10 foods that are not worth of calories

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We hear about “empty calories” all the time but we bet you default to thinking about donuts and cupcakes—when there is a whole host of useless foods out there. And by useless, we mean void of nutrition.

When talking about “nutrient density,” it’s all about the vitamins, minerals, and fiber—in other words, the things that work to fuel and repair your body. Each meal and snack you consume should be seen as an opportunity to nourish your body and fill it with as many nutrients as possible. This is particularly true if you are following a weight-loss or fitness plan because nutrient-dense foods will help you achieve your goals much faster.

“I think of ‘nutritionally empty’ foods as those that can either be higher or lower in calories, but that offer few or no nutrients,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition. “Generally, these foods are also fairly refined or processed.” Resist grabbing the following foods the next time you’re at the store—trust us, they’re not doing your body any favors. Once you’ve stopped “filling up” with food that only fills you out, then make sure you also check out these 30 Best Foods to Fight Inflammation!

Slide 2 of 31: This classic party food doesn't contain a long list of ingredients, but none of those ingredients contain a high dose of nutrients. "Generally speaking, for most crackers and chips, much of the nutritional value of the grain has been removed during processing—especially when these foods are white rather than whole-wheat because the husk and outer layers of the grain have been removed. They aren't necessarily bad but they just don't offer much with respect to nutrients," says Smith.Eat This Instead: For a more nutrient-dense alternative (that still offers that crunch without empty calories), try air-popped popcorn with your own added herbs and spices or crackers made with whole-wheat that have four to five grams of fiber per serving.

Slide 3 of 31: Not only is soda void of vitamins and minerals and packed with empty calories coming from sugar, but it also contains a ton of ingredients that can do some harm to your body. "Regular and diet sodas are loaded with artificial chemicals like colorings and sweeteners. Both calorie-containing and zero-calorie (these, in particular, may negatively influence feelings of fullness and satiety) should be avoided. Also, dark-colored sodas often contain additives like phosphoric acid that can be dangerous to bone health," warns Smith.Drink This Instead: Sometimes that fizzy pop craving just won't go away, though. Instead of soda, experiment with sodium-free, sugar-free sparkling water with either a splash of low- or no-sugar juice, freshly-squeezed juice, or a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon. If it's the flavor rather than the fizz you're after, Smith also recommends infusing regular water with fruits and vegetables. "A few of my favorites are mint and orange, cucumber on its own, or with orange and strawberry with pineapple," says Smith. Whatever you do, don't sip any of these 105 Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are!

3. Ketchup

Slide 12 of 31: Look at a bottle of ketchup. Then imagine that one-quarter of that bottle is full of sugar—because it is. Don't be fooled into thinking that this omnipresent condiment has much to do with the goodness naturally contained in tomatoes. The sugar and salt override any cancer-fighting lycopene it contains.Eat This Instead: Slightly more expensive, but well worth it, is organic ketchup. Research has shown that organically-raised tomatoes produce nearly twice as much lycopene.

4. White Pasta

Slide 5 of 31: It seems as though pasta is always condemned to the "diet-don't" list, right? The truth is, it can offer some nutrients if and only if you choose the right kind. It's also very important to pay close attention to portion size if you're watching your weight. "It's better to choose whole-grain because it contains more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein since the husk of the grain is left on," says Smith. Psst! Pair your whole-grain pasta with a healthy pasta sauce to avoid added sugars.Eat This Instead: While we like whole-grain, the healthiest way to get your pasta fix is with substitutes like spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles. Both are rich in potassium and vitamins A and C!

5. White Flour

Slide 6 of 31: As a rule of thumb, it's always healthier to choose whole wheat and whole grain options over products made with white flour. To get white flour, wheat grains are heavily refined and processed, stripping food of that fiber our bodies love so much. Whole wheat flour is made from the same grains but retains its fiber content because it hasn't undergone the heavy processing. Getting enough fiber is important in any diet because it helps lower cholesterol, aids waste elimination, and boosts weight loss.Eat This Instead: If you know that quitting white flour foods—bagels, cereal, crackers, baked goods, etc.—will be a particularly tough adjustment for you, look for 100% whole wheat bread, or choose pastas or crackers that contain a mix of white and whole wheat flour6. Heat-Pasteurized Juices

Slide 7 of 31: Different from those cold-pressed green juices you see popping up everywhere, heat-pasteurized juices are not as healthy as they may appear. Juices such as orange and cranberry often have to be heated at very high levels and also have to be higher in sugar—many contain added sugar—in order to undergo processing. "The pasteurization process can kill some of the nutrients because the temperature is so high," explains Smith.Drink This Instead: Try to choose cold-pressed or non-processed juices that contain a higher ratio of vegetables to fruit to avoid spikes in blood sugar and to reap the most health benefits. Also, keep in mind that fruit juice can often dismantle weight-loss efforts rather quickly—so don't even bother with a juice cleanse; it's one of the 50 Worst Ways to Lose Weight.

7. Sweet Wine

Slide 8 of 31: Yes, wine has some antioxidants—most notably the resveratrol in red wine, which may help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), and prevent blood clots. But typically, the sweeter the wine, the more calories it has. Dry wine has about 106 calories per glass while sweet dessert wine can have around 225 or more. Three glasses of wine with dinner can give you an extra 400 calories. You'll get some of that resveratrol, but not much in the way of nutrition.Drink This Instead: "Studies suggest that red and purple grape juices may provide some of the same heart benefits of red wine," says Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD.

8. Coffee-based Beverages

Slide 9 of 31: Oh man, this is really where calories can start adding up. Although coffee itself has a negligible caloric value, plenty of beverages on your coffee shop's menu can pack a quarter of the calories you'd ordinarily require to meet your energy needs. A 20-ounce pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, for example, comes in at 510 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 62 grams of sugar.Drink This Instead: Black coffee. Spend some time identifying the notes that float your boat, and you'll soon look at those fatty, sugary, calorically bloated liquid desserts as a thing of your past.RELATED: The easy guide to cutting back on sugar is finally here.

9. Croissants

Slide 10 of 31: We know, we know—biting into a buttery, flaky croissant can be a transcendent experience. Eat too many of them, however, and pretty soon your belly could transcend your belt buckle. A butter croissant from Starbucks has about 310 calories, with more than half of them from fat.Eat This Instead: Grab some oatmeal. Oats have plenty of fiber and are a perfect breakfast. A serving of Starbucks Classic Whole Grain oatmeal is just 160 calories on its own. You may find that the accompanying package of dried fruit makes the packet of brown sugar superfluous.

10. Doughnuts

Slide 11 of 31: C'mon. How did these things ever become a breakfast food? Some of the offerings at Dunkin' Donuts come close to packing 500 calories—and 0 grams of anything nutritious.Eat This Instead: Satisfy your sweet tooth by making some energy balls to eat with your black coffee. Just blend any or all of the following: Dried, unsweetened fruit, oats, honey and ground flaxseed (which adds omega-3s for an energizing boost). Nut butter, chopped nuts, dark chocolate pieces, and unsweetened, shredded coconut are other nutritious options. Add some water, a little at a time, until the mixture is moistened enough to form it into 1-ounce balls. If you use prunes, oats, honey, and flaxseed, each energy ball has about 100 calories, 3 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

 

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