What Are Empty Calories? by The Woodlands Nutritionist

We know that calories provide fuel to our body like gas to a car. So what does it mean to consume calories that are "empty" . . .


What Are Empty Calories? by The Woodlands Nutritionist

Calories are units of energy that give our bodies the fuel to survive. We find calories in the foods that we eat and beverages that we drink. Nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber are also essential for our body in daily life. We find them in foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, certain dairy products and lean proteins sources. We refer to these foods as "nutrient dense" foods, because they provide additional nutrition outside of just calories. They will us up at meal times and satisfy our body for longer periods of time.


If a food is not considered nutrient dense, it may be a source of what is called "empty calories". A type of food that gives our body energy from calories, typically in the form of sugar and/or unhealthy fats.

If a food is not considered nutrient dense, it may be a source of what is called "empty calories". A type of food that gives our body energy from calories, typically in the form of sugar and/or unhealthy fats.

In what foods do we find empty calories?


Foods that contain empty calories include:

  • Soft drinks

  • Fruit punch/Lemonades

  • Processed junk foods

  • Candy

  • Alcohol

  • Sports drinks

  • Sweet tea

  • Sweets/desserts

Excess consumption of any type of food can affect the body negatively. However, large intakes of empty calories can make it challenging to lose weight or may cause weight gain. Empty calories are not satisfying for very long and often leave us wanting more.


If you are struggling with your weight, try making a list of foods you consume that are a source of empty calories. Try substituting with more nutrient dense foods instead. A consultation with a Registered Dietitian can also help you learn to create a healthy balance of foods that fits best with your daily routine.


Disclaimer: Woodlands Family Nutrition is an online nutrition practice that serves The Woodlands, Texas and surrounding Montgomery County area (Conroe, Montgomery, Spring, Willis). In this practice, a Registered Dietitian provides nutrition therapy virtually via telehealth. All information presented and written within woodlandsfamilynutrition.com are intended for informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.