Weatherford Democrat

March 29, 2014

EXTENSION NEWS: Empty calories

Weatherford Democrat


Many of the foods and beverages that we consume contain empty calories. These are calories that have almost no nutrients, but have calories. Most of these foods have solid fats and added sugars. Learning more about solid fats and sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are the fats that are solid at room temperature. These are fats such as butter, meat fat and shortening. Some of these fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when food is being processed by food manufacturers.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.

Solid fats and sugars can make food and drinks more appealing and satisfying, but they can also add more calories. The foods that provide the emptiest calories include:

• Cakes, cookies, pastries and dough nuts with solid fat and sugar.

• Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks that have added sugar.

• Cheese containing solid fat

• Pizza containing solid fat

• Ice cream with solid fat and added sugar.

• Sausages, frankfurters, bacon and ribs containing solid fat.

These foods and beverages are major sources of empty calories, but they can be found in forms with less sugar and fat. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat sausages can be purchased. You can also choose water, milk or sugar-free soda instead for beverages with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than the regular product.

In some foods such as most candies and sodas are all empty calorie foods. However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Here are some examples of food that provide nutrients.

Foods with some empty calories

-Sweetened applesauce

- Regular ground beef

- Fried chicken with skin

- Sugar-sweetened cereals

- Whole milk


Food with few or no empty calories

- Unsweetened applesauce

- Extra lean ground beef

- Baked chicken 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 what 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.