As someone who has been counting calories and trying to minimize caloric and fat intake for several months I have to ask this question.

Why is it that drinks but not food can have 0 calories?


1 Answer 1


Drinks are mostly water. If besides that it's just flavorings and artificial sweeteners, there's nothing with calories in it. So zero-calorie drinks are a really obvious thing to make: just take some existing drink, replace any sugar with artificial sweeteners, replace any actual food content (e.g. fruit puree) with flavorings, and it'll be zero calorie.

To make zero-calorie food, you'd need a solid edible zero-calorie thing to provide the bulk, and there's not an obvious choice for that, certainly not something common like water. On top of that, if you want it to be anything like the food it's based on, it has to be a very specific substance.

That said, it's not impossible. There are indigestible carbohydrates (fiber, generally), and some foods like shirataki noodles made basically completely out of that so they end up low- or zero-calorie.

I'm sure with enough modern industrial food science, we could make a lot more things in that vein. But it's definitely not nearly so easy as with drinks. And you wouldn't want to eat massive quantities; the water that makes up virtually all of a zero-calorie drink is easy to get out of your body, but giant amounts of indigestible solids won't be as pleasant.

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    Zero calorie solid bulk still has to be eliminated, which, if consumed in quantity could be uncomfortable. Zero calorie sweeteners merely have to be broken down by one or another organ into soluble substances that usually can be more comfortably eliminated. So it might be harder to commercialize zero calorie food versus zero calorie beverages. Dec 16, 2016 at 2:09
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    @ToddWilcox Edited. I think the better comparison is the water in the zero-calorie drinks, though, since there's orders of magnitude more of it.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 16, 2016 at 2:13
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    @ToddWilcox play dough and glue both likely have calories. Just because it's not food doesn't make it non-caloric. Calorie content is based on grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
    – Catija
    Dec 16, 2016 at 2:43
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    You also have things which are marked as zero calories (e.g. tic tacs) because they have less than x calories and the FDA or similar regulatory agency likely allows it. As for celery being a "negative calorie food", its bunk.
    – Batman
    Dec 16, 2016 at 6:21
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    Remember the Olestra debacle - and since we are indulging in a health discussion anyway, something that tells your brain it is high caloric food and isn't might be anything but healthy. Dec 16, 2016 at 10:01

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