Food With Low Nutritional Value Focus on what you eat, not just what you eat it with. Get the best nutrition possible by choosing foods that are low in calories, fat and sugars.
Food With Low Nutritional Value
Soda, candy, chips…what do they all have in common? They are all top sources of what many dietitians refer to as “empty calories.”
The American Heritage College dictionary defines “empty” as “holding or containing nothing.” And for all the calories these foods add to your diet, they bring along almost nothing else for your body — very little vitamins or minerals, very little fiber or phytochemicals.
There are basically two empty-calorie culprits in our diets:
- Anything with lots of sugar or other sweeteners
- Anything with lots of fat and oil
Culprit #1: Anything with Lots of Sugar or Other Sweeteners
There’s no way to sugarcoat the truth — Americans are eating more sugar than ever before. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill determined that, on average, Americans are consuming 83 more calories per day from caloric sweeteners than they did in 1977. And those extra 83 calories a day turn into a whopping 2,490 calories per month.
To what items do we point the finger as the primary cause of these extra calories? Shockingly, it’s not even food we eat — these added calories come mainly from soft drinks and fruit drinks.
The latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals lists the top five food categories that contribute added sugar to women’s diets as:
|Food||Average number of teaspoons of sugar (or equivalent) per serving|
|1. Soda and sweetened beverages (mostly carbonated soft drinks, but also includes fruit “drinks” and “ades” and bottled iced teas).||9 teaspoons per 12-ounce serving of soda; 12 teaspoons per 12-ounce serving of fruit drink or ade.|
|2. Cakes, cookies, pastries, and pies.||6 teaspoons in 1/16 of a pie or frosted cake.|
|3. Sugar or sugar substitute blends such as syrups, honey, molasses, and sweet toppings.||3 teaspoons per tablespoon of syrup or honey.|
|4. Candy.||3 teaspoons per 1-ounce chocolate bar.|
|5. Frozen milk desserts (includes ice cream and frozen yogurt).||3 teaspoons per 1/2 cup.|
So, besides staying away from soda, be sure to watch for sneaky sugar calories from these items:
- Other sweetened drinks. Lemonades, sports drinks, and fruit drinks.
- Fancy coffee and tea drinks (hot or cold). These can be loaded with sugar calories. A 9.5-ounce bottled coffee drink contains around 190 calories and almost 8 teaspoons of sugar.
- Snack cakes, pastries, and breakfast/cereal bars. Toaster pastries, granola bars, and breakfast bars fall into this category. One little toaster pastry has around 200 calories and almost 5 teaspoons of sugar. A 4-ounce supermarket blueberry muffin can contain about 420 calories and more than 8 teaspoons of sugar.
- Sweetened hot and cold cereals. Check out the labels before you buy your breakfast cereals, because they list the grams of added sugar per serving. A packet of flavored instant oatmeal contains around 150 calories and around 4 teaspoons of sugar! Sugar is usually the second ingredient listed in the ingredient list.
- Condiments. Pancake syrup and even catsup can add on the sugar calories if you are heavy handed. A 1/4-cup serving of pancake syrup has about 210 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/4-cup of catsup contains around 60 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar!
The Next Culprit Culprit #2: Anything with Lots of Fat and Oil
Although some fats and oils contain vitamins and important fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, foods loaded with fats and oils are often empty-calorie culprits. This is particularly true when the food is full of trans fats and saturated fats; deep-fried French fries, potato chips, popcorn chicken that has more fried crumb topping than chicken, and high-fat crackers made with white flour are all examples.
Since we’re talking about empty calories, it’s important to note that gram for gram, fat has more than two times the calories of carbs or protein. In other words, a gram of fat has around 9 calories, while a gram of protein or carbohydrate has 4 calories. When foods have lots of added fats and oils, the calories can go through the roof pretty quickly.
One of our biggest fat traps is fast food. That’s mainly because so many fast food items, such as French fries, onion rings, taco shells, chicken strips and fish filets; dressed in high-fat sauces such as mayonnaise; are either deep fried or garnished with fatty meats such as bacon or sausage.
