Do I need a calorie chart when dieting?

November 12, 2012

Do I need a calorie chart when dieting?

Calories are units of energy contained in our food – if we want to lose weight, we simply eat less of them!

Calories are used to measure the energy stored in and provided by food – all foods have calories and all calories are the same, which means they have the same amount of stored energy whether they are fat, protein or carbohydrate calories. Most food products now have a calorie chart incorporated into their labelling or packaging.

The exact definition of a calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by one degree Celsius.

In order to lose one pound of fat per week an individual needs to ingest 500 fewer calories per day than the amount expended in work and exercise.

Energy

Whatever we are doing – sleeping, sitting, watching TV, working out, doing housework or driving the car – we are always using energy, the energy that comes from the food we eat. Different activities require different amounts of energy and the intensity of the activity will also affect the amount of energy we expend.

Unfortunately if we eat too much, or move around too little, the excess calories we fail to use will be stored as fat cells in case of an emergency – of course for most of us the emergency never arises and we just become fatter.

‘I’m on a diet’

This is a phrase many of us have used, many times, often whilst clutching a calorie chart as tightly as we can. However ‘being on a diet’ is something of a misnomer since ‘diet’ is, in reality, a reference to all the food we eat, every day – not just something we ‘do’ in order to lose weight.

A healthy, well balanced diet, which should be the aim of us all, has no need of a calorie chart – just common sense. A healthy diet is one which includes foods from all food groups in a wide variety and in moderation. It is one which is low in ‘bad’ fats, low in sugar and salt and low in processed foods. A healthy diet will deliver the necessary calories to maintain a healthy weight and will provide maximum health benefits.

Tips for healthy eating

Instead of using a calorie chart to dictate your dietary habits following a few healthy tips and increasing your activity level will ensure that you will lose weight slowly and steadily which is the recommendation of all health care professionals.

  • Lean protein – choosing protein at every meal is known to keep hunger pains at bay, chicken, fish or soy protein are all great healthy choices with lean red meat as an occasional treat.

  • Include and increase fibre – none of us eat enough fibre, and yet it provides us with many health benefits, is very filling and often very economical! Choose whole grain foods, beans and pulses.

  • Avoid unhealthy saturated fats and transfats – bake, stir fry or steam for healthy meals.

  • Eat little and often – following a sensible healthy diet means not feeling deprived, build healthy snacks into your diet and you won’t feel the need to binge. Eating little and often will keep blood sugar levels under control and will mean fewer calories are eaten over the day.

  • Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – and make sure you choose a wide variety of colours in order to get the maximum health benefits. Try not to choose smoothies or juices which give the calories without the fibre of the whole fruit. Use fruit and vegetables in your treats and snacks and avoid foods with no goodness in them which are often high in calories and very addictive.

  • Drink plenty of water – no need to check the calorie chart for this healthy drink.

  • Keep a food diary – many people benefit from keeping a food diary, it helps to pinpoint any habits which may have developed and may be helpful in noting overall calorie intake and output.

  • Increase exercise levels

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