24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
(800)421-8825
Fax: (361)578-5500

Nutrition
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Excess Sugar Is No Sweet Deal for Your HeartAHA News: A Healthier Frozen Treat for Hot Summer DaysIntestinal Illness Spurs Recall of Bagged Salads Sold at Walmart, AldiHealthier Meals Could Mean Fewer Strokes, Heart AttacksWhat Difference Do Calorie Counts on Menus Make?Female Athletes Shortchange Themselves on NutritionMilk Chocolate, Dairy and Fatty Foods Tied to Acne in AdultsLatest in Cancer Prevention: Move More, Ditch Beer and BaconFor Tasty Tomatoes, Either the Fridge or the Counter Is OK: StudyAHA News: Calorie Data on Menus Could Generate Significant Health, Economic BenefitsHealth Warning Labels Could Cut Soda SalesWhere Are Kids Getting the Most 'Empty Calories'?AHA News: A Nutritious Side Dish to Grill This Memorial DayAHA News: Cooking More at Home? Diverse Food Cultures Can Expand Heart-Healthy MenuEven One High-Fat Meal May Dull Your MindToo Many Sugary Sodas Might Harm Your KidneysCan Fruits, Tea Help Fend Off Alzheimer's Disease?More Evidence Sugary Drinks Harm Women's HeartsIn COVID Crisis, Nearly Half of People in Some U.S. States Are Going HungryNavigating the Grocery Store SafelyOn Some Farms, Washing Machines Give Leafy Greens a Spin -- But Is That Safe?Coffee May Do a Heart Good, as Long as It's FilteredPotato & Sausages, Cold Cuts a Bad Combo for Your BrainTips for Safe Grocery ShoppingWhich Foods Might Reduce Your Odds for Dementia?High-Fiber Diets May Lower Odds for Breast CancerMission Possible: Tips for Safe Grocery Shopping During the PandemicDon't Worry About U.S. Food Supply, FDA SaysAHA News: Is This Nature's Healthier Meat Replacement?AHA News: If You Think Before You Snack, It's Not So BadCooking Up a Storm During Coronavirus Crisis? Store Leftovers SafelyU.S. Kids, Teens Eating Better But Nutrition Gaps PersistTurning to Tofu Might Help the Heart: StudyEating Fish in Moderation During Pregnancy Benefits Fetus: StudyDon't Abandon Healthy Eating During Coronavirus PandemicFor Heart Health, Not All Plant-Based Diets Are Equal: StudyTrying the Keto Diet? Watch Out for the 'Keto Flu'How to Understand New Food LabelsWill a Jolt of Java Get Your Creative Juices Flowing?Post-Game Snacks May Undo Calorie-Burning Benefit of Kids' SportsOlive Oil Could Help Lower Your Heart Disease RiskMore Evidence That Ditching Red Meat Is Good for Your HeartUnscrambling the Egg Data: One a Day Looks OKAHA News: How Millennials' Notions on Food Are Changing the Entire SystemWant Your Kids to Eat Veggies? Both Parents Must Set ExampleBig Breakfast May Be the Most Slimming Meal of the DaySugary Sodas Wreak Havoc With Cholesterol Levels, Harming the HeartChicago's Short-Lived 'Soda Tax' Cut Consumption, Boosted Health Care FundsMealtime Choices Could Affect Your Odds for StrokeAHA News: This Meaty Jambalaya Takes the Fat Out of Fat Tuesday
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Wellness and Personal Development

Where Are Kids Getting the Most 'Empty Calories'?

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jun 1st 2020

new article illustration

MONDAY, June 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. children and teenagers are still downing too many "empty calories" -- primarily from sugary beverages, sweets and pizza, a new government study finds.

The study, based on a long-running federal health survey, did turn up some good news: In recent years, kids have been eating fewer empty calories, versus a decade before.

The bad news is, by 2016, those sources still accounted for more than one-quarter of kids' total calories.

The term "empty" generally refers to food and drinks that provide a lot of calories but little to no nutrition. In this study, empty calories were defined as those coming from added sugars or "solid" fats (like butter and shortening).

Sugary drinks, the study found, have consistently been a top source of U.S. kids' empty-calorie intake. That's not surprising, since added sugar lurks not only in sodas, but also sweetened juices, sports drinks, teas and milk, said lead researcher Edwina Wambogo, of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

And that, said Wambogo, points to a straightforward way to cut down on empty calories: Watch the liquid sugar.

When it comes to preschoolers, in particular, she said, simply limiting sweetened juices and milks would go a long way.

As kids get a little older, the study found, soda becomes a prime sugar source, while foods like cookies, brownies and pizza provide a large share of total sugar, as well as solid fats.

That's not to say there's no value in any of those foods, Wambogo pointed out. Even sweetened milk contains nutrients like protein and calcium. And pizza provides protein, dairy and vegetables.

So context matters, Wambogo said. If parents make a pizza topped with vegetables -- and get their kids to actually eat vegetables -- that's different from feeding the family a diet full of take-out.

Wambogo was scheduled to present the findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, being held online. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary because they haven't yet been peer-reviewed for journal publication.

Connie Diekman, a registered dietitian who was not involved in the study, agreed that kids' overall diet is what's critical. And there can be room for pizza and chocolate milk.

"Pizza is not the problem," said Diekman, a former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The issue is -- what is on it, and what does the rest of your family's eating plan look like?"

She suggested that parents focus on offering kids plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy. "Find foods within those groups that your kids enjoy and then build meals around those options," Diekman said.

"If your kids love pizza," she added, "then try either making it at home with all the veggies they love, a leaner meat and a bit less cheese -- or ordering a cheese pizza and adding steamed veggies."

Of course, Wambogo noted, kids eat outside of the home, too. "There's a lot that policymakers can do, too," she said.

In fact, Wambogo added, the recent decline in empty calories may be partly related to school policies that removed sugary drinks from cafeterias and vending machines.

Diekman agreed, saying the general advice to parents applies to schools as well: Offer kids nutritious whole foods and limit the added sugar.

No one is saying, however, that parents should deny their kids all sweet treats. "You can reduce the amount of sugar without eliminating it," Wambogo said.

Everyone, she noted, likes a brownie now and then.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has nutrition tips for parents.