A new survey from the Agricultural Research Service and Harvard University found a link between fast-food consumption by kids in the U.S. and increased calories and poor nutrition. Children who ate fast food on the two days surveyed took in more total calories, more calories per gram of food, and more total saturated fat than children who didn’t eat fast food. The fast-food-eaters also took in more added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages, and less milk, fiber, and fruit. Even children who ate fast food on just one out of the two days surveyed showed similar dietary problems on the day they ate fast food.
So here are my nominees for the top five high-fat, empty-calorie culprits:
Fast food. Swearing off fast food isn’t the only answer. We can make better choices at fast food chains, such as ordering charbroiled chicken sandwiches (hold the mayonnaise), bean burritos, and pizza with extra tomato sauce and vegetable toppings. And we can eat fast food less often — maybe once a week instead of every day.
Mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is basically made up of three ingredients: vegetable oil, egg yolks, and vinegar (it’s not the vinegar that I’m worried about). Mayonnaise makes this list because it is loaded with calories and fat grams. Many people slather around 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise or mayonnaise-based sauces on their sandwich. This adds up to 198 calories and 22 grams of fat. See what I mean?
Chips and microwave popcorn. Although the potato and corn kernels that go into making these popular snack items have some nutritional value, once you coat them in partially hydrogenated oil, they top the charts in calories and fat grams. A 2-ounce bag of potato chips contains around 303 calories and 20 grams of fat. A bag of microwave popping corn (not the light kind) totals 435 calories and 25 grams of fat.
Crackers. Crackers may seem like they would be good snack choices. But if you look on the ingredient labels, they’re usually just white flour with partially hydrogenated fat — neither of which does much for the nutritional value of your diet. Calories and fat can add up quickly here, too. A 2-ounce serving of Ritz Bits, for example, totals 302 calories and 17 grams of fat, while the same size serving of cheese crackers comes to around 285 calories and 14 grams of fat.
Packaged frozen snacks. Walk down the frozen-food aisle and you’ll find scores of packaged savory snacks just waiting to be popped into the microwave: hot pockets, pizza rolls, egg rolls, etc. Trouble is, these are full of partially hydrogenated fats and oils. Just one pepperoni pizza pocket totals around 510 calories and 26 grams of fat.
Fruits and Vegetables That Aren’t Actually All That Healthy
In the plant foods world, everything is not created equal. The nutritional value of a pomegranate is far superior to that of celery. That’s just a fact. That doesn’t mean celery isn’t great—what else would we eat with our hot wings? It just means there’s a better use of your plant-based daily tallies. Here, nine fruits and vegetables that are fine (and better than nothing), but not at all the healthiest choices you could make.
If you’ve been on a diet in your life, someone has told you at some point, “You know, you burn more calories chewing celery than you get when you eat it.” But frankly, unless you have some seriously powerful jaws, it’s just not true. A celery stick has 10 calories—and not much else. Yes, it has some Vitamin C and K and antioxidants, but on the scale of healthfulness, this one doesn’t rank very high. Skip it, and reach for carrots if you’re craving something crunchy.
Most dried fruit is not much healthier than candy. The pieces are often dried, coated in sugar, and treated with chemicals to preserve color and freshness. If you’re drying the fruit yourself, you’ve got a better product. Otherwise, this is probably one produce category worth skipping. Per ounce, dried fruit packs in more calories and less water content than the fresh variety.
However, dried fruit has a few things going for it. Because it’s a dehydrated, one serving of dried fruit does have a higher concentration of some vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C, however, is not one of them. Research shows drying fruit dramatically reduces the amount of this immune-boosting nutrient.
If you gleefully scoop up an extra serving of corn at each meal, put down the spoon. Yes, corn is a vegetable, but it’s a better source of sugar than actual vitamins. Corn is high in simple sugar carbohydrates and has virtually no indigestible fiber (the kind that keeps you regular and lowers blood cholesterol). Instead, the carbs and fiber in corn are the highly digestible kind that converts to sugar and spikes blood sugar levels very quickly.
