Six empty calorie foods to avoid
WHEN it comes to calories, all were not created equal.
If you're watching your weight, chances are you'll be keeping a close eye on your kilojoule intake each day.
But, there are all sorts of high-calorie foods that are bursting with nutritional goodness, and are worthy of including in your daily diet.
Meanwhile at the other end of that spectrum, are those foods that pack a big calorific punch for very little nutritional gain.
These foods are known as "empty calories", leading London nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert explained.
"Calories are supposed to give us energy, but empty calories are when the food does supply energy, but very little nutritional value," told The Sun Online.
"Sugar is a prime example, high in calories but there is no nutritional value at all."
Rather than focus on numbers, Rhiannon said it's vital to eat a balanced diet, full of nutrient dense foods.
And instead of banning foods, it's better to think about the healthy options you can add in to your daily diet.
"You want to fill your body with foods that not only supply energy, but that are nutritionally balanced," she added.
"Energy intake - or calories - is important, but it's vital people understand what's in their food to make better informed choices."
Here, Rhiannon reveals the six foods and drinks packed with empty calories, that will take up a valuable chunk of your daily allowance, for no added benefit.
1. BOOZE YOU LOSE
Chances are you and every other health kick fanatic you know will be ditching the booze in January.
But, if you want to see results all year round, it's probably worth taking note.
Alcohol is the number one offender when it comes to empty calories, Rhiannon warned.
"It's the big one," she said.
"And while everything in moderation is key, I love a glass of wine, they are completely empty calories.
"Despite research into red wine, there is literally nothing else in alcohol that is good for you.
"It's the worst offender."
2. POP THE HABIT
Next up, and you won't be surprised to hear it ... soft drinks!
A can of regular Coke will add 139 calories to your diet, while a "full fat" Pepsi weighs in at 141 calories per can.
Yet, they are all empty, totally pointless adding nothing to your body other than a sudden shot of sugar.
And no, popping open a can of Diet Coke doesn't make it any better, Rhiannon warned, despite the fact they come with zero calories.
"Fizzy drinks are full of empty calories," she said. "So much so they are probably on a par with alcohol.
"And artificial sweeteners are just as bad as regular sugary fizzy drinks, when it comes to your health as more and more studies are showing."
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
As tempting as it might be to treat yourself when the 3pm afternoon slump hits, step away from the sweets.
They're even worse than chocolate!
Rhiannon said: "Sweets are another big one.
"More so than chocolate, because at least with chocolate there is some other, small benefit.
"Sweets on the other hand are just refined sugar, nothing else.
"All you are consuming is calories, nothing else of any benefit - unless you're about to run a marathon."
While it's better than gorging on a bag of lollies, that doesn't give you a green light to stuff your face with chocolate.
Especially the typical offerings in most vending machines.
When it comes to chocolate, it's all about the cocoa content, and it means the darker your chocolate the better.
"Eating dark chocolate is better, at least it has extra nutrients, including flavonoids," Rhiannon explained.
Cocoa beans are good sources of flavonoids, which are antioxidants, which can help fight disease.
So if you're a sucker for a KitKat it might be time to switch to the dark choc version!
5. SAY BYE TO THE PIE
It might be an easy option when you're grabbing your morning coffee, but that tasty pastry is on the list!
Along with pies and the humble pasty, croissants, cinnamon swirls, and an apple turnover are all full of empty calories.
"Highly processed foods, those full of refined sugars like pies, pastries and shop-bought deserts, are all offenders.
"They are empty calories in my eyes, and you shouldn't have too much in your diet.
"Sugar is added to everything, it is even in ready meals like chicken pies, why do you need added sugar in chicken pie?
"It's not good to get the majority of your calories from cakes, biscuits, or ice cream.
"It's better to eat homemade biscuits with a little less sugar, or make them using simple swaps like including more oats.
"Little tiny switches like that can really help."
6. LOSE THE JUICE
Another danger food when it comes to empty calories is sweetened fruit juices.
By this we don't mean fruit juice - that's full of extra nutrition, vitamins, minerals and fibre (if it's got bits in it).
"Why add more sugar to already sweet juice?" she said.
"Regular fruit juice is different because there's no added sugar, and it contains other useful nutrients."
This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission.