18 Empty Calorie Foods.

251726The other day, I referenced empty calories in a post – and I received a number of emails asking about the term.

The USDA defines empty calories as:

Calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories.

Solid fats are solid at room temperature like shortening, lard or butter. Added sugars are sugars or syrups that have been added to foods during preparation or processing.

In order to stay in a calorie balance and avoid weight gain, it’s important to stay within your daily calorie allowance. For example, many people may aim to eat 2,000 calories in a day. While this number may sound lofty, those calories can go fast; it’s important to get the vast majority of calories from foods that provide the essential nutrients our bodies need. Let’s spend our calories on foods that actually nourish us!

With all that in mind, here are 18 foods and beverages loaded with empty calories; these should be consumed sparingly. Empty calorie calculations provided by the USDA:

  1. Soda – 100% empty calories
  2. Fruit drinks – 100% empty calories
  3. Beer – 100% empty calories
  4. Cheddar cheese – 66% empty calories
  5. Frozen yogurt – 53% empty calories
  6. Ice cream – 76% empty calories
  7. Fried chicken – 80% empty calories
  8. Chocolate chip cookies – 68% empty calories
  9. Chocolate cake – 77% empty calories
  10. Fruit flavored low-fat yogurt – 61% empty calories
  11. Cinnamon sweet roll – 61% empty calories
  12. Onion rings – 58%
  13. Butter – 92% empty calories
  14. Margarine – 89% empty calories
  15. Frozen whipped topping – 92% empty calories
  16. Cream cheese – 88% empty calories
  17. Glazed doughnut – 67% empty calories
  18. Beef bologna – 57% empty calories

This list isn’t exhaustive – but you get the idea. In a nutshell, it’s all about replacing foods that are high in solid fats or added sugars with healthier options.

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Comments

  1. Does orange juice count as a “fruit drink”? I know it has a lot of sugar in it…

  2. Im assuming the fruit drinks you speak of here are the store bought kind. Fresh juiced fruit that you make at home through a juicer I assume would not be included. Is that correct?

  3. Would be cool to see some more healthy ways to fulfill the cravings for these. Or possible substitues.
    I like mashing up a ripe banana, adding a little peanut butter and freezing it. Tastes like ice cream, and totally satisfies that craving. Fresh fruit sorbet also does that and it’s so simple to make, fruit + touch of lime(or lemon) juice + food processor + freezer = sorbet.

  4. Okay, this just confused me.

    Whole wheat bread -1 slice (1 oz.)
    69 // 0
    White bread – 1 slice (1 oz.)
    69 // 0

    I remember one of your blog posts where you wrote about how whole wheat bread is always the better choice because of a much higher nutrional value compared to white bread. And now there seems to be no difference in empty calories?? Or are those values not connected at all? That on the other hand would make the data pretty meaningless.

    I also don’t understand the explanation for the alcoholic beverages:
    “* Calories from alcohol are not from solid fats or added sugars, but they count against your limit for empty calories”
    Why do they count against that?
    Hasn’t it been proven that beer – while obviously not your first healthy food choice – has nutritional value that is relatively high – at least for an alcoholic beverage?
    And now all alcohol is written of as 100% empty with no gradation at all?

    At least I think I can help Will out:
    the original source calls it “fruit flavored drink” – so I don’t think that includes 100% juice. But I would be interested about the empty calorie count for apple or orange juice too.

  5. Ugh, I feel so guilty now, I just ate about a cup of icecream.

  6. How are fruit drinks 100% empty calories?
    I’m sure they have some vitamins

  7. christopher says:

    how bout popcorn?empty calories?

  8. So is popcorn any good?

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