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The Calories in "Zero" Calorie Foods

By Sara Butler

You should know by now that not all the promises made on packaged foods are true. One claim you often see is that a food contains “zero” calories – but it’s technically not true at all. If you can chew a food then it probably contains calories. So, what does it really mean for a food to be “zero” calories? Read on to find out!

The Rules

Food manufacturers are not breaking the law when they claim a food has zero calories if it has less than five calories. That may sound like it’s not that big of a deal, but remember they mean per serving. So, if you have something such as cooking spray that has a few calories a serving, then you’re probably not using just one serving of it when you cook.

Manufacturers are also allowed to have a 20 percent margin of error when it comes to calorie content on their nutrition label. It should come as no surprise they tend to underestimate calories when they can.

Zero Calorie Food That’s Not

If you’re looking to maintain a healthy weight for your overall health and wellness, then you have to be aware of the foods that may claim to have zero calories but actually do. That way you can make sure to use moderation with them as well.

  • Gum – Yes, gum has calories! One stick of gum can have as many as five calories. That doesn’t sound like a bunch, but if you chew a pack of gum every week that can add up to a pound's worth of extra calories over the course of one year.
  • Diet Soda – The artificial sweeteners in diet soda play a trick on your brain that makes you crave even more sweet things. It may have only a fraction of the calories of a regular soda, but it may increase your desire for sugary food and drink. Proceed with caution.
  • Sugar-free candies – This includes mints, and much like gum just one or two isn’t a big deal but who only eats one or two? When you consume more than one then it really becomes no better than candy on a nutritional level.
  • Pickles – Who hasn’t picked up a pickle as a snack due to its nominal calories count? They’re basically cucumbers in salt water, so what could be wrong – they’re vegetables! Well, too many pickles will shoot your sodium intake through the roof and add calories, too. Also keep in mind that many pickle makers add sugar to their pickles!

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