If a calorie falls into your mouth, does it make a difference? A bite of a mini candy bar here, and a taste there of a sample at the grocery store may not seem like much when you are eating, but do it enough and it adds up. You want to be careful not to taste test your way to weight gain, and consuming enough "empty" calories can contribute to that.
Contrary to the term, an empty calorie does not refer to a food that is low in calories, but a caloric food with very little nutritional value. For example, a breakfast fruit bar and a candy bar may have the same number of calories, but where the fruit bar contains fiber and some vitamins and minerals essential to good nutrition, the candy bar may be completely sugar. You could consume one or the other for the same amount of calories to burn, but in the end which is healthier for you? Which food will provide you with more energy and health benefits throughout the day? Which food will be processed better to feed your body valuable nutrients, and which food will be processed immediately into fat?
Some calories may be empty, but be assured they can be full of trouble.
Foods high in empty calories may include some daily staple, but often they are classified as "junk" foods:
Candy - Chocolate bars, hard candies, mints and gums
Soft drinks - Sodas, flavored drinks with a low percentage of juice as opposed to sugar content
White bread - Made with white flour, this starchy food has to be fortified to give the appearance of a healthy food
White rice - High in starch and natural sugars
Olios - Margarine, butter, shortening, and other spreads
Alcohol - Beer, wine, and hard liquors
Fast foods - Staples like hot dogs and burgers, French fries, fried chicken and other foods traditionally fried in fattening oils and olios
For a proper, nutritious diet, foods such as the ones listed above should be avoided or severely limited. To improve eating habits and consume calories that will prove beneficial to your body, make thoughtful replacements. For a sweet snack, enjoy some fruit instead of candy. Try a whole grain bread for your sandwich, long grain rice or a green vegetable as a side instead of white rice, and water instead of soda.
But what about spreads for your toast? Most jams and jellies could be considered empty calories as well for their high sugar contents. If you must have a spread, check labels to see what you are eating. A homemade apple butter may have more nutritional value than the squeezable bottle of grape jelly.
Such substitutions add up in the long run, and you just may find that as the empty calories go away, so will the fat.
Kathryn Lively writes for Compuslim, custom fit weight loss for everyone.