What Are Empty Calories? (& How to Avoid Them)

By The Captain September 9, 2020

Wellness Captain Empty Calories Foods

One of the first things that comes to our mind when we hear the word ‘food’ is ‘calorie.’ Knowing how many calories you need daily, counting them and checking food labels is already common for most people.

But did you know that not all calories are the same?

Did you know that you can consume 1,200 calories per day and still gain weight or be unhealthy?

If this is the first time you hear about empty calories, this post is for you – and trust me, you need it.


What are empty calories?

A healthy, balanced diet means achieving your Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of nutrients through a variety of foods. If you know which foods are rich in nutrients, staying healthy within your recommended daily calorie intake is a piece of cake (so to speak!).

The essence is this:

A calorie can contain many nutrients, or it can contain nothing. It’s still a calorie.

Ever ate a bag of chips and still felt like you haven’t ate anything at all? That’s because it’s true! Empty calories are literally foods that offer you very little to no essential nutrients. An empty calorie has no vitamins or minerals that help your body thrive; instead, it has other tricks up its sleeve.

Foods with empty calories can create confusion between your brain and digestive system. Many of these foods can become addictive and may contain chemicals that enhance their flavor. However, these calories do have a superpower: to help you eat way more than you really need, thus leading to weight gain.


How to spot empty calories

Many people are eating plenty of empty calories throughout the day without even realizing it. Gladly, once you know about their existence, you can spot such foods in no time.

The first step? Reading the label.

Almost every food with empty calories contains added sugars and/or solid fats. Solid fats are those that remain solid even at room temperature. Added sugars can have many names, so make sure to check this list of 56 different names for sugar when reading a food label.

The most common empty calorie foods are:

  • Packaged cakes, donuts or cookies
  • Beverages (soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks)
  • Fast food (French fries, milkshakes, pizza)
  • Hard candy & candy bars

Generally, we’re talking about processed foods and packaged treats that are definitely appealing, but they can ruin your healthy lifestyle.


What to eat instead

If you’re used to eating empty calorie foods, you can always make a positive change by replacing them with healthier options. It might be a bit difficult at first especially if you’ve been eating processed foods in large quantities, but I promise you, it is so worth it!

Below, I’ll leave some valuable resources that can help you improve your eating habits in simple ways that are both affordable and tasty:


What empty-calorie food have you been eating recently? Let’s share our story in the comment section to help each other live a better, healthier life!

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Wellness Captain