When you consume high-calorie foods or drinks that don’t contribute many essential nutrients to your diet, those are known as “empty calories”. Empty calories are enemies of good health, because consuming them can cheat you of the nutrients you need to be healthy. Empty-calorie foods have few nourishing vitamins, minerals, or phytochemicals, and they also don’t contain much fibre.
There are many potential sources of empty calories including snacks and processed foods—but beverages tend to be one of the worst culprits. Are unhealthy empty calories lurking in the beverages you like to drink? Read on to discover some of the most common sources for empty calories—and some substitutes that you might want to consider.
Empty Calories Lurking in Sweetened Beverages
Even if your diet is otherwise healthy, sweetened beverages can sabotage your efforts to maintain your ideal weight. Researchers in the United States determined that sugary beverages are one of the most common sources of empty calories that children in their country consume; however, considering that sugary beverages are available globally, they can be problematic for people across the globe.
In India, some popular beverages have relatively good nutritional profiles, and others have high levels of empty calories. If you drink sweetened beverages, it’s best to choose nutrient-rich drinks and avoid any drinks that contain significant amounts of sugar. Carbonated soda is an example of an empty-calorie beverage that should ideally be avoided, because it has a lot of sugar, and it doesn’t offer your body any ingredients that have substantial nutritional value.
To avoid unwanted weight gain, it’s best to avoid sugary beverages all together. Instead, drink water, which can be flavored with a bit of lemon. Tulsi tea is another healthy choice.
If you crave a sweet drink, stick to nutrient-rich drinks that are sweetened with real fruit rather than sugar. For example, you can enjoy a lassi that doesn’t have added sugar; but is sweetened with strawberries or mangoes. There are variations of lassi that can have high levels of sugar and empty calories, and it’s best to limit your consumption of these or avoid them all together.
Empty Calories Hiding in Alcoholic Beverages
Alcoholic beverages aren’t healthy choices, but some of them are more regrettable than others. This is because some alcoholic beverages are extremely high in calories without offering any nutritional benefits. These are best avoided, because there are healthier alternatives to consider.
Beer is an example of an alcoholic beverage that can contain far too many empty calories. However, not all beers are guilty of this. For example, these low-carb Australian beers do not have excessive amounts of empty calories.
When it comes to sneaky empty calories hiding in cocktails and mixed drinks, the alcohol itself isn’t necessarily the culprit; it’s frequently the mixer that poses the worst problems. For example, you’ll usually find that the tonic water in gin and tonic is loaded with sugar and carbohydrates. You can skip the tonic water and instead drink your gin on the rocks (over ice), thus eliminating a source of empty calories.
Similarly, you can avoid many of the empty calories in other mixed drinks simply by choosing a sugar-free mixer. However, you also need to beware of so-called “diet drinks” that contain unhealthy artificial sweeteners, which come with a different set of problems.
One solution is to squeeze the juice straight from fresh citrus fruit like grapefruit or lime to mix with your alcohol. For example, you can mix tequila, grapefruit juice and a splash of lime juice; serve it over ice. Another idea would be to add alcohol to a mango lassi drink made from sugar-free yogurt and cardamom blended with fresh mangoes.
Of course, beverages aren’t the only sources of empty calories that you need to beware of. You’ll also find empty calories lurking in cereals, candies and processed snacks such as doughnuts, cakes and candies. Take action to reduce your consumption of empty calories from all sources, and be proactive about consuming nutrient-rich foods and beverages that will nourish your body.