Beware These Empty Calories!
10 foods that can pile on the pounds
Soda, candy, chips...what do they all have in common? They are all top sources
of what many dietitians refer to as "empty calories."
The American Heritage College dictionary defines "empty" as
"holding or containing nothing." And for all the calories these foods
add to your diet, they bring along almost nothing else for your body -- very
little vitamins or minerals, very little fiber or phytochemicals.
There are basically two empty-calorie culprits in our diets:
- Anything with lots of sugar or other sweeteners
- Anything with lots of fat and oil
Culprit #1: Anything with Lots of Sugar or Other Sweeteners
There's no way to sugarcoat the truth -- Americans are eating more sugar
than ever before. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill determined that, on average, Americans are consuming 83 more calories per
day from caloric sweeteners than they did in 1977. And those extra 83 calories
a day turn into a whopping 2,490 calories per month.
To what items do we point the finger as the primary cause of these extra
calories? Shockingly, it's not even food we eat -- these added calories come
mainly from soft drinks and fruit drinks.
The latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Continuing Survey
of Food Intakes by Individuals lists the top five food categories that
contribute added sugar to women's diets as:
|Food||Average number of teaspoons of sugar (or equivalent) per
|1. Soda and sweetened beverages (mostly carbonated soft drinks, but also
includes fruit "drinks" and "ades" and bottled iced teas).||9 teaspoons per 12-ounce serving of soda; 12 teaspoons per 12-ounce serving
of fruit drink or ade.|
|2. Cakes, cookies, pastries, and pies.||6 teaspoons in 1/16 of a pie or frosted cake.|
|3. Sugar or sugar substitute blends such as syrups, honey, molasses, and
sweet toppings.||3 teaspoons per tablespoon of syrup or honey.|
|4. Candy.||3 teaspoons per 1-ounce chocolate bar.|
|5. Frozen milk desserts (includes ice cream and frozen yogurt).||3 teaspoons per 1/2 cup.|
So, besides staying away from soda, be sure to watch for sneaky sugar
calories from these items:
- Other sweetened drinks. Lemonades, sports drinks, and fruit
- Fancy coffee and tea drinks (hot or cold). These can be loaded with
sugar calories. A 9.5-ounce bottled coffee drink contains around 190 calories
and almost 8 teaspoons of sugar.
- Snack cakes, pastries, and breakfast/cereal bars. Toaster pastries,
granola bars, and breakfast bars fall into this category. One little toaster
pastry has around 200 calories and almost 5 teaspoons of sugar. A 4-ounce
supermarket blueberry muffin can contain about 420 calories and more than 8
teaspoons of sugar.
- Sweetened hot and cold cereals. Check out the labels before you buy
your breakfast cereals, because they list the grams of added sugar per serving.
A packet of flavored instant oatmeal contains around 150 calories and around 4
teaspoons of sugar! Sugar is usually the second ingredient listed in the
- Condiments. Pancake syrup and even catsup can add on the sugar
calories if you are heavy handed. A 1/4-cup serving of pancake syrup has about
210 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/4-cup of catsup contains around
60 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar!