If your usual day starts with having a bowl of cereal for breakfast, or carrying a bag of chips on your way to work, or even gulping a hot dog, or burger quickly for lunch – you might be consuming a diet full of empty calories. As the name suggests, empty calories come from foods or beverages that are packed with calories but lack the primary nutrients a body needs to function.
Get your basics right!
The much-loved snacks and desserts we relish every now and then are at the top of the list of food that gives us empty calories, be it cookies, cakes, chips, fries, junk food, or aerated drinks. Apart from gaining weight, they lead to several chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart problems.
Celebrity nutritionist and food coach Ryan Fernando explains, “Anything that comes in a packet is not coming from nature, which means it has no nutritive value in it. Processed food is usually manipulated and designed to work on your taste buds, and holds little to no nutrition within.”
Longevity of a human cell depends on the intake of energy as well as iron, vitamins and minerals, however, if one solely consumes empty calories, the structure of the cell gets disrupted. “Whenever hunger hits you, it is better to look for items which are as close to nature as possible, with no added sugar,” Ryan adds. For instance, replace biscuits and chips with bananas, nature’s best source of carbohydrates.
Reading labels is another necessary factor to cut down empty calories. Every time you buy a packaged food item, it is wise to read the label of nutrients first to examine its nutritive value. “Do not consume any food containing more than 100 calories,” Ryan shares. Even the products which are positioned as healthy – packaged fruit juices, snack bars or breakfast cereals, are in fact a clever bait of the food industry serving you empty calories.
“One has to consciously start recognising the empty calories we consume everyday, and replace them with healthier alternatives like dates, fruits, smoothies, etc. If you’re in the mood for some munching, home-made snacks like banana chips and chakri are better than store-bought chips. Snacks made from farali flours like rajgira or sama are the best options. I disagree with the statement that healthy food cannot be tasty. In fact, it can be super delicious by picking out the right ingredients,” says Karishma Shah, Integrative Health Nutritionist & Holistic Life Coach.
Cut down logistically
- Do not let your empty calorie dependence daunt you. A logistical and conscious effort goes a long way.
- Pick your meals depending on what you would potentially do in the next 3 to 4 hours.
- If you’re looking to rest and enjoy some unwinding time, avoid high-calorie items or carbohydrate-rich food.
- Meals that precede higher physical activity can contain more carbohydrates comparatively.
Did you know?
A recent study of children and teens shows that added sugar and solid fats in their diet leads to more than 25 percent of their calories being empty. The top sources of empty calories were soft drinks, fruit drinks, cookies, pizza and ice cream.
Your ultimate healthy substitute guide
(As informed by Bangalore-based Nutrition Expert Silky Mahajan)
- Healthy breakfast like home cooked upma, poha, idli, etc. is essential to stay active and avoid food cravings
- Fill the plate with right protein sources like eggs, chicken, sprouts, and dal
- Fiber and vitamin rich colorful vegetables and fruit gives satiety for a long duration
- Carry your snacks to avoid unhealthy snacking
- Instead of soda/fruit milkshake/Cold coffee, go for unsweetened lemon-mint water/vegetable juices/tender coconut water
- Instead of ice-cream go for Greek yogurt with some natural fruits on top
- Switch chocolates/chips with unsalted nuts and seeds like almond, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.