“Empty calories” are the energy that you get when eating solid fats and added sugars. And to them applies the well-known quote “A moment in your lips, forever on your hips.”
These empty calories could well be the main cause of childhood obesity. Current estimates in the US reveal that almost a third of American children are overweight or obese.
“The growing weight problems of our nation’s children stem from a combination of greater energy consumption (counted in calories) and less physical activity. The solution to childhood obesity will involve changes in both diet and physical activity. The best way to cut energy intake is to limit unnecessary empty calories.”
Researchers conducted a study to identify the source of these empty calories. In the framework of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, information on the diets of over 14,000 children aged 2 to 18 years old was collected. Results showed that a whopping 40% of US children’s energy intake are from empty calories, more than double the recommended 8 to 20%. The specific food stuffs involved are listed below.
Sugar-sweetened beverages. When it comes to giving our kids „empty calories”, nothing beats sugary drinks. Soda and drinks that try to pass as fruit drinks account for 10% of empty calories.
Grain desserts. This covers cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, crisps, cobblers and granola bars.
Pizza. This popular take out and home delivery food has long surpassed burgers and fries as our children’s favorite.
Whole milk. Whole milk is a significant source of empty calories particular among Hispanic American children. Mexican Americans particularly prefer drinks from whole milk whereas non-Hispanic kids go for the sugar-sweetened beverages.
Half of the empty calories come from 6 types of food stuffs, namely:
- fruit drink
- dairy desserts
- grain dessert
- whole milk
So now that we know the sources of these empty calories, we know what we are fighting against. We know what to do.
Reduce intake of sources of empty calories. We cannot get rid of all these from our daily fare, or from our children’s for that matter. But now that they have been identified, we can limit our children’s consumption of these.
More physical exercise. It is not only about intake, it is also about burning those calories away. And physical exercise is the way to go. Check out some tips on how to keep our kids active.