Where Children Get Their Empty Calories

Whether it’s candy, soda or pizza, it’s hard to find a child who doesn’t like junk food. Unfortunately, these items are called “junk food” for a reason, as they offer little in the way of nutritional value. A recent study has shed light on just how many of these “empty calories” children consume.

Bad Habits

Believe it or not, empty calories account for more than 25 percent of the calories consumed by children and teenagers. This was the finding of a study presented at Nutrition 2020 Live Online, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN). The study authors based their conclusions on data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Aside from the sheer amount of empty calories consumed, the study was also able to pinpoint the biggest contributors towards this habit. Specifically, the participants’ biggest sources of junk food were found to be soft drinks, fruit drinks, cookies and brownies, pizza, and ice cream.

Cutting Back on Bad Carbs

The study authors further noted that the subject’s junk food preferences tended to change over time. Younger children, for instance, tended to prefer fruit drinks and flavored milks for their empty calorie fix. Teenagers, on the other hand, were found to be more partial to pizza, soft drinks and sweet bakery items.

Edwina Wambogo, a recent postdoctoral Cancer Research Training Award Fellow with the National Cancer Institute, opined that the study highlighted a major problem with children’s’ eating habits. “Our findings suggest a need for continued research into what children and adolescents are eating,” stated Wambogo in an ASN press release. “Examining the whole landscape of available foods and beverages for children and adolescents can help inform new ways to promote healthier eating.”

Among the suggestions proposed by the researchers to address this issue included restricted marketing of unhealthy foods, promotion of healthier food alternatives and product reformulation of items with large amounts of empty calories.

Related Stories


Scoliosis, a condition characterized by a curvature of the spine, affects more people than you might realize. According to …