Even if you don’t count calories, you probably have a good idea of how close you’re coming to the recommended weight maintenance levels—which, according to the USDA, is between 2,400 and 3,000 calories a day for men depending on how active they are.
But here’s the bummer news: It’s possible you could be way, way off from those estimates.
One major misstep comes from serving size, says food scientist Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D. Glancing at calorie count on a label could be misleading if you’re not doing the math on how much you’re actually eating, which can double or triple the amount of calories you think you’re taking in. Over time, that can easily lead to weight gain, Dubost says. Find out how blowing past the serving sizes might be blowing up your gut.
BREAKFAST: CEREAL, YOGURT, AND ORANGE JUICE
You start your day off with some fibre-rich cereal with yoghurt on the side for protein, and orange juice to wash it down with. But are you going overboard?
Cereal: A serving of granola is just 1/4 a cup, and that much Bear Naked V'nilla Almond Fit Granola will set you back just 120 calories. But if you’re just pouring it into a bowl, you’re probably doling out way more. A more realistic portion tends to be at least a cup, says Dubost, putting this at 480 calories. At least you’d probably still use the usual one-cup serving size of milk, which would add another 105 calories.
Yogurt: If you’re scooping from a container, you’re probably over-serving. One cup of Yoplait Peach Yoghurt at 210 calories is considered the serving size. But much like the granola, a cup can seem skimpy. Add in at least another half cup, and you’re at 315 calories.
Orange Juice: The serving size of some Tropicana is just 230ml, and will set you back 110 calories. But whose glasses at home are that small? If you’re pouring into a large glass, you could be giving yourself at least 350ml, bringing your juice total up to 165.
If you stick to the serving size: 545 calories
The real damage: 1,065 calories
SNACK: PEANUT BUTTER AND CRACKERS
Healthy fats plus whole grains can be a great combination—but they’re also super-easy to overeat.
Peanut butter: The standard serving size is 2 tablespoons, or 188 calories. But if you’re grabbing this as a snack, Dubost says you may end up tripling that amount, making it 564 calories.
Crackers: Eight Wheat Thins are the serving size, which will give you 140 calories. But if you’re not counting and simply double-fisting from the box? That can triple the amount—and the calories.
If you stick to the serving size: 328 calories
The real damage: 984 calories
LUNCH: TUNA SANDWICH AND WHOLE WHEAT WITH CHIPS
Making your own lunch can save you some cash, but if you’re not looking at the labels, it could be giving you a gut in return. Here’s how.
Bread: Ever notice that the serving size for lots of whole wheat breads is just one slice? Take Brownberry Whole Grains 100% Whole Wheat Bread: One slice will give you 100 calories, but who wants an open-faced sandwich? Add another piece of bread to complete your sandwich, and you’re looking at double the calories.
Cheese: A single slice of Sargento Sliced Smokehouse Cheddar Cheese will give you 70 calories, but if you want to cover all the bread, you’ll likely use two. The result? Again, twice the calories.
Tuna: Think the 5-ounce can is the serving size? Nope. A 150g can of Starkist Chunk Light Tuna in Oil is actually two servings, so you’re actually getting 160 calories for the entire can.
Mayo: A serving size of Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise is one tablespoon—90 calories—but if you’re just glopping it into your tuna before mixing it up, you’re probably using way more. Think more like three tablespoons for 270 calories.
Chips: The standard serving size on most labels is 30g—Lays is 160 calories for that amount—but Dubost says most people usually go above that if they’re not grabbing one of the small single-serving bags. Count on 90g for 480 calories.
Iced tea: Chances are, you’re not going to bring your drink to work even if you’ve packed your lunch. But take a look at the label at the store first. That 600ml bottle of AriZona Sweet Iced Tea actually contains 2.5 servings, making the whole thing clock in at 225 calories.
If you stick to the serving size: 590 calories
The real damage: 1,475 calories
SNACK: MIXED NUTS
A small pack of nuts—again, healthy fats—at the checkout line seems like the perfect snack to save for later. But even though it’s smaller than a family-size bag, it’s not one you should eat by yourself.
Mixed Nuts: Grabbing the 195g container of Planters Mixed Nuts with Sea Salt nuts may seem like a reasonable choice. But the bag actually lists 30g of nuts as the serving, meaning you’re taking in a whopping 1,105 calories if you mindlessly munch the whole thing.
If you stick to the serving size: 170 calories
The real damage: 1,105 calories
You’re starving after you hit the gym, and need a quick hit of protein. But reaching for that protein cookie isn’t as simple as you think.
Protein Cookie: This is a common type of grab-and-go workout snack, and is handy for tossing into a gym bag. But look more closely at that label. For instance, the serving size for Munk Pack Coconut White Chocolate Macadamia Cookie is half a cookie, for 190 calories. Who eats only half?
If you stick to the serving size: 190 calories
The real damage: 380 calories
DINNER: PIZZA AND A SALAD
You’re treating yourself to a pizza, but supplementing it with a salad for some extra nutrients, too. What can go wrong?
Pizza: The “personal size” Red Baron Singles Sausage Deep Dish Pizza are much smaller than demolishing an entire pie of delivery. But each package contains two pizzas—420 calories each. Are you really going to put one back in the freezer, or are you going to pop the two little suckers in the oven? So make that 840 calories.
Salad: To be clear, stocking up on extra lettuce isn’t going to be a problem here. Each cup has only 5 calories. But your dressing is another story. The servings size for Hidden Valley Simply Ranch is 2 tablespoons at 110 calories. But if you’re pouring it on there, you might double that amount—more like 4 tablespoons, says Dubost.
If you stick to the serving size: 530 calories
The real damage: 1,060 calories
DESSERT: “HEALTHY” ICE CREAM
You pick a “healthy,” dairy-free option because you think it’ll be easier on your gut. Not so—especially if you OD on it.
Ice cream: Think you can eat more of it because of the health halo? You’re be taking in a lot more calories than you assume. For instance, a pint of dairy-free SO Delicious Mocha Almond Fudge will set you back 180 calories for its 1/2 cup serving. But that whole pint has four servings, so if you polish it off in triumph, you’ll be looking at 720.
If you stick to the serving size: 180 calories
The real damage: 720 calories
HERE’S WHAT YOUR ENTIRE DAY CAN LOOK LIKE
If you stick to the serving size all day: 2,533 calories
The real damage all day: 6,789 calories
If you’re seeing an expanding waistline, or your weight doesn’t seem to change no matter how often you hit the gym, overconsumption could be the culprit. But a few small tweaks could make a big difference.
“Keep a food diary that includes details on what you eat,” advises Dubost. “Also, you may want to track the times that you eat so you can determine when your hunger cues are happening.”
Tracking your daily intake can not only assist in giving you insight into how many calories you’re consuming, but could also reveal that you’re eating when you’re bored or when food is available, instead of when you’re hungry.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.