As I’ve learned more about nutrition, I’ve become increasingly aware of the ubiquity of foods that offer almost no nutritional value whatsoever. What’s so shocking is that most foods that are available at your grocery store fall into this category known as “empty calories”.
What Are Empty Calories?
Empty calories are foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber. Empty calories typically are highly processed, have added chemicals and sugars, and may add synthetic (not natural) vitamins and minerals after processing.
While I seldom eat empty calories now, I lived on empty calories for most of my life. As you’ll see from the photos below, it’s hard not to eat empty calories because they are simply everywhere and are considered “normal” foods. It took me a long time to “readjust” my taste buds and become accustomed to eating more natural, unprocessed foods. Now, I really don’t miss empty calories and carbs at all.
My estimate is 70% of the foods at an average U.S. grocery store are comprised of empty calories and carbs that provide little, if any nutritional value. The foods that are high in sugar may even be toxic for your health (See: Are You Eating Too Much Sugar?)
The photos below I took at the same NYC grocery store, which represents just a small sample of all the empty calories & carbs.
Empty Calories Pic #1 – Sugar Cookies
Empty Calories Pic #2 – Sugary Syrups & Jam
Empty Calories Pic #3 – Let Go My Eggo With Chocolate Chips!
Empty Calories Pic #4 – Chips Anyone?
Empty Calories #4 – Here’s Another Helping of Chips…
Empty Calories Pic #6 – Endless Fruit Juice
Some fruit juices are fairly nutritious, but most have tons of added sugars, don’t fill you up, and lack nutrition. Drinking calories is one of the easiest ways to gain fat. Nothing is as good as water for hydration of course.
Empty Calories Pic #7 – Endless Soda
Empty Calories Pic #8 – Rolls & Cakes
Empty Calories Pic #9 – Candy Galore
Empty Calories Pic #10 – More Candy….
Empty Calories Pic #11 – And Even More Candy….
Empty Calories Pic #12 – Breakfast Cereals, or Candy?
Some cereals have vitamins, minerals, and are low in sugar, but most are basically like eating candy. Check out the amount of sugars per serving in some of these cereals and you’ll see what I mean. Even the “healthy” cereals are dubious.
Empty Calories Pic #13 – The Definition of Empty Carbs…
White bread doesn’t have added sugars like all the other examples, but doesn’t bring much to the table. I’m only human and eat white bread from time to time, but more natural carbohydrate sources are preferable.
Empty Calories Pic #14 – More Cookies…
Empty Calories Pic #15 – And We Can’t Forget Pastries
It’s not easy for me to add this photo, because I lived on Entenmann’s Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Golden Chocolate Cake growing up. The amount of sugar in these pastries is jaw dropping; only 9 cookies is over 33 grams of sugar, which is 7 teaspoons of sugar. A box is 33 cookies, which is 121 grams of sugar (30 teaspoons of sugar) and 1500+ calories.