A calorie is simply a measure of the amount of energy in food. It is not an indication of the nutrient quality of food.
I am not a great advocate of calorie counting long term, as I feel it places too much emphasis and time on “diet” foods rather than everyday, long term, lifestyle foods that best support our weight and health. As a Nutritionist and Weight Loss Specialist, my aim is to guide clients away from the stress of counting calories in their food choices and into the enjoyment of eating. I do this by showing them the best nutrient quality foods for their weight loss and health.
However because there is so much conflicting food advice out there, in the initial stages of weight loss calorie counting is an excellent way of understanding how much we are eating and gives a good basic outline of what works for us and what doesn’t. It can help us to balance the energy we put into our bodies with the energy we use, which is the key to maintaining healthy weight.
It is important to note though that all calories are not created equal. For instance, a cup cake or ready meal that has 500 calories, is unlikely to sustain you as a much as a jacket potato with tuna and salad which also has 500 calories. It would be easy to eat a “diet” pre-packed meal or sandwich of 400 calories, but tough going to finish a plate of steamed fish fish piled up with colourful veg with herbs or spices, or a hearty homemade soup with the same calories. The prepacked meal would be calories dense (empty calories no matter what the packaging said), and the veg would be nutrient dense, packed with all the nutrients, fiber, vitamins, minerals – all of the essentials that a healthy body thrives on and needs for sustainable weight loss.
Then there is the subsequent hunger. Which do you think you would feel hungrier after eating first?
All foods are not metabolised in our bodies in the same way, and the processed low calorie options often have more fibre free sugar which is broken down quickly in our bodies into glucose. The glucose causes a spike in your blood sugar that starts the effect of high insulin production which in turn increases belly fat and when the sugar spike is over, you are left feeling hungry again. Whole foods take longer to break down and digest and in the process use up more calories and keep you fuller longer.
It is also important to keep an eye on our macronutrient intake.
The macronutrients are Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. For a healthy diet, the percentage of our daily intake should be, 50 – 55% carbs, 10 – 15% protein, 30 – 35% fat, with an upper limit of 11% saturated fats and of no more than 2% being trans fats. The correct percentage of the healthiest options of these macronutrients is absolutely key to maintaining a healthy weight, with low body fat and optimum health.
In summary, whilst you are re-calibrating your body and mindset, please do look at the calorie content of your foods choices to make you more aware. The calorie content may well shock you and stop you from purchasing. More importantly though, look at the quality of the food and remember, no food that benefits your health and weight loss long term, comes with a label telling you how little fiber there is or how much sneaky sugar and salt regardless of the fat levels. Remember when fat is removed (which is tasty and filling and vital for so many functions in the body), something else, usually sugar is added (sugar is the ultimate weight loss and health disaster). Also, look out for any other information which should be unnecessary to list on a “healthy” option food. This rule sadly actually applies most to “diet” foods.