Empty calorie foods are just what their name describes: foods that provide calories but no nutrients. Soda is an example of an empty calorie beverage.  A typical soda provides about 150 calories per can and that's it.  The calories come from sugar and there are no other nutrients provided.  Some foods that are also considered empty calorie actually provide a few nutrients but this is small compared with the calories they provide.  Potato chips would be an example.

Empty calorie foods don't have to be totally avoided if you feel that you just can't survive without them, but they should definitely be limited.  Empty calorie foods include:

  • Sodas
  • Sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Potato chips, corn chips, cheese curls,etc.
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Many other baked sweets, such as pastries and pies

Instead of filling up on empty calorie foods, try to focus on adding nutrient-dense or nutrient-rich foods to your daily intake.  Nutrient-dense foods are the opposite of empty calorie foods.  Nutrient-dense foods provide more nutrients in each bite.  The Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition is a partnership of leading scientific researchers, communications experts and agricultural commodities.  Their goals include:

  • Market research and develop tools that make it easier for people to understand and incorporate nutrient-dense foods into their lifestyle.
  • Support research to develop science-based and consumer-tested materials for use by health professionals.
  • Support the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid.
  • Encourage research and educational efforts that help consumers make their calories count more by enjoying nutrient-rich foods first.

Recent research reveals that the number of calories a person consumes is important in weight control.  In order to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn.  And when you're cutting back on calories to lose weight or maintain weight, getting the most nutrients from those calories is critical.  Choosing foods that are nutrient-rich is one way for people to make healthy choices every day and possibly lower overall calorie intake.  Avoiding or limiting empty calorie foods may also help to decrease calorie intake.  But remember that portion sizes still matter even with healthy nutrient-dense foods, so eat only until your hunger is satisfied in order to prevent overeating. 

The Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition recommends that consumers enjoy these nutrient-rich foods as the foundation of a healthy diet:

  • Brightly colored fruits and 100% fruit juice
  • Vibrant colored vegetables
  • Whole, fortified and fiber-rich grain foods
  • Low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts




1.       http://www.nutrientrichfoods.org/about_nrfc/index.html