HEALTHY FOOD: Unwelcome Empty Calories
Make better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef
US Department of Agriculture
December 06, 2011
Professor Edward Jones discusses a nutrition experiment with University students Tony Carney, Latisha Corey, and Karen Meyer
Currently, many of the foods and beverages we eat and drink contain empty calories – 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. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.
Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared.
Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.
Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:
● Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts contain both solid fat and added sugars
● Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks contain added sugars
● Cheese contains solid fat
● Pizza contains solid fat
● Ice cream contains both solid fat and added sugars
● Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs contain solid fat
However other foods do provide nutrients but can be found in forms either with or without empty calories:
● Sweetened applesauce
● Regular ground beef, 25% fat
● Fried chicken legs with skin
● Sugar-sweetened cereals
● Whole milk
● Unsweetened applesauce
● Extra lean ground beef, 10% fat or less
● Baked chicken breast without skin
● Unsweetened cereals
● Fat-free milk
Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.
A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy. It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.
US Department of Agriculture www.choosemyplate.gov