Empty Calories and Fillers

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Dr Donna Spector

What are “empty calories”?

"Empty calories" are calories that are present in high-energy foods with poor nutritional profiles.  Although an "empty calorie" has the same energy content of any other calorie, these calories lack accompanying beneficial nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber and/or antioxidants.  In pet foods, "empty calories" often come from common fillers (like corn and white rice) or artificial flavoring additives. Corn syrup, sugar, molasses, and propylene glycol are examples of the flavoring additives frequently used in pet food to disguise inferior food quality or give dampness to foods and treats.  Limiting "empty calories" is important to prevent weight gain and I recommend replacing "empty calorie" foods with nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and fiber-rich vegetables.

What are "fillers"?

Halo defines "fillers" as corn and white rice.  Corn and rice are carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels rapidly and create hormonal signals that have negative long term effects on metabolism and weight gain.  Although corn and white rice are often thought of as staples of an American diet, they are not healthful for pets in the large quantities used by many pet food companies.  Corn and rice are often the main ingredients in other foods and treats because they are a cheap way to fill up a bag and still meet basic energy requirements.  This has led to industry-wide creation of pet foods and treats which are high in carbohydrates, relatively low in meat protein and are a major factor in the pet obesity epidemic.  These corn and rice based diets are also often responsible for chronic symptoms of maldigestion, such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. 

Halo makes healthier carbohydrate choices by using whole grains such as barley and oats and vegetables like sweet potatoes.  These carbohydrates are nutrient-dense because they supply energy as well as high levels of fiber for digestive health and high levels of vitamins and minerals for overall health.  By using high quality natural ingredients, Halo has no need to use additives for flavors, resulting in a much healthier product. 

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