All About Calories
Calories are a measure of the amount of “energy” in food and drinks and pretty much everything we consume has calories.
It’s important to know how many calories are in the food you eat each and every day. Having this information will help you balance the energy you put in your body with the energy you use and this is the key to maintaining a healthy weight.
How Many Calories Per Day?
As a guide women should aim to eat no more than 2,000 calories each day and men up to 2,500 calories. Using calories as a guide is the easiest way to make healthier food choices and to ensure we’re not eating too much. If you are eating too much saturated fat and too much sugar, there’s a pretty good chance we’re eating too many calories.
Calories In Versus Calories Out
When we eat and drink, we’re putting energy into our bodies in the form of calories. During the day, each bit of physical activity we carry out uses up that energy and burns off those calories we put in. Even breathing uses up calories – but don’t count that as your workout for the day!
To maintain a healthy weight, the energy we put into our bodies must be the same as the energy we use by normal bodily functions and physical activity.
If there are some days where we put in more energy than we use, then there should also be days where the opposite is true, so that overall the energy in and energy used remain balanced.
When we regularly put more energy into our bodies than we use up, this is when we gain weight. Over time, that excess energy is stored by the body as fat. It’s a fact that most adults eat and drink more than they need, and think that they are more physically active than they are!
In the UK over 2/3 of the adult population is either overweight or obese – that doesn’t leave too many people left who are considered to be a healthy weight!
Knowing The Calories In Your Food
It’s vital that you know the calorie content of what you consume on a daily basis when it comes to achieving or maintaining a healthy weight. Knowing the ‘calories in’ can help us keep track of the amount of energy we are eating and drinking. It’s very easy without keeping a close eye on calories to eat way more than we should be.
I use a free tool called My Fitness Pal which you can use on your computer or smartphone to track everything you eat – it might seem a little confusing at first but when you get in to the habit of using it, My Fitness Pal is a great help.
The calorie content of many foods is stated on the packaging in the nutrition label, which you will often find on the back or side of the packaging. This information will appear under the “Energy” heading. The calorie content is often given in kcals, which is short for “kilocalories”, and also in kJ, which is short for “kilojoules”.
A “kilocalorie” is another word for what is commonly called a “calorie”, so 1,000 calories will be written as 1,000kcals. Kilojoules are the metric measurement of calories.
The label will usually tell you how many calories are contained in 100 grams or 100 millilitres of the food or drink, so you can compare the calorie content of different products. Many labels will also state the number of calories in “one portion” of the food. But remember that the manufacturer’s idea of “one portion” may not be the same as yours, so there could be more calories in the portion you serve yourself.
Most restaurants & take-away’s now put calorie information on their menus, so you can also check the calorie content of foods when eating out. Calories should be given per portion or per meal.
You might be surprised how many calories are in that ‘quick-fix’ snack you’re thinking about having and arms you with the information you need to choose a healthier alternative!
The amount of calories people burn by doing physical activity varies depending on different factors, including the build of the person and age. The more vigorously you do an activity, the more calories you will use. For example, fast walking will use more calories than walking at a moderate pace.
If you’re gaining weight, it usually means you’ve been regularly eating and drinking more calories than you’ve been burning off through your normal daily routine and any extra physical activity you do.
To lose weight, you have to tip that balance in the other direction. You must start to use more energy than you consume, and do this over a sustained period of time. That’s the difficult part – most people think of losing weight as a ‘quick-fix’ short term diet – most people need to change unhealthy lifestyle habits that they fall in to over time!
You can do this by making healthy changes to your diet so that you eat and drink fewer calories. The best approach is to combine these changes in diet with increased physical activity.