What Are Empty Calories?

Updated: Jun 19

Examples of “Empty Calorie” foods:

  • French fries, fried chicken, chips and all other deep-fried foods. A large order of fries from a fast food chain can contain up to 570 calories with a whopping 30 grams of total fat!

  • Candy, soda, and other sweetened packaged foods. A 12 oz can of soda contains about 130 calories as well as additives and colorings. Heaps of calories from sugar, but no micronutrients.

  • Beer, wine, and all other alcoholic beverages. A can of beer contains about 150 calories from sugar and not much of anything else. In addition, calories from alcohol tend to be stored as fat in the abdomen (leading to a “beer belly”).

  • Refined grains such as crackers, cookies, white rice and white bread.

How to avoid “Empty Calories”

  • Avoid deep-fried foods. Instead of deep-frying use other methods of cooking. Consider buying a large capacity air fryer - with just a light spritz of avocado or olive oil you will get that crispy texture you desire. You can also bake, roast, or grill. Swap traditional French fries with a baked potato with skin or air-fried potato "fries."

  • Avoid sweetened drinks and canned drinks, such as fruit punch.

  • Try whole grains instead of refined grains. Whole grains are packed with beneficial fiber and antioxidants. Try a slice of whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Have a bowl of steel cut or unsweetened oatmeal instead of croissants, pastries, cornflakes, and sugary cereals.

  • Snack on fruits and veggies! Instead of grabbing a sleeve of cookies or bag of chips in the mid-afternoon, snack on fresh fruit or veggies. Try dipping berries in low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt to get additional calcium and protein. Apple or pear slices with almond butter or raw veggies with hummus will give you energy and keep your hunger under control so you are not ravenous at dinner time.

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