Plus, corn is quite calorie dense compared to some other vegetables. One cup has 180 calories. Compare that to the same amount of broccoli, which has just over 30 calories. Corn is also not a whole grain, according to the Whole Grains Council. Only dried corn kernels like popcorn, which have intact elements of the whole grain, get this healthy distinction.
Radishes are a must-have topping for tacos (with cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime, please). They’re crispy, sharp, and slightly astringent, and they’re quite beautiful, too. But, besides a good bit of vitamin C, radishes don’t bring much to the table. Plus, some people will experience tummy troubles, including excess gas, after eating radishes.
The problem with eggplant isn’t the fruit’s nutritional content—yes, it’s a fruit; don’t argue.
The dark purple skin is rich in antioxidants, and it has a decent amount of fiber (about 3g per cup). But the health hazard is what’s done to eggplants. Indeed, eggplants are practically sponges. They soak up the fat, calories, and sodium of the cooking process, so popular methods like eggplant lasagna turn eggplant from a moderately healthful plant into a calorie-dense nutritional bomb.
Iceberg lettuce is better than no lettuce if it’s getting you to eat more plant-rich salads, but if you can swap your leaves out, do. Iceberg is virtually empty. It has almost no nutritional value, less than one gram of fiber per cup, and only 10 calories. Instead, opt for a leafy green that can serve up a bit more nutritional value per leaf. Kale, for example, contains a good dose of vitamin A and C, and it has bone-building calcium. Baby kale is often more delicate and less fibrous, which makes it ideal for salads.
What is a balanced diet?
What is the definition of a balanced diet? A nutritionally balanced diet fulfills all nutritional needs of the body. Each body needs a specific amount of nutrients and calories to stay active and healthy. A good diet enables us to get all the required nutrients without exceeding the recommended calorie intake per day. Avoiding junk food as well as foods with low nutritional value is a part of a balanced diet. The food pyramid may not be recommended in some places. Nutritionists recommend establishing a balanced diet by getting nutrients from five major groups of food instead. According to the most recent recommendations, an example of a balanced diet is a balanced meal including vegetables and fruits that must form about half of the human’s plate serving since vegetables and fruits are the healthiest foods to eat. The rest of the food plate serving should contain proteins and grains. Moreover, balanced meals should be accompanied by a small serving of dairy with low-fat content or a source of nutrients in dairy products. Examples of nutrients of a balanced diet include the right proportions of minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water intake.
Calories in foods represent the energy stored in that food. The human body uses calories to perform daily activities such as breathing, moving, thinking, walking, and other vital functions. The average amount of calories needed for a person is about 2000 calories per day to maintain their current weight. However, the daily calorie requirement varies according to the person’s sex, age, and level of physical activity. For example, men usually need more calories than women.
Empty calories are found in food providing large amounts of calories without having a good nutritional value. Examples of empty calories foods are soda and energy drinks, cookies and cakes, fries and chips, pizza, ice cream, and processed meat. Therefore, the consumption of foods with empty calories should be limited in order to maintain a healthy life.
In conclusion, what is a healthy diet? A healthy balanced diet should contain different vegetables and fruits every day, starchy food with higher fiber like bread, dairy products or their alternatives, proteins such as meat, fish, beans, or eggs, small amounts of unsaturated fats, and about 6 to 8 glasses of fluids.
To get different nutrients, you should eat the healthiest foods while avoiding foods with added sugars, foods with high salt content, saturated fats, and processed food.
Balanced diet is a diet consisting of adequate amounts of all the necessary nutrients recommended for healthy growth and for efficient daily activities and functions. A balanced diet contains the proper quantities and proportions of the needed nutrients to maintain good health. It must have balanced amounts in proper proportions of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water intake.
