Are Empty Calories Putting a Hole in Your Diet?
The American diet is notorious for being overly packed with calories and additives. Our everyday consumption habits as a culture set us up to consume more calories than are necessary for a healthy diet, with the majority of those calories being “empty.”
“Empty” calories are simply calories that do not have a balanced macronutrient composition. For example, foods like donuts are chock full of empty calories because they are almost entirely sugar and loaded with saturated fats, which can increase your risk of high cholesterol and easily add unwanted pounds to your waistline.
Most people understand that a diet full of donuts is extremely bad for your health and weight goals, but not all foods carry the same outside appearance concerning health. There are some foods that we are unaware of that are stacked with empty calories that we might not know about. Such deceptively “healthy” foods can unsuspectingly derail people’s health and fitness goals.
Coffee is a staple in the average American’s breakfast. Black coffee at its core contains less than 5 calories per serving, is lush with caffeine, and packed with antioxidants. However, once you begin adding substance to black coffee, the calories and sugar content increase exponentially.
Starbucks can be found in almost any city and thrives on being easily accessible to walk-in and drive-thru customers. Companies like Starbucks become successful by having staple products, like their trademark Frappuccinos. Because of the popularity of drinks like the Frappuccino and the social stamp it has planted on our culture, people fall into a pattern of regularly consuming beverages like this because it is perceived as the norm.
Nothing is wrong with having a blended coffee or latté every now and then-- who can argue that Starbucks’ beverages are tasty and sweet? However, adding a traditional caramel Frappuccino to your morning routine packs on 420 calories, 67 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of fat. These calories come with little-to-no nutritional benefit, so it is best to be mindful of the calories in all of your iced beverages. Cutting sweeteners and whipped cream, asking for a “skinny” alternative, and going black with your coffee is a great way to keep your calories in check.
Okay so you have to watch your calories in the morning, but what about at night? Alcohol has a bad reputation for causing weight gain, and with good reason. Light beers are around 100 calories per beer, and standard servings of liquor are less than that. While drinking on a diet is not ideal, we are adults and responsibly enjoying one or two well-deserved alcoholic beverages is not the worst decision we can make.
Alcohol, by our definition, is full of empty calories due to the lopsided trade-off of macronutrients for calories. Worse than alcohol, which is a burden we can enjoy in moderation, is the sugar it is often paired with. Mixed drinks, like a standard whiskey and coke, or a cocktail, like a margarita, can set you back around 200 calories depending on the drink maker. If you are buying these drinks at a restaurant or bar, you can almost always expect the calorie counts to be twice the average number.
So what are we to do if we want to enjoy a night out with our friends but still meet our calorie goals? The first step, always, is to cut out as much sugar as you can out of your drinks. If you make drinks at home, use a sugar-free mixer and if you are at the bar, ask your waiter/waitress/bartender for sugar-free options. Sugar calories can easily make up over half of the calories in a mixed beverage.
The next step is moderation, which should be practiced for both your waistline and your long-term health. That “skinny” margarita isn’t going to make much difference if you have four of them. Most importantly, don’t feel guilty for having a few drinks and expending calories. You are never more than one bite from being back on track with your dieting goals! So, enjoy the present moments, make smart decisions, and don’t unhealthily restrict yourself the next day because you had a few drinks the night before. As long as you hit your overall caloric deficit, you will lose weight!
There’s nothing like finishing a great workout or run and rewarding yourself with a tasty smoothie. I mean, it’s nothing but fruits right? So it has to be healthy?
Many people make the mistake of purchasing a smoothie from a highly reputable place like Smoothie King that is entirely wrong for their goals. If someone is trying to lose weight, they should be opting for the most lean, vegetable-dense option on the menu. If someone else is trying to gain muscle, they need to select a smoothie that is protein-dense without sugary fillers.
When buying a smoothie from somewhere, always ask for your smoothie to be made without added sugars. These artificial sweeteners are where the bulk of calories add up. Also, unless you are training for bodybuilding, going with the largest size smoothie probably isn’t necessary to help you reach your goals for post-workout recovery. Finally, be mindful of names versus composition in smoothies. At Smoothie King, the 32 ounce Slim-N-Trim smoothie contains 360 calories, 79 grams of carbs, and 57 grams of sugar. Just because it has “slim” or “skinny” in the name does not mean it has to spare any calories. The solution? Make your own smoothies at home with almond or soy milk, ice, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
The ultimate food Instagram trend in the past two years has been the ever-famous acai bowl. The bowls are lush with colorful fruits, sweet drizzles, and granola. Often times, sellers of the acai bowl market them as the most delicious, healthy choice for breakfast or snacks. Take it from this fitness junkie-- if something says “best” on it, be cautious towards the food’s overall quality.
There are recommended serving sizes of fruit, which acai bowls often go over when they are being made. People might excuse this with something like “it’s only fruit, eating too much of it isn’t as bad as eating too much of other foods.” While this statement holds some validity, overloading your body with sugar (natural or artificial) is a great way to have an energy crash as well as consume an unsuspecting amount of calories. Add various sweet drizzles and granola to these fruit-packed acai bowls, and you can top well over 500 calories, 50 grams of sugar, and over 20 grams of fat in one bowl.
Suppose your favorite morning routine is to stop in at your local coffee shop to grab a nice brew and a muffin for breakfast before work. Routines are comfortable and we as Americans don’t like to think of our routines as harmful. But even if you are cutting out the sugary coffees and opting for a hot brewed coffee, that morning muffin at the coffee shop is deceptively packed with calories.
A blueberry (healthy, right?) muffin from Panera Bread weighs in at 460 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 40 grams of sugar. Yes, something that small can pack a hefty caloric punch to your diet. If your morning routine consists of eating this muffin each day before you go to work, you can easily top 2,000 calories from a not-so-filling breakfast each week. That’s an entire day’s worth of recommended calories just from eating a muffin each day of the week!*
A significant portion of the empty calories in our diets come from beverages. Whether we are trying to get energy or taste from our beverages, it can come as a sacrifice to our weight loss goals. pureLYFT is a fantastic alternative to sugary coffees, sodas, and energy drinks for when you want taste, energy, and no calories! Try one of our four flavors, and use our pureLYFT inspired recipes to help keep you on track for your dieting goals!