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Empty Calories: What They Are and Why They Are Bad for You

Your cafeteria, vending machine, snack drawer or pantry may be riddled with empty calories. Empty calories can be found in many popular beverages, snacks and food items that may be staples in your diet. So just what are empty calories?

Calories primarily made up of solid fats and/or added sugars can be called "empty calories'. Foods with empty calories can add to your overall caloric intake but offer little to no nutritional value. Learning about what foods contain solid fats and added sugars may help you make smart diet choices in the future.

Solid fats
Solid fats retain their shape even at room temperature. You can find solid fats in foods naturally, but some recipes and processed foods add extra for flavor. Some examples of solid fats are butter and shortening.

Added sugars
Sugar is naturally found in certain foods, but having an excess may not be good for you. Added sugars in recipes and processed foods can be detrimental to your diet. Some examples of added sugars are corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup and sugar.

Both solid fats and added sugars are used to enhance overall food flavor, but they add a ton of calories which may negatively affect your weight loss efforts. What are some examples of foods with empty calories? Cakes, cookies, pastries, sodas, cheese, pizza, sports drinks, ice cream, hot dogs and bacon, all contain empty calories.

Thankfully, some foods with an excess of solid fats or added sugars have lower-calorie options. For example, drinking non-fat milk instead of whole milk can be a great way to get calcium and other nutrients without extra fat and calories. Preparing protein-rich, skinless baked chicken can also be a far better option than fried chicken — which is loaded with empty calories.

Avoiding empty calories when possible can help promote better overall health. Now that you may have a better understanding of empty calories, you may be able to make smarter food choices on your own!

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