Foods that put the ‘Empty’ in ‘Empty Calories’

Josh BezoniThe world of snack food can be a tricky realm to navigate. The very concept of snacking connotes grazing lightly between meals and, when done correctly, this can be an incredibly healthy habit! If you snack on the right things in the right portions, you decrease your likelihood of bingeing come mealtime considerably. However, most people have little idea about what to actually eat for a snack nor how much of it is appropriate per serving. Exacerbating these problems is the booming “healthy snack” industry, which depends entirely on clever branding and misleading messages to trick consumers into purchasing a product that is nowhere near as nutritious as the wrapper would have you believe. And, when people think they are eating low-calorie foods, they are more susceptible to eating more (often too much) of it.

Certain foods strike a particularly destructive balance between being unclear in their healthiness and being ambiguous in how much is really meant to be in a serving. Foods that, at face value, seem especially “light” include rice cakes and popcorn. Take a bite of either and you will likely feel sure that you mostly just got a big mouthful of air! These must be a healthy food choice, right? Wrong.

Just because they snacks feel light does not mean they are not walloping a serious punch in terms of calories. The flavoring and additives that go into making them tasty are usually comprised of unnatural chemicals. Even the fat-free varieties of these treats are void of fiber and protein, the things that make you feel satisfied after you eat. So, not only do these foods sneak a surprising amount of calories and carbohydrates into your diet with minimal nutritional benefit, they do not even satiate your appetite or support your metabolism.

In essence, these types of false health snacks are literal fat traps. Because snacks like popcorn are nutrient sparse and made up mostly of salt, fats, and air, people are often fooled into thinking they are preferable to more substantial but beneficial alternatives. Then, because the snacks offer the body so little to support the metabolism, people feel hungry enough to keep eating way more than just a serving’s worth of unhealthy calories and don’t even realize it.

Fortunately, the savvy fitness enthusiast knows how to take control of his or her diet. Store-bought options are loaded with inflammatory fats and, especially in the case of popcorn, a terrible amount of sodium. Instead, make your snacks at home. Eat whole foods, like fruits and vegetables. If you crave a saltier treat, you should pop popcorn at home and drizzle it with healthy oils and a small amount of sea salt. When you are proactive about the way in which you fuel your body, there is no limit to the transformation in your life you can accomplish.

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