• Getting to the Heart of a Healthy Diet: Empty-Calorie Foods

    image for apples article The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your intake of foods high in calories or low in nutrition, including foods like soft drinks and candy that have a lot of sugars. We know that soda and junk food is bad for us. But do we actually know why?

    Here's Why:

    People may think that any food that is low in fat is inherently healthy. This is not the case! For example, soda and hard candy have no fat, but they also have no vitamins, minerals, fiber, or other health-promoting ingredients. What they do have is sugar, and lots of it. And a lot of sugar can add up to a lot of calories.
    Eating foods high in sugar and calories can lead to weight gain, and being overweight is a risk factor heart attacks and heart disease.
    In addition, sugary foods often take the place of healthier foods. For example, when was the last time you chose a soda over a glass of skim milk or snacked on gummi bears instead of an apple?

    How to Minimize Empty-Calorie Food Intake:

    Here are a few tips to help you minimize your intake of empty-calorie foods.
    Do not be fooled by low-fat sweets. Often, when food manufacturers remove fat from cookies, crackers, cakes, and other snack foods, they add sugar to make up for the flavor lost with the fat. The result is that many low-fat snacks provide the same amount of calories—or more—as the original product. So a low-fat banner on the package does not give you free reign to eat the whole box. It's still important to look at calories and limit snacks.
    Find other ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. Sometimes a little bit of sugar goes a long way. Try some of these tactics:
    • Instead of the sugary cereal you have been eating since you were a kid, make a bowl of oatmeal and top it with some brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
    • Snack on a bowl of applesauce; if it's not sweet enough, add raisins.
    • Fruits, both fresh and dried, are sweet and may offer you the sweet fix you are looking for at 3 o'clock in the afternoon or after dinner. Try some fruit first, before heading for the candy, to see if that satisfies your sweet tooth.
    Choose diet versions. If you just love the taste of soda and can't imagine having popcorn or pizza with anything else, try a diet version. Or if it's the bubbles you crave, have a glass of one of these super low calorie beverages:
    • Seltzer water (some are flavored)
    • Club soda (add a splash of fruit juice for flavor)

    RESOURCES

    American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org/

    American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/

    The Nutrition SourceHarvard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Cardiovascular Society http://www.ccs.ca/

    Dietiticans of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/

    References

    Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation. 2006;114:82-96. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/114/1/82.full.pdf. Accessed September 14, 2012.

    Dietary recommendations for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated September 15, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012.

    What are empty calories? MyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories/calories/empty-calories.html. Accessed September 17, 2012.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    HeartSHAPE® Test Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.