Calories. People eat them, count them, and usually try to burn them. Most people know you should restrict your daily intake of calories, but what about empty calories?
What are empty calories?
Empty calories are those you consume by eating unhealthy fats and sugars, or foods that contain little to no nutritional value. These foods won’t give you the extended energy you need to fuel your body. When you eat more calories than your body needs, those calories are stored as fat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 40 percent of children’s total energy comes from empty calories, although doctors suggest that only 8-20 percent of kids’ calories should come from these foods.
Empty calories contribute significantly to unhealthy weight gain and childhood obesity in America. So what foods should you and your family stay away from to reduce your intake of empty calories?
- Sweetened beverages. Soda, sweet tea, and sports drinks
- Solid fats, including butter, animal fat, and heavy cream
- Cakes, cookies, and pastries
- Hard candy and candy bars
- Heavily processed foods found in grocery stores and fast food restaurants
The good news is there are a lot of healthy alternatives:
- Spice up your water. Instead of grabbing a soda, add fresh lemon, lime, or cucumber
- Don’t keep sugary drinks or food in your house; keep fresh fruits and vegetables for healthy snacks
- Eat baked or grilled meats instead of fried foods
- Switch to low-fat or fat-free milk instead of whole
- Eat plain yogurt with fruit instead of artificially sweetened flavors
- Choose no-sugar-added cereals
Although we know cutting empty calories out of your diet is crucial, it can be a hard adjustment for you and your family. Moderation is key: Mayo Clinic suggests trying to consume 75 fewer calories or fewer empty calories per day.
Cutting empty calories out of your diet, along with regular exercise, is a great way to lose weight, feel energized, and support your mental and emotional health. Start with these tips on cutting empty calories. You will not only see a difference, you will feel it too!