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Boost Nutrition by Reducing Empty Calories

Reduce Empty Calories to Boost Nutrition

Our bodies rely on calories for fuel from the energy in the foods and drinks we consume. Foods and beverages can vary widely in their calorie and nutrient content. It is important to choose foods and drinks that provide enough nutrients without providing too many calories. Foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients are called empty calories.

Empty calories come from solid fat and added sugar. Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature and include butter, lard and shortening. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods and beverages during processing or preparation. Consuming excess empty calories can lead to obesity, which contributes to chronic health conditions including heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

Consuming a small amount of empty calories is acceptable, but most people consume far more than the recommended limit. The daily limit varies by age and gender. For females ages 31 to 50 the limit is 160 empty calories a day. For males ages 31 to 50 the limit is 265 empty calories a day. To put this in perspective, a bottle of soda has approximately 200 empty calories.

Reduce empty calories by following these tips:

• Eat whole or minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and brown rice.

• Pay close attention to portion sizes and read nutrition labels.

• Choose grilled, baked or steamed foods over the fried or breaded options.

• Limit products made with white flour including pastries, donuts or white bread. Choosing whole grain products in place of refined foods provides more nutrients for each calorie consumed.

• Drink sugar-free beverages. Water is a great choice that is readily accessible.

Bottom Line: Not all calories are created equally. Choose nutrient-dense foods to gain both the energy and nutrients that your body needs.

Written by: Christina Jung, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


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