The calorie is the most recognized unit of food measurement. In a world where everything from fast food to restaurant chains are offering more and more low-calorie options, it can be challenging to know how much you’re eating or how many calories your foods actually have.
That’s why it’s important to understand how to count calories without being on a diet. If you want to know how many calories are in different types of food and beverages, read on for some useful tips.
Get to know your food’s nutritional information
A few months ago, you might have noticed a product advertised as “low-calorie” or “zero-calorie.” It may sound enticing, but there’s a big difference between a low number of calories and a zero number of calories. Our bodies need calories—and not just any type but specific nutrients, too.
Therefore, a food labeled “low-calorie” could actually be lacking in important vitamins, minerals, macronutrients (e.g., proteins, fats, vitamins, etc.), or other compounds that are essential for good health. While it’s good to look up the nutritional content of foods you’re considering purchasing, you can also get a general idea by taking a quick look at the food’s packaging.
Food labels will include nutritional information such as the fat, sodium, carbohydrate, sugar, and other information included in the food.
Break down your meals into individual components
When you break down a meal into its individual components, such as the protein, carbs, and fats, you’re able to see how each item relates to the others. For example, if a meal contains a large amount of carbs but low amounts of fats and protein, you’ll be consuming a lot of energy from carbohydrates but very little from fats and protein—two nutrients that are vital to maintaining a healthy body.
Even if the total amount of calories in the meal is low, you’ll still be consuming too much energy from carbs. Break down your meals into individual components by looking at the nutritional information for each item. If possible, you can also ask your dietitian for the breakdown of the meal’s components.
Add up the calories in all your meals and snacks for the day
When you add up all the calories in all your meals and snacks for the day, you get a sense of where your daily intake sits. You may need to cut smaller slices in Pizza or have one sandwich instead of two. Again, keep in mind that not all calories are created equally—some nutrients are more important than others. For example, protein is one of the most important macronutrients because it is responsible for building and repairing tissues in your body.
If you have a daily intake that’s too high in calories, you’ll likely experience weight gain or even obesity. If your intake is too low, you may experience a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals. Although it might not be a perfect solution, you can use an online tool to help you calculate your daily calorie intake.
There are several options available, but we recommend one that allows you to input information about your weight, height, and exercise routine.
Don’t forget about physical activity
While it might seem like counting calories is all you need to do to fulfill your nutritional needs, physical activity is just as important. For women over 19, daily physical activity can account for about 30% of daily energy expenditure, or EEE.
What you do for work has a big difference here. A solar panel installer will have much more physical activity than an accountant, for example. You can get this amount of exercise by walking or doing light calisthenics for 30 minutes a day or by doing some other form of cardio exercise.
Know how to estimate total calorie needs
When you know the breakdown of the nutrients in each meal, you also need to consider the total amount of calories in your entire day. You can do this quickly by using an online tool. Choose an option that allows you to input information about your weight, height, and physical activity. Calorie calculators will then give you an estimate of your daily calorie intake.
These calculators are useful, but it’s important to note that they are only an estimate of your daily calorie needs. The USDA recommends a certain amount of calories based on your sex, age, and height, but you can also adjust for your own specific needs by using the USDA estimate as a general guide.
Beware of low-calorie food labels and the calories they contain. Know how to count calories and how to break down your meals and snacks so you can make sure you’re consuming enough nutritional value.
Finally, don’t forget to include physical activity in your day; it can help you maintain a healthy weight. These steps will help you count calories without being on a diet.