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Health & Wellness

Foods that fool you: How to turn calorie-heavy snacks into guilt-free treats

When it comes to eating, we’re all searching for the perfect choice that’s tasty, nutrient rich, and calorie controlled. And it’s often confusing with terms that often sound healthy, but might not be.

Descriptions like “reduced fat”, “gluten free”, “high in protein”, “natural” and loads of others can often get even the most dedicated eater off track, particularly when it comes to counting calories.

RELATED: Afternoon slump? 5 energy-boosting snacks your metabolism will love

These are common snacks: Some are calorie-heavy and we offer ways to turn them into lower-cal treats —others are treats you can enjoy, guilt free!

Baked pita chips (15) with ½ cup of hummus

The portion size for hummus and pita chips. Don't eat too much!

415 calories

Baked and regular chips have similar calories per chip. And while hummus is a nutrient-rich dip, it’s more than 200 calories for a 1/2-cup serving.

Turn it into a treat

Try swapping out half the chips for raw veggies or mixing ¼ cup of finely chopped tomatoes with ¼ cup of hummus. All three options land you at around 200 calories.

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Try these 4 foods to boost your metabolism

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Try these 4 foods to boost your metabolism

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6 cups of popcorn (air-popped)

150 calories

Air popping boosts the volume without adding calories. Add some calorie-free flavors like sriracha, cinnamon, or garlic.

3 ounces of raw almonds

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The correct portion size for snacking on almonds.

480 calories

While rich in protein and heart-healthy oils, at nearly 500 calories, this serving provides the calories of a meal.

Turn this into a treat

Choose a small handful — 1 ounce — with about 160 calories.

Chocolate dipped strawberries (4 extra large)

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The correct portion size for chocolate-dipped strawberries.

160 calories

One of the best calorie bargains around for an indulgent dessert. With only 40 calories per extra large strawberry, smaller ones weigh in at about 25 calories per berry.

10 asparagus with 2 tablespoons of Hollandaise sauce

160 calories

Using a full-fat sauce provides optimal flavor with a limited serving size for a vegetable indulgence. You can downsize the sauce further, to 1 tablespoon, and save an additional 60 calories.

RELATED: How to lose weight: 7 tips that take 5 minutes or less

Low-carb cheesecake

600 calories

Cheesecake is mostly fat, and low carb only means it’s sugar free. That’s just a 100-calorie difference compared to regular cheesecake.

Turn this into a treat

Share a piece with three friends, for a 150-calorie dessert. Studies show it’s the first few bites that are the most satisfying!

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Best foods for flat abs

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Best foods for flat abs

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Raisins with reduced fat peanut butter

420 calories

Reduced fat peanut butter and the regular version have similar calories, spoon for spoon. And it’s easy to fill one celery stalk with one serving of peanut butter — two tablespoons. And no one eats just one!

Turn this into a treat

Cut the peanut butter amount in half. Use two tablespoons for at least two celery stalks, and sprinkle with raisins.

Champagne cocktail

The Stationery Studio

155 calories

With four ounces of champagne, and one ounce of cognac, even the added sugar cube only adds up to around 150 calories when you’re looking for a more festive drink for a special occasion.

Red pepper wedges with a half of a cup of guacamole

150 calories

Skipping the chips and dipping with vegetables give you an indulgent serving of guacamole with all of the taste, creaminess, and heart-healthy oils of the avocado. You can save an extra 50 calories by mixing ¼ cup salsa and ¼ cup guacamole to create an alternate version.

Madelyn Fernstrom is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor. She’s the author of "Don’t Eat This If You’re Taking That—The Hidden Risks of Mixing Food and Medicine."

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