Importance of a balanced diet
Why is it important to eat healthily? A well-balanced diet provides the human body with essential nutrients needed to allow the body to effectively perform different activities. Without balanced nutrition, the body is more susceptible to fatigue, infections, diseases, and reduced activity. On the other hand, children should have a balanced diet containing different nutrients in order to avoid impaired development and growth, different infections, and low academic performance. Children who do not consume enough healthy foods are most likely to develop persistent unhealthy eating habits into adulthood. Moreover, overweight children have a higher risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer in their adulthood.
Eating well ensures proper nutrition that keeps the body active and healthy. A healthy proper diet protects the body against noncommunicable diseases. such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes that are the most common leading causes of death in the United States. It also protects the body against malnutrition.
Lack of physical activities and an unbalanced diet are global health risks. In order to avoid weight gain, calorie intake should be balanced, the intake of saturated fats should be minimized, and decrease salt intake. Increased intake of saturated fats elevates blood cholesterol levels and eventually increases the risk of heart disease development.
Eating and drinking large amounts of sugars increase the risk of tooth decay and obesity. Too much salt may increase blood pressure, which consequently increases the risk of developing a stroke or heart disease.
The 5 food groups
What are the food groups? A balanced diet plan should include all daily nutritional requirements from five groups of food; they are vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy. Different groups of food provide us with the needed calories to do our daily activities. However, consuming calories more than the body needs will eventually lead to unhealthy weight gain because extra calories are not consumed but stored in the body as fats. The total calorie intake should include less than 10% of it from free sugars added to foods or drinks. But how much fat per day? fats should represent less than 30% of the total intake of energy as you should have a low-fat diet.
Fats are found as unsaturated recommended fats in nuts, sunflower, fish, olive oils, avocado, and soybean, whereas saturated fats are not recommended and can be found in coconut oil, butter, fatty meat, and cheese. The intake of saturated fat per day should be limited to about 5% of total calories. Trans-fats are found in all pre-packed snacks such as biscuits, fried foods, cookies, pies, and pizza. Trans-fats are industrially produced; therefore, their intake should be avoided.
Each food group provides the body with different nutrients; therefore, we should include foods from all five groups in our daily food intake to make sure we get the full range of nutrients needed for our bodies to effectively function and stay healthy. Consequently, excluding one or more food groups will negatively affect the body. For example, cutting starchy carbohydrates may decrease the intake of B vitamins and dietary fiber.
Vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Vegetables should be consumed daily in order to get enough daily nutrition. There is a variety of vegetables such as orange or red vegetables, legumes like peas and beans, leafy greens such as broccoli and spinach, starchy vegetables like potatoes, and other vegetables. Vegetables from each of these five subgroups should be eaten every week to get different nutrients. Vegetables may be eaten as raw or cooked food. However, some of the cooked vegetables’ nutritional value is lost, also, some cooking methods might be unhealthy such as deep frying. Vegetables should make up over a third of the daily food intake. They can be used as a side dish, roasted, salad, soup base, or in smoothies and juices. Consuming adequate amounts of vegetables and fruits protect the body from cancers, strokes, and heart disease.
Plenty of fruits should be included in a balanced diet. Fruits are tasty. They can provide a satisfying dessert or snack since they are rich in natural sugars. Fruits, as well as vegetables, are rich in a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. It is recommended to eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. Juices do not contain fiber or the full range of nutrients in the whole fruit. Also, during the manufacturing of fruits sugars are added, which are considered empty calories. Moreover, frozen or canned fruits should be canned in water, not syrups to avoid empty calories. Fresh local fruits provide a greater range of nutrients than frozen or canned fruits.
There are two types of grains: whole and refined grains. Whole grains include the endosperm, germ, and bran of the grain. When eaten, the body slowly breaks down different components of the grain so it has less impact on blood sugar. Moreover, whole grains contain more protein and fiber than processed refined grains. Refined grains may cause spikes of blood sugar because they do not contain the natural components found in whole grains including the outer shell, which are removed during processing.
