I’ve never been one to take much notice of the calorie content of what I eat, concentrating more on the nutritional content of my food choices. And my family’s.
I remember listening to Dr Libby speak back in 2014 about her new book “The Calorie Fallacy”. She argued that the calorie equation used to measure our energy needs is completely outdated; that it doesn’t factor in the difference today’s foods and lifestyle are having on our metabolism.
When the Harris-Benedict Equation for calculating calories was first published exactly 100 years ago (in 1918) people still ate ‘real food’: porridge or bacon and eggs for breakfast, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken (not that it was worded as such – it just was that), potatoes, fresh vegetables, and homemade bread and baking made with stone-ground “whole meal” flour (more on that in a future blog).
Nowadays there are so much processed and packaged foods in most people’s diets – that relying on the calorie content alone is no longer a good indicator of the amount of food we should consume to match our energy needs, particularly if we are wanting to lose weight.
Every calorie is NOT the same. There is a huge difference between 1,200 calories of healthy food and 1,200 calories of unhealthy food! For example, if you were to have a 150-calorie square of chocolate brownie, those calories would be absorbed differently compared to 150 calories of nuts. Because nuts are a wholegrain packed with fibre, around 10-15 percent of those calories won’t be absorbed at all. You can really see the difference when it comes to food volume. 1,200 calories of healthy food will fill up potentially a few plates, whereas 1,200 calories of junk food would look tiny in comparison. Plus, because the healthy food is likely to contain wholegrains, healthy fats and protein, you’re much more likely to be satiated and you won’t feel hungry again soon after eating.
However switching to eating 100% real food is not a complete answer either!
In my latest focus on weight release, for the first time, I decided to use a calorie tracking app (which also tracked protein, carb and fat ratios). And it has provided some very useful insights! Portion control was a biggie. I learnt that I was overeating, particularly in the snack department. There’s a massive difference in calories between a teaspoon of peanut butter and a heaped dessert spoonful! And ten or so brown rice crackers should suffice – not the whole packet! (Yes I was doing that on the occasional afternoon). Plus those soy lattes really add to your daily calorie intake.
Eat predominantly real food and track your calories for a few days. Use it as an education tool until you feel you know what foods and portion sizes are right for you. Look for patterns too. If you see that you are under-eating early in the day, try to eat more for breakfast, which will help eliminate overeating at dinner.
Just don’t let calorie tracking take over. Ask yourself “Is this activity helping me?” If it’s stressing you out, it is not helping.