Calorie counting isn't the only thing you should be doing when making a conscious effort to be healthy - there are plenty of high calorie foods which hold great nutritional value, as we know.
But then there are foods which do the opposite: they've got a high calorie content, but don't bring much else to the table. They're what's known as 'empty calorie' foods, and you're going to want to do your best to avoid them if you're trying to sharpen up your diet. Essentially, you will get little-t0-no nutrition from these foods, but they will take up a chunk of your daily calorie allowance, if that's what you choose to count.
Nutritional therapist Frances Phillips doesn't count calories herself, and wouldn't encourage anyone to focus on doing that either. But she does urge us to beware of these 'empty calories'. "While there is certainly a place for these kinds of foods (even nutritionists eat pizza)," explains Frances, "there are certain upgrades you can make which are better for you and may leave you craving the unhealthier choices less often."[instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/BW2ylnLBOMx/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_medium=loading[/instagram]
These are her recommendations for what to avoid if you want to ditch the empty calories and carve out a much healthier eating plan in 2018.
1. Lattes (especially with syrup)
"You may be used to picking up your daily latte on the way to work, however consuming a large amount of milk and sugar isn’t adding in much to your diet except calories. A large sized latte with syrup can be up to 380 calories per drink. At the very least, try to remove the syrup or sugar from your drink. The best swap would be to find an organic coffee you can brew at home and drink it black or with a little milk (or with a milk alternative). You’ll benefit from the higher amount of antioxidants in organic coffee without a snack’s worth of calories."
2. White bread
"The processing of white bread means that it isn’t at all like it’s natural state. Usually less than 100 calories per slice; it’s not necessarily a high-calorie food. However, since it’s such a staple of most people’s diets and contains very little nutrients, it’s often one of the first things I try to reduce in my client’s diets. The easiest swap is to switch any white bread products for wholegrain. If you really want to increase your nutrient intake, opt for sourdough spelt or rye breads. The fermentation process used to make these kinds of breads increases the absorption of key nutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins."
3. Concentrated fruit juices
"These contain approximately 100 calories per serving. Just like fizzy drinks, these are high in sugar and devoid of nutrients. Due to the processes used to preserve shelf life, many nutrients are destroyed, so the amounts of Vitamin C that many people believe they will be getting from orange juice is negligible. In fact, often a synthetic form of vitamin C is added to the final product. A better option would be freshly squeezed orange juice with the pulp. Better still would be cold-pressed vegetable juices containing a little fruit."
4. The usual culprits - burgers/chips/pizza
"When most people say they’re not eating 'naughty' foods, they’ll likely be avoiding these types of high-calorie fast foods. A small 9inch deep pan pizza can be over 1000 calories, while a Big Mac & fries is 845 calories. Life is all about balance though - instead of going to your local take-away, why not try sourcing some grass fed burgers to serve with a big salad and sweet potato wedges? Or if you want pizza, try to find a thin crust sourdough option and load up on the vegetable toppings. I usually add a large handful of rocket to a pizza for some additional fibre plus many vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, C & K and calcium and magnesium. Little swaps mean that you can still enjoy some of your favourite foods with the added benefit of increasing the nutrients you’re consuming."
"January is probably the best time of year to embark on a sober month. It’s easy to overdo it in December and there are less social arrangements to be missing out on. In addition to not having any nutritional benefits, alcohol also depletes the body of key nutrients, including B vitamins. Lacking in energy and feeling tired? This could be why. If the thought of going sober for a month is too daunting, stick to clear spirits such as tequila or vodka with soda water and fresh lime. The glass of baileys you were drinking over Christmas contains 164 calories per 50ml serve, while a single shot of tequila is roughly 64 calories per single measure."
6. Ice cream
"¼ of a pint of your favourite ice cream could be as much as 350 calories (and that’s if you manage to stick to just ¼ of a tub). The large amounts of sugar used to make conventional ice cream deplete the body of key minerals such as magnesium and can leave you craving more sweet foods. There are plenty of better alternatives on the market now made from cashews or coconut milk which don’t contain refined sugar"
7. Fizzy drinks
"These have no nutritional benefits and are high in sugar. A regular can of fizzy drink contains roughly 130 calories, none of which provide any kind of beneficial nutrients. But don’t be tricked into thinking that the ‘diet’ options are better because they contain no calories. The artificial sweeteners used in these drinks have also been implicated in increasing the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. You’ll be surprised how much you lose the taste for them when you stop drinking them. A better alternative is sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or lime."
"While being easy to grab at the shop and eat on the go, crisps add in very little in terms of nutrients. A pack of ready salted contains 158 calories yet no vitamins or minerals (bar the sodium). If you crave something salty and crunchy, opt for some plain corn chips and vegetable crudités with hummus. More protein, fibre, good fats and vitamins and minerals."
"Sometimes the easiest and most tempting choice if you’re grabbing breakfast on the go is a pastry. However, at approximately 300 calories for a café-bought croissant, 360 calories for a pain au raisin and 380 calories for a pain au chocolat, there are many more grab-and-go choices available that offer more in terms of nutritional benefits. For example, a chia pot now on offer in Pret contains 137 calories but has the added benefit of containing omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and all the essential amino acids. It will be a much more satiating breakfast and won’t leave you craving more sugar."
10. Cereal bars
"A common mistake I see among my clients is thinking that cereal bars are a healthy snack. Generally they are less than 150 calories as they're marketed to the calorie conscious but there are far more nutritious snacks to be choosing. Most cereal bars are laden with sugar (sometimes as much, if not more, than a chocolate bar). Stick with fresh fruit and a small handful of nuts or a whole food bar containing just dried fruit and nuts (not wheat or added sugar). Eating fruit in its whole form is far better way to consume vitamins and minerals than having them added to a nutritionally devoid packaged product."
"I’m not at all against eating chocolate, in fact I eat it most days myself. The key is to upgrade your choice. Most of the chocolate you’ll find in the newsagent ranges from around 100-300 calories. The processing cacao goes through to end up as the final bar means you won’t reap the benefits from the high antioxidant content found in the raw product. Ideally, opt for an organic, raw chocolate or organic dark chocolate containing over 70% cocoa solids."
"Again, while these may be obvious foods to avoid, they had to be included. The amount of calories can vary dramatically whether you choose to have a single digestive biscuit or a huge slice of red velvet - but the principle stays the same that really they are empty calories that aren’t adding anything beneficial in. A single Krispy Kreme donut can contain up to 400 calories! If you love baking, you can still have your cake and eat it – just make a few nutritional swaps. I like to bake using a little coconut sugar, maple syrup or dates instead of refined sugar and brown rice or almond flour instead of white flour."
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