Empty calories can be found in many popular beverages, snacks and food items that may be staples in your diet. So just what are empty calories?
Calories primarily made up of solid fats and/or added sugars can be called “empty calories’. Foods with empty calories can add to your overall caloric intake but offer little to no nutritional value. Learning about what foods contain solid fats and added sugars may help you make smart diet choices in the future.
Solid fats – Solid fats retain their shape even at room temperature. You can find solid fats in foods naturally, but some recipes and processed foods add extra for flavor. Some examples of solid fats are butter and shortening.
The list of solid fats includes: pork fat or lard, chicken fat, butter, stick margarine, shortening, cream, milk fat, palm and kernel oils, coconut oil, partially and hydrogenated oils.
Added sugars – Sugar is naturally found in certain foods, but having an excess may not be good for you. Added sugars in recipes and processed foods can be detrimental to your diet. Some examples of added sugars are corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup and sugar.
Both solid fats and added sugars are used to enhance overall food flavor, but they add a ton of calories which may negatively affect your weight loss efforts. What are some examples of foods with empty calories? Cakes, cookies, pastries, sodas, cheese, pizza, sports drinks, ice cream, hot dogs and bacon, all contain empty calories.
How many Calories / Empty Calories can I have?
Your body needs a certain amount of calories in order to function and provide energy for physical activities. The recommended limit for empty calories is based on the individual calories needs of each person contingent upon age, gender, and level of physical activity they regularly engage in. Naturally, the more physically active a person is; the more calories they need and have an increased limit for empty calories.
As a bench mark, females who exercise less than 30 minutes a day and are 19-30 years old need about 2000 calories (260 empty calories), 31-50 years: 1800 calories (160 empty calories), 51+ years: 1600 calories (120 empty calories).
As a bench mark, men who exercise less than 30 minutes a day and are 19-30 years old need about 2400 calories (330 empty calories), 31-50 years: 2200 calories (265 empty calories), 51+ years: 2000 (260 empty calories).
Quick tips for avoiding empty calories
Dieting is hard. But avoiding “empty” calories helps you reach a healthy weight without feeling like you’re dieting. Choose foods that have lots of nutrients. Look for foods that are high in:
– Fiber. It’s found in beans and peas. It’s also in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
– Potassium . It’s in potatoes and bananas as well as other fruits, vegetables, and milk products.
– Calcium . It’s in milk and milk products (including yogurt and cheese). It’s also in certain leafy green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale), beans and peas, and some nuts.
– Vitamin D . You can find it in egg yolks, liver, saltwater fish, and vitamin D-fortified dairy products.
– Magnesium . Sources include nuts, whole grains, dark green vegetables, seafood, and cocoa.
Avoiding empty calories when possible can help promote better overall health. Now that you may have a better understanding of empty calories, you may be able to make smarter food choices on your own!