A balanced diet recommendation states that grains should constitute about a quarter of the plate. Additionally, half of the consumed grains should be healthy whole grains such as oats, barley, wholewheat pasta, and brown rice. Refined grains such as white flour are used in many foods like bread and baked foods. Therefore, try to eat whole grains instead of white rice, bread, and pasta.
Dietary proteins are essential in a balanced diet. It is suggested that proteins should form about a quarter of the plate. Proteins are essential for maintaining muscle mass, development of muscles, growth, wound healing, and other important functions. Animal and plant-based proteins are the main examples of nutrients high in proteins. Animal meats are good sources of protein including red meats such as beef, poultry like turkey, chicken, and fish including sardine and salmon. Processed meat contains added salts and preservatives, therefore, unprocessed meat is a healthier option. Plant-based proteins found in legumes, nuts, soy products, and beans are good alternative sources of proteins. However, meat is not only a source of proteins but is a good source of other essential nutrients like zinc, iron, vitamin B12, as well as other vitamins and minerals. You should ensure protein intake every day. Meats should be cooked thoroughly to avoid any source of contamination.
Dairy products are the main source of calcium that is essential to maintain healthy bones. It is recommended to consume low-fat dairy and soy products like yogurt, low-fat milk, soy milk, and cottage cheese. Lactose-intolerant people can get calcium from other sources such as soy-based products or lactose-free products. Dairy products also provide a variety of nutrients including vitamin D, proteins, and calcium. People following a vegan diet can consume alternatives of dairy products like oats, coconut, flaxseed, almond, and soy-based milk.
In order to achieve a balanced diet, one should be able to have the following in their diet: (1) fruits, (2) vegetables, (3) grains, (4) proteins, (5) dairy, and (6) oils. Fruits and vegetables are important sources of various nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and green beans are highly nutritious. Whole grains are preferred over refined grains since the latter lack the hull, which contains the majority of the grain’s nutrition (after processing). Proteins in meats and beans are essential for growth, especially muscle and brain development. However, one should prefer lean, low-fat meats to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol intake.
A balanced diet can help people reduce their weight especially if it is accompanied by regular exercise or an active lifestyle. A balanced diet with ideal nutrition helps people to lose weight by avoiding processed food and excessive carbohydrates, increasing protein intake, increasing minerals, vitamins, fiber, and nutrients consumption, avoiding trans-fats and limiting saturated daily fat intake, refined grains, and added salts and sugars. Weight loss can be enhanced by adding simple daily activities such as walking for 30 minutes, taking the stairs, or doing cardio exercises.
How to define healthy food? Healthy food is food containing adequate amounts of essential nutrients recommended for efficient functioning. The best diet plan is the healthy eating plan where the daily nutrition is perfectly balanced as all things should be included in the daily food intake with the proper amounts. Best foods for weight loss are foods containing high content of proteins such as tuna, salmon, and eggs, or green vegetables and legumes.
How to eat healthily? Eating healthy provides good nutrition. The best diet is the diet through balancing the selection of different foods from the 5 groups. Healthy meals include vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and dairy whenever possible. Healthy diet foods comprise low-fat content, low added sugars, and low amounts of salt.
This should come as good news considering the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting in 4.5 cups of fruit and vegetables every day (yes, each) — but what if not every item on this list was actually good for you?
Well, it’s not so much that they’re not good for you — both fruits and vegetables offer different nutritional values. Surprisingly, there are some that don’t offer much nutritional value at all. Here, we’ll explore which fruits and vegetables really aren’t valuable and what to eat instead. Rather than thinking of this as permission to stop eating produce, consider it an invitation to be more mindful about which fruits and vegetables you choose to eat.
Coconut is another fruit that you may want to avoid because of its high saturated fat content, according to Healthline. A cup of shredded coconut has 27 grams of fat and 89% of it is saturated. If the fat is what you’re after, swap coconut for avocado.
Grapes are another popular fruit that may be doing more harm than good. Livestrong states that carb overload, gut issues, allergy attacks, and weight gain are all negative side effects that can come from eating just 1 cup of grapes. Blueberries are a much healthier pick.
