Monday, 7 October 2013

Understanding Calorie Counting

Knowing how many calories are in your everyday food can help you to maintain a healthy weight.  On average, men need around 2,500 calories (kcal) and women need around 2,000 (kcal) daily.  These figures can vary, depending on a person’s age, height and physical activity.

Calories = energy

Calories are a measure of the amount of energy that is in your food, so when you eat or drink, you are putting energy into your body.  Everybody needs a certain amount of energy (or calories) to maintain normal bodily functions and to perform everyday activities.

If you eat and drink more than your body needs (i.e. take in too many calories), then your body will store it as fat and you will gain weight over time.  You can help to burn up calories (use up energy) by performing physical exercise.

Understanding food labels

Most packaged foods have labels giving the “nutritional value” of what is in the food.  This is where you can find the calorie count of the food, usually displayed under “energy”.  It is often displayed under two different formats: kcals (kilocalorie) and KJ (kilojoules).  Kilojoules is the metric value. 

The average figures of 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 calories for women are based on kcals (kilocalories).  In KJ (kilojoules), the figure would be much higher – 10,500 KJ for men and 8,400 KJ for women.

Sometimes you may have to work out the amount of calories in a particular food, as quite often the label may give the amount of calories per 100g.  So for example, you could be eating a packet of something that is actually 200g in weight, but the label is telling you that there is 50 kcal in 100g, so in actual fact that packet of food would count as 100 kcal calories if you ate all of it.

Advantages of calorie counting

Knowing how many calories you should personally be having will help you to maintain a healthy weight and/or lose weight if you need to.

Calorie counting can help you start to create a more healthy diet as once you realise how many calories are in certain foods, you may decide it is better to limit those that are very high in calories in favour of more healthy and lower calorie options.

You don’t have to exclude your favourite foods, just be aware of how many calories are in the foods you do eat, so that you are not taking in more than you should.  In fact, it’s nice to know you can have a treat occasionally rather than feeling deprived!

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You may feel encouraged to become a bit more physically active, as this will help to burn up calories.  So if you do feel like having an extra special treat to eat, you know you can burn off the calories by exercising.  It's a good idea to invest in a Wrist Monitor Calories Counter that you can wear while exercising and which will show you how many calories you have burned.
Online Resources

There are many online resources to help you with calorie counting, diet and exercise.  The best one I’ve found and which is free to use is: "My Fitness Pal".  You can find nutritional and calorie information on thousands of foods, keep track of your meals, calories and exercise through an online diary, as well as join in a group or share with your friends.  They also have a free app for Android and Apple.

NB:  It is advisable to consult your doctor/health care professional before embarking on any new diet and/or exercise plan.

*Prices/discounts/shipping indicated correct at time of writing/publishing and may be subject to change anytime.  E&OE.

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