Over-dressing Your Healthy Foods Adds a Ton of Extra Calories

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

These days, there are lots of options for “dressing-up” your favorite foods. Maybe you like creamy sauces, dressings, and dips – just to add a little extra taste. But be careful – you could be adding a ton of extra calories, fat, and sodium to your daily diet, without even realizing it.

Healthy Foods You May be Over-dressing

Baked Potato

A baked potato is a good, healthy accompaniment to any meal, right? Well, yes – as long as you stick to eating just the potato.

One medium baked potato has 168 calories, 0 fat, and 14 mg sodium. But, add a tablespoon each of sour cream and bacon bits, and that balloons to a total of 227 calories, 4 g fat, and 144 mg sodium!


Salad has a well-earned reputation as being a light, healthy meal – and if you’re using the right kind of dressing, it can be. But if you’re telling yourself a Caesar salad is a light lunch, you might want to think again.

Two cups of shredded romaine lettuce have only 16 calories, 0 fat, and 8 mg sodium. But, add 2 tablespoons of Caesar dressing (a conservative amount), and your salad now has 160 calories, a scary 17 g fat, and an incredible 325 mg sodium! Croutons can add almost another 50 calories, 2 g fat, and 124 mg sodium.


Pasta can be healthy, filling, and wholesome – especially if you choose a whole grain variety. But drown your pasta in alfredo sauce and you’ve added way more than just good taste.

One cup of whole wheat pasta has 176 calories, 1g fat, and 4mg sodium. But add a serving (1/4 cup) of alfredo sauce, and suddenly your pasta has 286 calories, 11 g fat, and 364 mg sodium! Topping it off with a tablespoon of parmesan cheese can add another 22 calories.


Air-popped popcorn is a really healthy snack – it’s whole grain, and a 3-cup serving has only 90 calories, 1 g fat, and 2 mg sodium. Oil-popped or microwave popcorns usually have double the calories.

If you pop your popcorn in oil, then cover it with 2 tbsp melted butter, your healthy snack ends up packing in 370 calories, 32 g fat, and a whopping 455 mg sodium. Wow!

The Bottom Line

Healthy foods are only healthy when they’re eaten in a sensible way. Covering a healthy meal or snack with calorie-heavy, fat-laden toppings and sauces turns it into an unhealthy choice. So think twice about what you add to your healthy foods.

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