What are empty calories?

In recent years more and more people are beginning to put their health first and become more conscious about how many calories they consume each day. Although we may have a daily recommended limit of calories to stick to in order to maintain weight, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all calories are equal as long as they’re within the limit. Good health is all about consuming the right type of calories and not simply just eating junk food in smaller quantities.
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All calories give us energy, regardless of whether that source of energy is from a banana or double chocolate brownie. The difference is that whilst both foods give us energy, only one might contain vital nutrients the body needs in order to maintain good health.
Empty calories are considered to be void of nutritional value and are primarily made up of solid fats and added sugars. These types of foods can easily lead to weight gain if they’re consumed too regularly: pies, cakes and biscuits are all examples of foods which contain empty calories. But it isn’t just foods; unhealthy drinks like alcohol, sweetened fruit drinks and sugary fizzy pop too are essentially just empty calories with little to no nutritional value.

Solid fats and added sugars

It’s no lie that solid fats and added sugars can work towards enhancing the flavour of certain foods. Consumed in moderation and from a natural source the above does not cause us any harm and can actually contribute towards better health. A typical banana contains around 12g a sugar, the same amount found in a small chocolate bar; however the former is nutrient dense, containing large quantities of potassium and dietary fibre.
Similarly an oily fish such as salmon, as well as being a great source of protein is quite high in fat, however contains predominantly omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to healthy brain function and general wellbeing. The same volume of fat could be found in a portion of fried chicken but contains none of the same benefits.

Making the right choices

If you’re worried about consuming too many empty calories try and stick with as many fresh fruits, vegetables and sources of protein as possible. Eating more fresh veg and healthy protein such as colourful salads, skinless chicken and a handful of unsalted nuts will ensure you’re getting all the right nutrients from your food, whilst avoiding refined sugar and solid fats in the process.
Moderation is key and snacking on empty calories once in a while is fine, just remember to keep active and not consume more energy than you need each day.
If you’re stuck for ideas, check out these easy salad recipes to get you started on your way to a healthier and happier body.