Calories are units of energy, we are using the term for the purpose of this article to describe the amount of energy that we either consume in the food that we eat or burn off as we go about our daily routines. They are generally measured in kilocalories (Kcal), which are made up of 1000 small calories otherwise known as gram calories. check out a full explanation of what a calorie is on Wikipedia
It is important to maintain an healthy weight and we do this by maintaining a balance between the calories we eat and the calories we burn, in other words we need to consume only as many calories as we use up, and no more.
Consuming more calories that we burn off results in weight gain, consuming less calories than we burn off means we loose weight, but is dangerous long term because continually consuming less calories than we need will result in illness, and even death.
The difficulty we all struggle with is accurately knowing how many calories are contained in the food we eat and how many calories we are burning as we go about our lives, so that we can determine a good balance between the two.
The Food industry uses average values to determine what calories are contained in our food, these are:
- 4 calories per gram of fat
- 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates
- 9 calories per gram of protein
Most processed foods contain nutritional information on the packaging regarding the contents of the food we buy and this gives us a better idea of what we are consuming. Below is a list of common foods and their calorie content to help you determine for yourself what is calorie dense and what is not. If you divide the calories figure by the serving size gram figure you will get the calories per gram figure which makes comparing much easier.
|Food||Serving size||Calories||Calories per g|
|Chicken salad sandwich||1 pack/195g||257||1.3|
|Garlic bread (low fat)||84g||94||1.12|
|Naan bread||1/2 piece||269||na|
|Cheeseburger from Macdonalds||141g||379||2.7|
|Milk (semi skimmed)||30ml/1 fl oz||96||3.2|
|Eggs size 3||57g||84||1.5|
|Can of coke||330ml||139||0.4|
|Tea||1 mug/270 ml||29||0.1|
|Yoghurt strawberry||1 pot /200g||123||0.6|
|Cheese and onion crisps||1 bag /35g||184||5.3|
|kit kat||2 finger bar / 21g||106||5.0|
|Pork chops||1 oz /28g||73||2.6|
|Pint of beer||1 pint (568ml)||182||0.3|
|Vodka 40% alcohol||25 ml||55||2.2|
I don’t think there are many surprises from these figures, fruit and vegetables contain less calories, diary products are very calorie dense as are meats and chocolates. I was initially a little shocked at the difference between beer and vodka, but soon realised that most of a pint of beer is water in reality, where vodka is much less diluted.
We burn calories even if we lay in bed all day. This is our basal metabolic rate and are the calories we burn just to keep our bodily functions and organs going. You can work out your basal metabolic rate here.
So we have our basal metabolic rate as a starting point, then any movement, whether walking, doing house work, going to the gym, walking etc adds to the amount of calories that we burn.
We burn 60-90 calories per hour while resting, which is at one end of the spectrum, and upto 20 calories per minute doing intense exercise at the other end, with all other activities somewhere between these two.
Another factor which impacts the rate in which calories are burned, includes the size of a person, the bigger you are the more calories you will burn. Men tend to burn more calories than women do.
Striking a balance between calories in and calories out
Our minds can play tricks on us with regards to how hungry we feel. During an experiment conducted by the BBC who wanted to see how the labelling and presentation of food would affect how people would feel after consuming it. They separated twins into two groups one group was presented with a drink which was labelled as an indulgent drink containing 900 calories per bottle and was labelled to reflect this. The second group was presented with an healthy drink containing just 200 calories and labelled accordingly. The drink was in fact the same in both groups.
The results showed that when they thought it was an healthy/low calorie option they tended to feel hungry quicker, compared to when it was considered an indulgent, high calorie option. The findings suggested that our minds affect how we interpret physical feelings of hunger.
Substituting high calories with lower calorie options
One way of lowering our calorie intake is by replacing high calorie foods with lower calorie substitutes. This can be a more palatable option than simply cutting down on the amount we eat or simply cutting out certain high calorie meals altogether. For instance if you’re making bangers and mash use double cream instead of butter, use parsnips and swedes to replace some of the potato.
If you’re making Steak and chips, shake the oils from the chips more vigorously, lower the portion size of the chips (portion control), cook the steak for less time which makes the steak harder to digest and thus uses more calories during the digestive process.
We only absorb half of the calories from foods rich in fibre, the rest passes through our system, undigested.
Feeling fuller for longer
Some fibre absorbs water in our stomach, and this helps make us feel fuller for longer. Protein also makes you feel fuller for longer. Consume more liquid type foods such as soups which tend to make us feel fuller. Drink more water, this also aids the feeling of being full.
The bottom line to weight loss is to burn more and eat less calories, how you go about this is entirely up to you, it’s about making lots of little changes in diet and activity levels so you can tip the balance in your favour.
Check out our Ultimate Weight loss guide below for more tips on losing those extra pounds.