Why We Need To Stop Thinking About Some Foods As Empty Calories

Why We Need To Stop Thinking About Some Foods As Empty Calories

by | Mar 2, 2021

Not every food is created equal when it comes to the nutrition department. This we’ve known for years, ever since we began to wonder just how unhealthy that box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts we were getting through during that breakup was, as opposed to, say, a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa dip. While it’s always been public knowledge that the majority of the food we eat should be fruit, vegetables, whole grains and devoid of artificial sweeteners and preservatives, the rhetoric surrounding food tends to oversimplify – making some “good” and others “bad”, while also suggesting we should limit “empty calories”. 

The theory behind such a suggestion seems to be that when it comes to actually fuelling the body, rather devote time to those foods that actually pack a nutritional punch than something like a soft drink, which might provide calories but not the kind your body needs or craves. But the idea that some foods contain empty calories is not only untrue, it could just be harmful. Some experts believe thinking along these lines could do more harm than good. 

For starters, most tend to describe empty calories as calories from solid fats and added sugars, such as cakes, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, pizza, and so on. The reason tends to be that these foods contain high amounts of saturated fat and sugar, which “add calories to the food but few or no nutrients.” 

The phrase though, is an oxymoron. No calorie is devoid of nutrients, in fact every calorie is a nutrient. All foods are made up of some combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats. While some foods will lack vitamins and minerals, they still provide the body with the energy it needs to function and in some instances, these calories might even be the best energy choice. Some might consider sports drinks as empty calories,  but  for those doing a marathon, it’s exactly the fuel they need. 

As well as this, all food serves a purpose. As Christine Byrne writes in Outside, “The idea of empty calories also perpetuates the misconception that protein and fat from less nutritious foods serve no purpose. That’s just not true – sausages and ribs provide significant amounts of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscle and other healthy tissues.”

Byrne adds that ‘empty calories’ is a “blanket term for a wide range of very different foods, which makes it confusing.” As she suggests, “The idea of empty calories is too simplistic to be meaningful. Experts came up with the term as a way to encourage people to eat more healthfully. But in reality, all it does is designate certain foods as “bad” without explaining why or exploring the nuances of how various foods impact our bodies.” 

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8 Of The Best Exercise Shorts That Will Power You Through A Summer Of Movement

It’s official: Shorts Season is officially here. While lockdown has seen many of us realise that activewear is less something to be worn for a workout and more a uniform we choose to do any and all daily activities in, when the warmer temperatures roll around, that favourite pair of sweatpants and leggings sometimes don’t cut it. Sure, they might be a staple in any wardrobe, but the Aussie sun doesn’t listen to reason, no matter how comfortable or cute it might be. And when it comes to summer, working out in leggings can feel like being trapped in a sauna, the sweat pooling at your ankles and around the waistband – as well as those other areas we won’t mention here. 

But as we transition from leggings to shorts, it becomes clear pretty quickly that not all shorts are created equal, and certainly not all shorts are fit for a workout. Take it from us at Women’s Health HQ, we’ve been there, tried it and lived to see the consequences. From the shorts that look cute but ride up to show your undies on the run, to those that feel like being strapped into a harness that’s digging into your hip bones. Then there are the fabrics that can cause chafing – a big no – and those that basically shine a spotlight on any area you might be sweating. 

Thankfully, a number of brands are here to cater to your exercise needs with innovative materials, fabrics and sustainable options to see you through a summer of movement. Regardless of your workout preferences or daily activity, we’ve selected the best shorts that will ensure you feel good in your body, shorts that get you excited to embrace the day and attack it with energy, that make you want to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be walking, running, or socialising in the park. Here are our pick of the best bike shorts below. 


Uptown Biker, $240

What says summer more than a pop of orange and the sleek shape of these Nagnata biker shorts? With its mid-length and horizontal raised rib side detail, these are shorts you can wear both for a workout and out to meet the girls. Made in Australia with a technical knit fabrication, the double-layer jacquard provides gentle sculpting qualities for the body, making it an excellent choice for light to moderate fitness activities like yoga, pilates or barre. 

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New Balance

Q Speed Fuel Short, $70

We love the colour of these shorts from New Balance which are cut with a sleek, speedy look that also helps to elongate the legs. Featuring NB DRY moisture wicking fabric, these are the shorts you want for high intensity exercise or long runs, keeping you comfortable and dry. There’s also an interior brief for added comfort and a stash pocket to keep your essentials. 

All Access

Ultra High Rise Zip Front Biker Short, $78

Yes, the colour is amazing but the fit is equally sensational on these All Access shorts. For those who love a high-rise fit and wide waistband that holds you in at the waist, look no further. The sleek, shiny look offers mid-compression and the fabric is moisture-wicking, so you can stay comfortable even during your sweatiest workouts. 


Nike x Naomi Osaka Utility Short, $90

Few things are worse than heading out the door for a run and realising your shorts offer no pockets for those essentials you need. You’re left to hold your iPhone, keys, and anything else you might need in your sweaty palm. Thankfully, Naomi Osaka knows what we need when it comes to exercise shorts and these utility shorts from her collaboration with Nike offer all that and more with a relaxed fit and elastic waistband. 


Session short Tights, $72

When it comes to bike shorts, you want to feel supported and held in but you also want to be able to breathe. These Tracksmith session short tights are exceptional in offering support while still ensuring comfort remains a priority. Forget about chafing, these shorts won’t ride up and down and the fabric offers more coverage and support against the body. 

Outdoor Voices

Relay 3” Short, $48

Who said summer shorts have to be boring? Outdoor Voices brings fashion-forward style and playfulness to their collections with fun prints and exciting colours. We love the relay 3” shorts for their ultralight, quick-drying fabric that also happens to be made from recycled polyester. But more importantly, we love the print and Poppy Swirl is as good as it gets. There’s even a hidden pocket for your valuables, too. 


Align High-Rise Short 6”, $69

If you’re familiar with the buttery-soft feel of Lululemon’s tights, you’ll want to get your hands on a pair of their shorts, too. Made with the same Nulu fabric that their tights are known for, these shorts feel weightless and super soft. They might be our go-to staple for any workout, but the feel is so second-skin that it’s hard to not wear them for every other activity, too. 

Spiritual Gangster

Seamless Biker Short, $112

These biker shorts from Spiritual Gangster move with you, thanks to a three-tiered compressive waistband that offers a flattering high waist that hugs you in all the right places, without proving constrictive. They offer medium compression but are built for all day comfort, and the colour is a true summer staple because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love tie-dye?