The sweet teenage girl that babysits my kiddos once asked me to help her lose some weight and learn healthy eating habits. To get an idea of what her diet currently looks like, I asked her for a breakdown of what she typically eats. When she told me she has a couple sodas and glasses of juice every day, I looked at her sweetly and said to myself, Oh honey, no, no and no!
The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) warns that many of the foods and beverages that Americans consume contain empty calories. Empty calories are solid fats and sugars that offer us few to no nutrients, but jack up the calorie content of the product that they are in.
What is the difference between empty calorie foods and foods that contain empty calories?
I explained to my babysitter that fruit drinks and sodas are considered an empty calorie food. These beverages, along with other products like sports drinks, energy drinks, baked goods and candy, offer nearly no nutritional benefits at all. They aren’t doing your body one bit of good. An average soda can contain 300 calories in its small 12 fluid ounces. My entire LUNCH is usually 300 calories. Would you rather drink a soda, or eat a whole satisfying meal?
Some foods naturally contain sugar and solid fats, but shouldn’t be totally eliminated from your diet. For example, whole milk contains solid fats. For young tots (2 and under) this solid fat is vital to their growth and brain development, but as an adult you are better off switching to the low-fat or fat-free version.
Going along with dairy theme, cheese is another food that contains empty calories with the solid fat. By simply switching to their lighter versions, you can save tons of calories and fat, all while reaping the health benefits of protein and nutrients.
Look for solid fat and high calorie alternatives
I know that sometimes on the run (or at the movies!) nothing satisfies like a chocolate bar and a cold soda. So read labels and find your way around the empty calories. There are some great protein bars available that are low carb, low sugar, nutritionally packed and delish!
The chocolate yumminess satisfies my sweet tooth, and I 100% feel like I’m cheating and indulging. For your beverage, there so many different varieties of sugar-free sodas that you don’t even have to do the “diet” version (Pepsi products Max or Zero, for example).
If you enjoy apple juice, don’t purchase the sugar-infused, store-bottled version. Instead, grab some apples and juice it up yourself at home.
By simply switching to “no sugar added” packaged food, you can save yourself tons of bogus calories. Many companies have perfected their no sugar added products, like syrup and spreadable jam, so you can’t hardly tell the difference between them and their empty calorie counterparts!