These days, so many dieters and weight watchers alike have become completely obsessed with “low-fat” and “low-calorie” products, oftentimes to a point where good nutrition no longer matters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen folks shun a 200-calorie portion of nuts, opting instead for a 100-calorie snack pack due to the calorie difference.
It’s important to understand that while such empty calorie foods may put some calorie credits in the bank, including them in your everyday diet can do you more harm than good over the long run.
What Exactly Are Empty Calorie Foods?
Empty calorie foods essentially refer to any and all calorie-containing foods (and beverages) that are low in or completely devoid of nutrients. These foods tend to be overly processed, high in trans fatty acids, loaded with added sugars and/or full of sodium. Among the laundry list of common empty calorie foods are candies, pastries, desserts, sugary cereals, processed meats, junk foods, soft drinks, and alcohol.
However, many “low-fat” and “low-calorie” foods masked as “healthy” can also be classified as “empty” including pretzels, fruit juice and flavored waters, baked chips, low-fat ice cream, fat-free salad dressings, and of course those 100-calorie snack packs.
The Real Problem with Empty Calorie Foods
Consuming empty calorie foods triggers the release of a powerful hunger-stimulating hormone called ghrelin. The presence of ghrelin suppresses fullness signals to your brain, which causes you to eat more. This can greatly sabotage your weight loss efforts and possibly even lead to weight gain. Furthermore, since empty-calorie foods don’t provide the nutrients your body needs for good health, your body will constantly ask for more food until your nutrient requirements are fulfilled.
Adding insult to injury, regularly taking in empty calorie foods can substantially increase your risk for numerous chronic diseases. This holds true regardless of whether your body weight is “normal”.
Good Nutrition is Ideal for Long-Term Weight Control
For weight loss, long-term weight control, and overall good health you must prioritize good nutrition over general calorie by incorporating a well balanced diet that’s rich in nutrient-dense whole foods. Such a diet is one that’s largely comprised of high-fiber whole grains, legumes (beans and peas), vegetables and fruits, healthy fats (nuts, avocado and vegetable oils), and lean protein (low-fat dairy, seafood, and skinless poultry).
Although many of these foods have relatively high calorie counts, eating this way will likely negate the need for calorie counting by boosting the body’s natural fat burning mechanisms. Good nutrition also helps to reduce cravings, curb hunger, and control appetite making it easy to eat less and lose weight.
While you may be able to create calorie deficits and lose weight with empty calorie foods, they serve no useful purpose in your diet. Despite any potential weight loss benefits, there are countless disadvantages associated with eating these foods; malnutrition and, ultimately, disease are at the top of the list.
Before you eat something, ask yourself one simple question: “How is this food nourishing my body?” If you don’t have an answer you probably don’t need to eat it.