Oranges are on the list because of how they affect your teeth. As a citrus fruit, they can erode enamel (per Healthline). Pomegranate and kiwi are both suitable replacements.
Strawberries don’t quite make the cut, either — but not for nutritional reasons. The Conversation states that they depend on toxic chemicals and pesticides to grow all year long. You’re better off with raspberries or watermelon.
Five vegetables you may want to avoid
Broccoli can leave you feeling gassy and bloated, which is why it’s one of the vegetables The Daily Meal suggests avoiding. Show your gut some love with a bowl of cabbage instead.
Celery might be packed with fiber, according to WebMD, but the Environmental Working Group lists them on its “Dirty Dozen” list because it’s high in pesticides. Opt for sliced cucumbers as a satisfactory replacement.
How do you spell corn? G-M-O. Delish ranks corn on its list of vegetables that aren’t good for you because of its “crazy genetic modifications,” which is why many people have corn allergies. Sweet potatoes are a starchy vegetable that’s just as delicious and much more nutritious.
Eggplant may be a popular choice for vegetarians and vegans as a meat replacement, but MedicalNewsToday says it can actually result in a burning throat, nausea, vomiting, and heart arrhythmias. If it’s a meat replacement you’re looking for, portabella or oyster mushrooms and jackfruit will do the trick.
Potatoes aren’t ideal because of how we commonly cook them — hello, French fries! Fried and full of salt, baking them without salt and keeping the skin on will help them maintain their nutritional value.
Last but not least, any canned vegetable is a no-go. FitDay listed sulfites, sodium, and traces of BPA as the top 3 reasons why canned vegetables should be avoided. Grab a bag of frozen veggies instead.
DEFINITION AND OPERATIONALISATION OF THE CONCEPT OF A NUTRITIOUS AND SAFE FOOD
GAIN’s purpose is to advance nutrition outcomes by improving the consumption of nutritious and safe food
for all people, especially those most vulnerable to malnutrition. As such, GAIN values the importance of
nutritious diets and is engaged, as a primary aim, in many efforts to promote them; by increasing the
availability and affordability of nutritious foods, enhancing the nutritional value of foods, or influencing
people’s food choices. No one single food item exists that provides all elements needed for a healthy diet;
individuals consume a number of foods as part of a diet and also make choices on the basis of individual
foods. GAIN focuses on food safety as a secondary aim, ensuring that the nutritious foods we work on
should be safe and thereby maximising health outcomes. GAIN also seeks to ensure sustainable diets with
co-benefits on climate, nutrition, human health and the environment.
In order to ensure consistency internally in GAIN and provide guidance for the implementation of GAIN’s
strategy, this guidance note serves to define and provide a typology that interprets and operationalises the
concept of “nutritious and safe food”.
GAIN defines a “nutritious” food as a food that in the context where it is consumed and by the individual that
consumes it, provides beneficial nutrients (e.g. vitamins, major and trace minerals, essential amino acids,
essential fatty acids, dietary fibre) and minimises potentially harmful elements (e.g. antinutrients, quantities of
saturated fats and sugars) 1,2. The contextual or target group qualification is necessary because particular
vulnerable groups have special needs, which can make a given food nutritious for them while being
potentially undesirable for others. For example, a one-year old infant needs foods that are energy- and
nutrient-dense, while this might be undesirable for an adult who might receive excessive amounts of some
micronutrients or an adolescent at risk of obesity. Similarly, high energy density is of importance for
individuals suffering from acute malnutrition, whereas low energy density may be preferable for overweight
GAIN defines a “safe” food as a food that does not increase the probability of poor health outcomes when
part of a broader recommended diet in the context where it is consumed. Specifically, safe food is that in
which attributes derived from the value chain (pathogens, parasites and contaminants, including
agrochemicals and food chain mycotoxins) that could cause adverse health outcomes 3,4,5 do not exceed
internationally agreed thresholds. The Codex Alimentarius collection of internationally recognised standards
provides reference points for adhering to such thresholds, which GAIN will use where and when needed.