For some of us, the mere mention of the word calorie is enough to ignite much stress and anxiety. While calories are commonly associated with ‘counting’ and weight loss, the reality is that calories are simply a tool to direct and understand how we burn our energy. Each and every one of us needs calories and focusing on the quality of the calories we choose, as well as understanding where extra calories can slip into our daily food choices can make a big difference when it comes to health and weight control.
What are calories?
When we eat different types of food, we consume calories and the four macronutrients – carbs, proteins, fats and alcohol each contribute a certain number of calories per gram of food consumed. The average adult requires anywhere between 1200-2000 calories a day, and diets will generally encourage a reduction in calorie intake by 300-500 calories a day and as such popular diets range between 800-1500 calories depending on the regime chosen.
How many calories do I need?
Every single person will have different calorie requirements and these requirements also differ daily depending on our individual energy demands. On average, a small female will require between 1200-1600 calories a day, not taking into account any extra burnt during exercise or if the goal is to achieve fat loss.
The number of calories we consume each day will to differ, depending on hormones, appetite and energy demands. For example, some days you may be full and satisfied after eating just 1200 calories, while on others you may be hungrier and need more. Or, in the case of special occasion eating and drinking, your calorie intake may spike occasionally. It is the overall balance of calories that determines our weight, not daily differences which are to be expected.
Understanding calories can be helpful in guiding your food choices, especially if your goal is weight control as it is exceptional easy for extras to slip in via large portion sizes, high fat ingredients and meals that do not have a balance of proteins, carbs and 2-3 cups veges.
For small women aiming for meals that contain just 300-500 calories is a guide to keep your overall intake controlled. Often meals we buy away from the home contain up to 1000 calories in a single serve. For example, the Lean Cuisine meal range, which have been formulated to achieve calorie balance, contain 250-450 calories per serve. This means that you have a range of tasty meals to choose from and in which the calories have been controlled in a nutritionally balanced meal.
Keep in mind…….
The other important thing to know about calories is that they should be used as a rough guide only – they are not an absolute reference. For example, the calorie load listed on food labels may be inaccurate by as much as 20%, as is the case with calorie monitoring apps and devices. As such using them as a rough guide rather than aiming for strict compliance is a better way to use them to your advantage.