To keep track of the calories you take in, and the calories you burn each day, there are a few things you need to understand. For one, it’s necessary to know exactly what a calorie is, and how to go about accurately counting them.
Studies conducted at Cornell University indicate that the majority of people actually underestimate the amount of calories they take in each day.
They noted that overweight individuals tend to underestimate the calories in a meal, more than individuals of an average weight, by nearly 40%, while those of an average weight underestimated by approximately 20%. However, this is not a matter of overweight people trying to deceive themselves.
Further reports revealed that it was the size of the meal portions, which led to an underestimation of calorie intake. Both overweight and average weight people were more accurate at estimating the calorie content of smaller meals, compared to larger meals.
So, if you tend to eat larger meals more often, there’s a big chance you will be underestimating your calorie intake by a greater margin.
As the above study shows, we are generally quite bad at estimating our daily calorie intake, which is why it can sometimes be beneficial to count calories, at least in the beginning of a new diet plan.
Food Labels and Macronutrients
Many food labels are based upon a 2,000 or 2,500 daily calorie requirement. This number is just an estimate, based upon what the average woman or man requires. The actual number of calories needed for each person will vary.
Macronutrients are nutrients that your body needs in order to survive and function properly. The primary macronutrients we tend to consume large amounts of on a daily basis are carbohydrates, proteins and fats, the latter two of which are essential in our diets.
While there are a number of other nutrients the body requires in small amounts, macronutrients are those that are needed in larger quantities. Each macronutrient provides a certain amount of calories:
- Carbohydrates: contain 4 calories per gram
- Proteins: contain 4 calories per gram
- Fats: contain 9 calories per gram
By understanding these quantities, you can better estimate the amount of calories derived from each macronutrient.
For example, if you look at a food label and it reads, 4 grams of protein per serving, you will be receiving 16 calories of protein from a single serving (4 grams of protein x 4 calories per gram).
3 Ways to Count and Record Your Calorie Intake
Counting calories and keeping an accurate record of your daily intake can feel like a challenge, since it requires keeping track of the calories you consume, and perhaps even the calories you burn through daily activities and exercise.
There are, however, a number of tools that can help you keep an accurate records of these figures:
One of the first things you may want to try using is a journal or diary. You should write down every meal and snack you eat throughout the day. Make sure to record what time of day you eat, and perhaps even an itemized account of the calories.
For example, if you had a grilled chicken salad for lunch, don’t forget to record the calories in the salad dressing. If you have a sandwich, each individual item on the sandwich should be counted separately. Also remember to include calories from beverages.
You may also want to keep track of your daily activities in your journal. This includes any significant activity, not just sport or exercise, for example household chores, or working in the garden.
2. Kitchen Tools
There are certain kitchen tools, which can help you to accurately measure the amount of calories in your meals and snacks.
For example, when preparing a meal, you may want to measure the amount of calories in each food item. You can also keep accurate track of portion sizes in order to calculate calories. Measuring cups, measuring spoons and scales are essential kitchen tools to have on hand when counting calories.
If you are making a recipe from scratch, the calorie contents and nutritional can usually be found using an online calorie calculator.
3. Online Calorie Counters
If you don’t want to work out your calorie intake and expenditure by hand, you can use an online calorie counter.
Most online calorie counters also have a section where you can search for an estimate of the calories burned through certain daily activities, too, which is really helpful.
By calculating both your calorie intake and calories burned, you will have a pretty accurate account of how your weight loss is going.
Is Calorie Counting Always Necessary?
After several weeks of weighing and measuring your food, you will likely find that you are able to estimate the calories in most familiar foods with accuracy and ease.
Depending on your weight loss goals, you may be happy ‘eyeing up’ the foods you eat to estimate your calorie intake for the day. For most people, this is more than accurate enough.
Do you count calories? Which methods do you use?