Empty calories; there are a lot of sources. People can choose to limit or completely eliminate the foods and drinks from their daily diets to stay healthy and maintain their ideal weight range.
Helping the children limit their intake of empty calories can make them healthy, even on the long-term basis. It can help in stabilizing their energy and reduce their mood swings.
Avoiding the intake of empty calories is a great step towards a healthier and nutritious lifestyle.
What are Calories?
Calories are used as the units of energy. Scientifically speaking, a calorie is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.
From a scientific point of view, it is actually a kilogram calorie (kCal) and is a unit of energy that is made up of small calories which are used to measure the total energy content in a food item.
Calories are essential for your diet. The body needs to burn them in order to perform simple tasks such as blinking or breathing. When you start performing the exercise, the demand for energy gradually increases.
The amount of calories required by every individual varies from person to person. Most of the time, the caloric requirement is around 2000 calories every day. However, this number may get lower or higher depending on the habits and lifestyle of an individual.
A registered dietitian can determine the ideal caloric intake of a person depending on his age, metabolism, sex, activity level, and height.
What are Empty Calories?
Empty calories are particularly found in foods with high caloric value but the minimal nutritional value at the same time.
This means that your body will still be able to extract energy from such foods but will not get the minerals and nutrients required to stay healthy. Any leftover calories from such foods will be stored in the body as fat.
Empty calories are divided into three main categories:
- Solid fat
Refined or highly processed foods are some of the most common sources of empty calories. Such foods consist of a high amount of sugar and fat along with other carbohydrates. Fast foods, sweets, and processed snacks are mainly included in it.
Being one of the commonest types of empty calories, sugar is found in:
- Baked goods
- Fruit drinks
- Soft drinks
- Fast food
- Processed food
- Dairy items
Adding sugar to your diet provides your body with energy but does not bring in any nutrients. This means that the calories provided by sugar are either used up or stored inside the body as fat.
A lot of fats are considered as empty calories as they provide minimal nutrients to the body.
Empty calories are typically found in fats which are solid at room temperature. They are also referred to as saturated fats. These include butter, vegetable shortening, and margarine. However, certain healthy fats like polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are not included in it.
Fats that include empty calories are found in:
- Cookies and biscuits
- Crackers and chips
- Pies and cakes
- Whole milk
- Fast foods
- Processed meat such as bacon, hot dogs, and hamburgers
Healthy fats are indeed an important part of a balanced diet. They include nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil.
However, eating too much fat, mostly trans and unsaturated fat, can provide your body with unnecessary calories with no building blocks important for the sustenance of life.
It is common to think that most of the empty calories are found in sweets and processed foods. However, these calories can also be obtained via alcoholic drinks.
Beer is an alcoholic beverage that has a lot of carbohydrates and no other nutritive agent. This means that consuming beer will add empty calories to your body with no useful vitamin or mineral.
Mixed drugs such as fruit drinks or other drink mixes are high in sugar but do not have any other mineral or vitamin. In a similar way, wine also has a lot of empty calories.
How to Avoid Empty Calories
Limiting empty calories is not difficult. It can be achieved by changing your dietary pattern. Staying away from a heavily processed diet has made a lot of people lose weight or maintain a healthy one.
This is particularly important for children as switching to a real, nutritious diet will help them make nutritious diet in the future.
The elimination of empty calories begins with eating foods rich in nutrients. These food items provide your body with a lot of minerals and nutrients as compared to their total caloric value. Generally speaking, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, beans, and legumes are said to be dense with nutrients.
People who wish to cut out empty calories and start eating a healthy and nutritious diet must start following these steps.
Limit the Use of Processed Foods
For some individuals, limiting the intake of empty calories only requires cutting out processed foods from the diet. Packaged foods and other fast food that you normally eat are packed with empty calories are have no nutritional value.
A simple way to live a healthy life is to ensure that you do not eat processed foods and replace these food items with home-cooked meals. Planning what and how much to cook and eat at home can become a habit which can affect you positively in the long run.
Search for Nutrients
While you are shifting your food preferences, try adding more foods to your daily diet that are jam-packed with nutrients. This will help your body actually grow and become healthy in addition to just gaining calories for daily activities.
Look out for the following nutrients in everything you buy from the market:
- Amino acids
- Minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium
- Vitamins such as vitamin A, B, or C
Plan out your Meals in Advance
Planning your meals beforehand can really help you cut back on empty calories. You may not have spare time every day to cook for yourself but you can certainly take out one day per week to cook your lunch or dinner at home.
Also, look for healthy options for each meal as it can reduce unnecessary snacking and eating high-calorie foods.
Adjust your Drinking Habits
A lot of empty calories that your body receive every day come from drinks. Sweetened tea, coffee, fruit-based drinks, and soft drinks can add a large number of calories to your daily diet.
Replacing all the sugary, alcoholic beverages with plain water, unsweetened tea, or sparkling water can effectively reduce your daily intake of empty calories.
This also means that you have to adjust your daily intake of alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages every day can add a lot of calories to your diet.
Think of your Options for Snacks
If you are the type of person who cannot live without snacking in between meals, think of a healthy and nutritious snack ahead of time and buy it. If you can, it is better to prepare one at home.
In this way, if a hunger pang kicks in, your healthy snack is all set, ready to be eaten without providing any extra calorie to your body.
As far as the salty snacks are concerned, some salty nuts or home-baked vegetable chips are way better than the standard potato chips.