Come on, admit it, we all do it. Every now and then we sneak to the refrigerator for a little indulgence. And what is worse, when we are at a party, we find ourselves grazing on the parties’ little nibbles mindlessly. Whether we gravitate toward comfort food or a sip of our favorite brew, we can have a habit of working quite a few non-essential calories into our diets. These unnecessary treats are known typically as empty calories.
Empty calories are, as explained by nutritionist and One Minute Wellness Coach Deborah Enos, “calories that taste great but don’t do anything to ‘improve’ your health. For example: soda has calories that will fill you up but it doesn’t have any nutrients that your body can ‘pull out’ that will strengthen it or improve your health in anyway.”
In terms of effecting your diet, “empty calories are common ‘filler foods,'” says Enos, “meaning that they fill you up so that you may not end up choosing more nutritious foods. For example: you’re eating at an Italian restaurant, the bread basket hits the table, and you slather three big slices with butter. You fill up on the bread and butter (empty calories) and then when your meal comes, you’re too full to eat much of it. Empty calories end up replacing nutritious foods in your diet, which can leave your body in a nutritional deficit.”
But what are some of the worst offenders out there? We checked out the USDA MyPlate guide to empty calories to determine the most common and most surprising sources of empty calories on the list. “There are quite a few bad offenders on this list,” says Enos. “Soda makes the top of my list. The reason why? Liquid calories made with high-fructose corn syrup never really fill you up. Soda is something that should be avoided at all costs!”
Along with soda, items like Cheddar cheese and chocolate cake were among the ones to make the list. Enos suggests counting calories (in a mentally healthy way) with the help of downloadable apps for accuracy. To make sure that you stay on track with your health at your next party, check out our slideshow and don’t make the mistake of loading up on these empty-calorie foods.
Though your cheese plates are nothing without them, whether they are round snack crackers or simple whole-wheat ones, about half of crackers’ calories are “empty calories.”
Vanilla Ice Cream
At any-home ice cream social, there will always be the option of vanilla ice cream. While it is certainly a staple that can work for any party, filling up on it is not a good idea. Out of 275 calories, 210 of them are considered empty! A nice alternative? Frozen yogurt, as out of its estimated 224 calories, only 119 of them are empty, making it a bit more nutritious.
Fried Chicken Wings
With tailgating season in its prime, these little bites are always present. Unfortunately, if they are intact with their skin and dipped in a deep-fry batter (as most wings are), 382 of their estimated 478 calories are empty.
Making an appearance in sandwiches or in a “blanket,” this empty-calorie meat often comes in a tempting form at a party. It may be worth resisting temptation, though, as out of its 261 calories, 150 of them account for no nutritional value.
If chocolate cake is the birthday girl or boy’s favorite dish, you may want to consider persuading them to get a different favorite. The 408 calories that are packed into one slice of a two-layer cake include 315 useless ones.
Beer and Soda
At any party worth having, beer or soda is usually present. Whether your are drinking regular or light, all of the calories packed into those bottles or cans are considered empty due to the fact that “Calories from alcohol are not from solid fats or added sugars, but they count against your limit for empty calories ― calories from solid fats and added sugars,” according to the USDA’s guide.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
If post holiday season you are left with a ton of leftover baking goodies, you may want to consider giving them away. For two large chocolate chip cookies, 109 calories out of their estimated 160 are considered empty.
Frozen Whipped Topping
An innocent dollop of this stuff isn’t a great idea if it is non-dairy. Out of the 60 calories in 1/4 cup of this sweet, only five offer any nutritional value.
Whether you are using it for queso or as the sprinkled topping on your taco dip, Cheddar cheese often makes a debut at a house party. Unfortunately, it also makes a debut on our list of empty-calorie foods. With an estimated calorie total of 172 per one-and-a-half-ounce serving size, 113 of those calories are considered empty. Tasty, yes, but it has virtually no nutritional value.