How Many Calories are You REALLY Eating?

July 2, 2009

Would you REALLY like to know how many calories you are taking in on a daily basis? The truth is that it is difficult to determine this by using “estimation” software programs or by entering the food you’re eating on a website. Probably the most accurate way this can be done at home is to use a food diary, food nutrition labels labels, and a website like along with a food scale. You might give this method a try if you’d like to get your fat loss or muscle gain program down to a science. Here’s how this works.

First step: Weigh and Journal all of your food.

Journal All Food!
Journal All Food!

So, let’s say that you’re going to have a turkey sandwich made up of two slices of whole wheat bread, turkey meat, cheese, mustard, light mayo, tomato, and spinach leaves. Take the two slices of bread and weigh them on your food scale. If the two bread slices weigh 86 grams, then jot down “2 slices bread – 86g” in your journal. Then, repeat this weighing and journal recording process for each food item (the turkey meat, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, and spinach).

Weigh Food for Caloric Accuracy
Weigh Food for Caloric Accuracy

Weighing the condiments can be a bit more challenging, but here’s how to get the weight of the mustard and mayo. You’ll have to weigh the bread, spread on the mustard, then take the difference in weight afterward (e.g. if the bread weighed 43 grams before spreading on the mustard, then 53 grams afterward, then there is 53 – 43 = 10 grams of mustard on the sandwich). Also, some scales have a “zeroing out” feature that will allow you to put the bread on the scale, hit the “zero out” button, and cause the scale to go to zero while the bread is still on the scale. You can then pick the bread up, spread on the mustard, set it back down on the scale, and the scale will give you the weight of the mustard only.

Second step: Calculate caloric content using food labels and/or calorie content websites.

Food Nutrition Label
Food Nutrition Label

After you’ve completed weighing each item of food, then check the food’s nutrition labels to see how many calories are in a serving (usually the serving size is given in grams). Or, if there’s no nutrition label available, e.g. for fresh cut chicken breast, then you get the calorie information from the web. There are lots of different websites that give calorie content for different foods.

Using the grams per serving on the food label, you can determine the caloric content of each food item in your meal. To determine the number of calories of any food you’re eating, take the number of calories per serving and divide it by the number of grams per serving. Then take the answer you got and multiply it by the number of grams you’re eating. Let’s consider an example in which there are 85 grams and 38 calories per serving. If you ate 50 grams of the food this label represents, then the number of calories of that food you’d be eating would be 38รท85, which equals 0.45, times the number of grams you’re actually eating. In this example, that number is 50. So, the total number of calories in 50 grams equals 50×0.45, or 22.5 calories.

Is this manually intensive. Yes. Does it add time to the preparation of your food. Sure. However, once you get the procedure down, it only adds 2 – 5 minutes to the prep time of a meal. Also, it is accurate, and after you’ve done this for a few weeks, you will KNOW how many calories you are taking in. This gives you great power when it comes to changing your fat or muscle levels. YOU become the master of what your body composition is doing. In addition, as a side bonus, you’ll develop a sense for how many calories are in many meals without having to weigh and calculate the meal. I did this method of calorie calculation for about a 3 month period and found it to be ultra beneficial!


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