You may have heard the term empty calories before, but have you ever though about what it really means? Empty calories refers to food that have low nutritional value. They are often high in added sugars and unhealthy saturated fats, but low in fibre, minerals and vitamins. We all know that eating too much food that’s high in fats and sugars can cause us to pile on the pounds, but even if you aren’t gaining weight, if you are consuming a lot of empty calories, your diet may still be unhealthy.
The most common empty calorie foods are often referred to as junk foods. These include
- pastries, cakes, and doughnuts
- cookies and biscuits
- sausages, hot dogs and bacon
- ice cream
- energy drinks, soda, fruit drinks with added sugar
Obviously there’s nothing wrong with enjoying any of these foods once in a while. It’s when they form the main part of your diet that you run the risk of health problems.
The opposite of empty calories is nutrient-dense foods. Unsurprisingly, these are foods that contain a high level of vitamins, minerals and fibre per calorie. Well-known nutrient dense ‘superfoods’ such as salmon, sweet potatoes, kale and blueberries are often discussed in the media, but on a more general level they include:
- many fruits and vegetables, including garlic and seaweed
- nuts and seeds
- proteins such as shellfish, liver or lean chicken
- beans and whole grains
Other foods, such as avocados and dried fruit, are both nutrient-dense and high in calories, so as long as you watch your potion sizes are great additions to a healthy diet. Finally, don’t forget that dark chocolate (containing 70% or more cocoa), in small quantities, is one of the mostr nutritious foods you can eat – just don’t overdo it!
You can find out more about empty calories by visiting this page on our companion website.