Empty Calories

Don't let these foods be the downfall of your diet

Filler foods and those containing empty calories are foods or ingredients that contain little, if any, nutritional value. They may taste good and temporarily satisfy a craving, but they can also be addictive and hinder your diet plan.

There are numerous foods that are considered filler foods. Foods made with refined white flour, like white bread, pastry, cake and cookies, fall into that category, as do white rice, pasta, soda, candy and chocolate bars that do not contain nuts. The problem with these foods, besides the fact that they are not nutritious, is that they do little to satisfy hunger and will leave you wanting more. All these fillers and empty calories can add up quickly and cause weight gain. Therefore, these foods are not a good choice for your diet.

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Foods that have some nutritional value, but are high in saturated fats, can also be considered empty-calorie foods. Hot dogs, pizza and hamburgers may taste delicious, but they jam packed with fat and salt and are usually made with white bread. Other high fat fillers are butter, margarine and mayonnaise.

Some people who are trying to lose weight may choose to completely eliminate filler foods and empty calories from their diet. If you are having a difficult time letting go of your favorite foods, there are some adjustments to your diet that you can make.

White bread, rice and pasta – There are healthy alternatives to these products if you crave carbs. Try a slice or two of whole wheat or rye bread when you make toast or sandwiches. Boil up some brown rice or wild rice in place of white rice. If it's pasta you love, choose whole wheat pasta.

Burgers and fries – It's hard to resist a barbecued burger, especially in the summertime. However, did you know there's a way to eat your burger and be healthy too? If you are making your burger from scratch, opt for extra lean ground beef or ground sirloin in place of regular ground beef or pick up a package of turkey burgers or veggie burgers. Craving fries? Instead of deep frying your spuds in oil bake them in the oven until they are golden and crispy. Baked fries are a healthy alternative as long as you don't coat them in salt.

Sweets – When you're born with a sweet tooth it's next to impossible to deny your cravings. The trick is to indulge without destroying your diet and filling your body with useless food. If you need a chocolate fix, put down the caramel and cookie filled bars and go for some dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has antioxidant properties and is actually good for you in limited amounts. Try a couple of pieces that contain nuts, such as almonds or cashews. If you want an alternative to a fatty dessert eat a slice of angel food cake. Angel food cake is fairly low in calories and is fat free, which is a great choice for your diet.