by Gal Trieu
July 1st 2003
As part of a healthy diet, it is important that you include counting calories as part of you diet routine. Losing weight by counting calories is about ensuring the amount of calories you consume each day is less than the amount of calories you burn up.
Nutritionists, dieticians and other health professionals agree that healthy eating which includes counting calories and a low fat diet are essential for long term healthy weight loss.
Losing weight by counting calories helps to build your knowledge and awareness of how many calories your body needs to function and what is in the foods you consume. Counting calories does not take a lot of time or effort. It is flexible enough to fit into most lifestyles and can accommodate personal preferences.
Dieting by counting calories means there are no forbidden foods – everything is allowed – as long as you eat less calories than you burn up each day you will see the weight come off.
To lose weight by counting calories you need to first work out how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight.
For women, this averages around 2000, for men around 2500, this will vary depending on your build – such as muscle content and height.
To lose weight your calorie count needs to be less than the calories you burn. If you eat 500 calories less than you need each day you'll lose weight at the rate of one pound (453.6g) a week.
If you eat 1,000 calories less than you need each day you'll lose two pounds (907.2g) each week. By eating less calories, your body will have to turn to its fat stores to make up the deficit in your calorie count. It is recommended that you combine exercise, to burn more calories, with healthy eating to create a calorie deficit.
A useful calorie calculator can make counting calories easier - you can work out how many calories you need to perform daily activities or exercises to give you more control and knowledge about how many calories you should include in your diet.
Another tool that is useful for calorie counting is this calorie counter
Generally when counting calories, lower fat foods translate to lower calories:
|Pauls Full Cream Milk||1 cup||165||9.5g|
|Rev Milk||1 cup||125||3.0g|
|PhysiCAL Skim Milk||1 cup||110||0.4g|
|White Wings Choc Chip Muffin Mix||1 muffin||204||8.1g|
|White Wings 97% Fat Free Choc Chip Muffin||1 muffin||135||1.0g|
|Kraft Cheese Singles||1 slice||61||4.7g|
|Kraft Cheese Light Singles||1 slice||55||3.4g|
|Kraft Cheese Extra Light Singles||1 slice||42||2.0g|
|Pringles Potato Chips (All types)||1 carton||1016||68.4g|
|Pringles Potato Chips Light||1 carton||870||43.0g|
As always, there are a few exceptions to this rule. The following table looks at several foods and their reduced-fat variety. The reduced-fat versions have been notably reduced in fat yet the calories are roughly the same. If you’re watching your weight, lower fat doesn’t mean lower calories – remember counting calories is the best way to reduce your calorie intake.
|Lanes Ritz Cracker||1 biscuit||17||0.9g|
|Lanes Ritz Cracker 50% Less Fat||1 biscuit||13||0.4g|
|Kraft Peanut Butter Crunchy||1 tbsp||126||10.5g|
|Kraft Peanut Butter Light Crunchy||1 tbsp||115||7.7g|
There has been much debate in the past as to the merits of counting calories. The book “The T-Factor Diet” (published in 1989), proclaimed on the cover: “Lose Weight Safely and Quickly, Without Cutting Calories -- or Even Counting Them!”. However, as these tables illustrate, it is clear that for people who want to control their weight, reducing fat content and counting calories matter.
Weight Watchers’ success has resulted from a similar philosophy. Rather than counting calories, Weight Watchers has devised their own ‘Weight Watchers Points’ system.
This basically uses the same idea as counting calories. It allows you to eat a variety of foods, where each food has a number of ‘points’ allocated to it based on Weight Watchers Points system, depending on the individual’s diet program your daily diet consists of a variety of products that equal your daily point allowance.
Furthermore, scientific studies have shown counting calories could help reduce heart disease as well as reduce the signs of aging. An article in the American Journal of Physiology by George Roth and colleagues at the National Institutes on Aging and the Arizona Centre on Aging found while working with monkeys, a 30 percent reduction in calories led to higher levels of HDL -- the “good” cholesterol that decreases the risk of heart disease.
In addition to enhanced HDL and lower triglyceride levels, there was also a small drop in blood pressure.
The second study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed that caloric reduction helped slow down the body’s natural decrease in the level of the hormone DHEA, one of the indicators of aging.
A review article in The New England Journal of Medicine noted that, in addition to extending longevity in many animals, studies show that caloric restriction slows age-related deficits in learning, immune response, DNA repair and behaviour.
Counting calories is not the ‘be all, end all’ solution to healthy weight loss. However, it certainly has its benefits. Counting calories provides a useful tool for people wanting to achieve long term weight loss and should be used in addition to regular exercise and a sensible low fat diet.