2 Unexpected Empty-Calorie Snacks Nutritionists Warn Can You Shouldn’t Eat
Eating empty calories is like that one ex that you know is no good. It’s a total waste! Not only do empty-calorie foods have little to no nutritional value, but they make up your daily calorie allotment in just a few bites. You’re going to want to do your best to avoid these foods if you’re trying to lose weight. While there are the usual suspects (processed foods like chips and candy which lead to inflammation) there are some unexpected offenders that you may be snacking on that aren’t as healthy as they seem. If you’re ready to get upgrade your snack game and nosh on something healthier, you’re in the right place.
To learn more about the two surprising empty-calorie snacks and healthy alternatives, we spoke with Mary-Ellen Sabat, a nutritionist, personal trainer, and founder of BodyDesigns by Mary. They said that fruit gummies and whole grain crackers are the worst “healthy” snacks for weight loss because they both make nutrition claims on their packaging but are often devoid of any actual nutritional value. Find out more below!
1. Fruit Gummies
While fruit gummies are often made with real fruit, the actual amount of fruit used is minimal at best. Sabat explains, "This means that much of the nutritional content of the fruit has been removed. Most gummy snacks also contain added sugar, which is why they are considered empty-calorie [snacks]. In addition, the gummies are often processed and contain added artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, which also strip them of their nutritional value."
Instead, she recommends opting for actual fresh fruits, because the "vitamins and minerals in fresh fruits can also help support healthy weight loss." Yum! Specifically, blueberries can make a great fruit-gummy substitute. This bite-sized fruit is packed with antioxidants, high in soluble fiber, and low in calories and carbs which makes them the perfect snack.
2. Whole Grain Crackers
While there are countless varieties of crackers on supermarket shelves, and probably in your pantry (learn which pantry foods are high in unnecessary calories!) most of them don't exactly meet optimal weight loss standards. Many crackers like saltines or soda crackers are excessively high in sodium and offer no nutritional benefits. And, even though whole grain crackers claim to be nutritious and full of healthy fiber, Sabat warns that they are just as bad for weight loss.
"Whole grain crackers may be made with whole grain ingredients, but they are typically processed and high in calories due to added fat and sugar," she says, "Many brands also contain unhealthy additives like salt and artificial flavors. Because of their high-calorie content and lack of essential nutrients, whole grain crackers can be considered empty-calorie food."
Sabat suggests trading your whole grain cracks for popcorn, surprisingly. "Popcorn is a whole grain, low in calories and fat, and rich in fiber," she explains. "Eating popcorn can help satisfy cravings without adding extra calories and can help keep you feeling full longer." Who knew? Just make sure you're not adding excessive amounts of salt because salt can cause your body to retain more water, which can show up on your body as extra pounds. And, Sabat also warns about overeating popcorn. Three cups of popcorn are only about 100 calories.
So, the next time you're about to chow down on fruit gummies or whole grain crackers, just remember that these snacks are sneaky and are loaded with empty calories. They will just lead to weight gain, no matter how tempting they are. Experts like Sabat say these snacks can lead to consuming more calories than you need, which can cause you to gain weight instead of losing it. The calories you eat in fruit gummies and whole grains can also take the place of food that would be giving you the nutrition your body actually needs to stay healthy. Try fresh fruit or unsalted popcorn instead. Your body will thank you!