What Are Empty Calories? How Many Can I Have?

If you plan to live a healthy life, learning about empty calories is crucial for you! This article contains answers to what are empty calories and how many can I have

There is a reason why your health trainer or nutritionist doesn’t want you to have empty calories, and it is because empty calories come at a high price – deteriorating health. 

Yes, these calories are so unhealthy that not only do they add unwanted fat to your body without nutrients, but they also are one of the causes that generate various illnesses there. 

what are empty calories

Thus, it is essential to learn everything about empty calories and how many you should have to live a healthy and happy life. 

What are empty calories?

Empty calories are calories that do not have any nutritional value; they lack vitamins and minerals that our body needs to grow and function. For those who don’t know, a calorie is a unit of energy responsible for determining how much energy your body needs to have a particular food or beverage. 

If you take in more calories than your body needs daily and do not burn them via exercise/fasting/work/other methods, you will end up gaining weight. If you have empty calories, you will gain a lot of weight and give rise to many health problems and illnesses.

Thus, it is essential to know about the empty calories and take the necessary steps to keep them away from your body. 

How to identify food with empty calories?

The first step to stop taking empty calories is to check the label of the packaged product you are about to buy. The next step is to look for added sugar, solid fats and certain processed oils. 

There are two types of food with empty calories – 

  • Any food with lots of sugar or other sweeteners
  • Any food with lots of fat and oil 

Let’s discuss the same in detail.

Nutritionists often use the term SoFas to describe Solid Fats and Added Sugars or discretionary calories to alert their clients about the intake of empty calories.

what are empty calories

Solid fats are the type of fat that stays solid even at room temperature. These products contain the most saturated fats. Some examples of solid fats include butter, beef fat, and trans fats (liquid fats that have been manufactured). 

Added sugar are sweeteners that are artificially added to food during manufacturing. Some examples of the same are sodas, pasta sauce, candies, etc. Remember, some sugars naturally occur in the food itself, including fruits, which aren’t empty calories. 

Common examples of foods with empty calories include cakes, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, candies, ice cream, cupcakes, muffins, spaghetti sauce, packaged oatmeal, ketchup, soda, pizza, sausages, fruit drinks, cheese (contains solid fat), etc. 

Thus, you should be aware of many everyday items to learn what contains empty calories and what doesn’t. It will take you a bit of time to learn it initially, but with time, you won’t even have to look at the label to understand the same. 

How many empty calories can you have?

It is a good thing that the U.S Food and Drug Administration (USDA) has set standards for the number of empty calories one can consume each day. 

  • Children (2–8 years old): 120 calories per day
  • Children (9–13 years old): 120–250 calories per day 
  • Girls (14–18 years old): 120–250 calories per day
  • Boys (14–18 years old): 160–330 calories per day
  • Adult women: 120–250 calories per day
  • Mature men: 160–330 calories per day

The limit to calorie intake is decided based on age and gender group. However, everyone has different body types and burns calories at a different rate. 

For example, someone who works out regularly will burn more calories than someone who isn’t physically active. Thus, it is essential to learn about your calorie intake and limit it. 

what are empty calories

What makes empty calories bad for your body?

USDA has also estimated that 90% of Americans consume too many empty calories. The sad part is that it is straightforward to consume empty calories and gain unhealthy body weight over time. If you are not aware of your daily intake, it will be a problem in the long term. 

Also, someone who relies on empty calories as their food fails to consume essential minerals and vitamins, along with fiber, protein, essential fatty acid, and more – their lack in the body, with time, can lead to serious health issues that affect your mental functioning as well. 

How to avoid empty calories?

You can avoid empty calories by replacing them with healthy food. However, to reach the stage of eating healthy, you will need a bit of motivation. Thus, here are some recommendations to avoid empty calories and switch to a healthy lifestyle. 

Identifying the food

You must constantly remind yourself to read the labels before buying food. What you are looking for is solid fats and added sugar. Knowledge is power, and you must learn to look at the sections apart from the highlighted ones because this is where the solid fats and sugar is! 

From baked goods to manufactured cheese, everything has it. Learn to avoid buying them no matter what!

Eat plant-based foods

You must remind yourself to have a plant-based diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and intentionally replaces the packaged and processed products with it. You might not enjoy it initially; your body might even rebel against it but keep it going, and in 7 days, you feel the difference!

what are empty calories

Avoid going to fast food joints

Yes, most restaurants and food joints use poor quality processed oil in their food and preservatives. They are, after all, running a business and your health is the least of their concerns! Thus, it is best to avoid going there and take better care of your body. 

Make the right choice

Remind yourself that the primary purpose of empty calories is to give you pleasure, not health. While your priority should constantly be consuming organic food with healthy calories, you should also not wholly avoid empty calories. 

Your taste buds deserve some fun too, and thus, you must also indulge in delicious food from time to time, but always remain in control of the calorie intake, always!

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