercise required to burn them off. Remember that this article is not meant to pressure or scare anybody — actually, it’s empowering to know this stuff.
All calories listed are estimates and workout times may vary depending on a variety of factors, including age, gender, and weight. So take these as general estimates and adjust based on ability and outcome.
1. Soft Drinks
It is easy to have a few servings of soda a day without thinking about it. Like other sweetened drinks, the calories from these drinks can add up quickly. Most provide little or no nutrients and contain large amounts of added sugar.
A 350 mL can of your favorite soda contains roughly 170 calories. To burn off these calories, you may need 12 to 14 minutes of cardio or 20-25 minutes of weight training.
More than that, when consumed in excess, soft drinks can adversely affect your health. These range from increased chances of tooth decay to be a consistent risk factor for weight gain and obesity.
2. Chocolate Candy Bars
Who likes saying NO to a piece of chocolate? Its rich pleasant smell and flavor bring a smile on our face at a glance. It’s also true that it helps to play a vital role in our body.
There are awesome health benefits in chocolate which can’t be ignored– It is a powerful medium of antioxidants, it helps keep our blood pressure balanced, and it stimulates our brain power.
However, an average 50g bar of chocolate contains 230-275 calories. The most effective ways to burn these off range from 55 minutes of power walking, 35 minutes of bike riding, to 27 minutes of jogging.
So if you really have a sweet tooth and cannot manage to have one of these exercises due to your busy work week, there are some healthier alternatives for a standard chocolate bar. You can usually find brands that offer sugar-free options or even organic chocolate products. Although these will sometimes still contain sugar, you will find the nutritional labels are free of additives and preservatives and other nasty things you want to try and avoid.
3. Pizza Slice
Pizza is undeniably one of the best foods on earth and nothing can change that! However, it also has long been vilified as junk food because it’s high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
A slice of regular crust pizza with cheese contains 290 to 340 calories. It contains high levels of sodium, about 551 milligrams. The calorie and nutrient content will vary depending on the base, the amount of cheese used, and toppings.
And we are sure that when you are hungry, you wouldn’t stop at one slice. To undo one slice of pizza, you need to plan a 90-minute long walk at 3.5 mph or 43 minutes of slow running at 5mph. It’s like engaging in household cleaning work for roughly 2 hours!
So pizza can be unhealthy? Yes! However, you can enjoy a couple of slices once in a while as long as you follow a good exercise routine. Preferably, order a pizza with lots of veggies, thin crust, lean meat such as chicken, and a limited amount of cheese.
4. French Fries
White potatoes are very healthy. However, the same cannot be said of the products that are made from them, such as French fries!
A staple in many American homes, the simple French fry is a tasty side dish that can help you to feel full. However, calories add up quickly when eating fried foods. Deep frying french fries makes them very high in fat, and a high-fat diet increases your risk of becoming overweight.
And more often than not, you’re adding a side of fries to a usually already hefty sandwich or burger. That burger and fries meal alone could rack up more than a thousand calories!
Now let’s talk about French fries calories and nutrition profile. A medium french fries contains about 380 calories. To burn these off, you may need to plan for about 40 minutes of cardio, 50 minutes of biking, or 98 minutes of walking. Alternatively, 40 minutes of vigorous swimming or 64 minutes of weightlifting will also help you get rid of those extra calories!
You oftentimes find yourself dunking your doughnut into a cup of hot, steaming coffee. Most of us love that!
It’s true that a doughnut will give you energy. However, it is loaded with sugar and trans fat, which aren’t good for your heart or your waistline. The approximately 24.6 grams of carbohydrates in a medium-sized doughnut don’t contribute much to your health.
While the occasional doughnut isn’t likely to hurt you, regularly making them as part of your diet might. The average doughnut contains between 200 and 350 calories, which averages out to about one-tenth or more of your total calorie limit for the entire day.
You’re doing well if your doughnut only contains about 9 grams of sugar, such as the average cake doughnut. Otherwise, you would have to swim for about 35 minutes, walk for 54 minutes, or attend an hour-long yoga class to burn those calories off!. This could also mean hours in the gym depending on the intensity of your workout session.
6. Slice of Cheesecake
A slice of cheesecake roughly contains 257 calories. In fact, the cheesecake part is made from a ‘soft cheese’ such as mascarpone, or cream cheese which is between 30-50% fat, softened with some double cream that is about 54% fat.
On that note, it’s one of the naughtiest desserts ever existed. A generous slice of cheesecake can set you back nearly a thousand calories (nearly half of an average man’s daily caloric intake, and around half of a woman’s), and an unhealthy slab of your fat and saturated fat intake for the day. Some particularly decadent cheesecakes can contain your whole suggested caloric intake for the day!
To burn the calories off, you may need to work out by doing 24 minutes of running, 13 minutes of jumping rope, 25 minutes of CrossFit burpees, OR 37 minutes of walking at an average pace!
7. Ice Cream
Ice cream is made by churning and chilling a mixture containing high-fat milk or cream, fructose or glucose-based sweeteners, usually in the form of corn syrup, and flavorings such as vanilla or chocolate.
On that note, it has a pretty substantial downside. Between those high sugar and fat contents and an ingredient that can cause potentially fatal gastrointestinal issues, this sweet treat should be enjoyed only in moderation.
A single 100g scoop of ice cream will weigh in at 130 to 250 calories depending on how creamy it is. Like all dairy products, ice cream is also high in fat. A 1/2-cup serving of a leading brand of the most widely consumed flavor of ice cream, vanilla, contains 9 grams of fat.
Approximately speaking, you will be needing 22 minutes of jogging or 41 minutes of squats to burn off 170 calories of normal ice cream. But ice cream with higher calories such as a magnum (244 calories), 32 minutes of jogging, 57 minutes of squats or 57 minutes of push-ups can say goodbye to those calories.
8. Unhealthy chips
While some junk food can be enjoyed in small amounts, we know we can’t eat just one chip! As such, it’s best to steer clear. Some packaged chips and other salty snacks contain a significant amount of trans fats, plus they’re often packed with too much-saturated fat, salt, and sugar.
As Boston-based nutritionist Laura Hartung says, “Most chips offer little to no nutritional value and are basically fried carbs full of fat with a little added salt.”
Each type of chip has a different number of calories — in general, though, potato and corn chips have a high caloric content. A typical single-serving bag of salted potato chips (2oz) contains about 310 calories while the same size bag of white corn chips contains about 276 calories.
For instance, 31 minutes of walking or 16 minutes of running will help you burn off 171 calories of potato chips.
Conversely, if you continually munch on unhealthy chips without working out, you’ll be stuck with those extra calories in the form of accumulated fat on your body.
Tempting unhealthy snacks can be found everywhere these days and in ever-growing portions. Some of these snacks are much higher in calories, refined carbs, processed oils and other unhealthy ingredients than their alternatives.
The good news is that contrary to what many of us assume, the trick to eating right is not learning to resist temptation. It’s making healthy eating the easiest possible option.
Knowing exactly how much exercise is required to burn off a slice of cheesecake or a chocolate bar will support you in making healthier choices. This eye-opener will induce you to re-think and reconsider your love for unhealthy food.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t ever indulge. A mouthful of joy every now and then is pretty good for the soul. Simply, this is a reminder to use moderation and a little help to live your healthiest life— a balanced diet and exercise are key when striving for it.
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