How to Understand Calories and Improve Your Health

Sometimes it may feel like you need a degree in nutrition to lead a healthy lifestyle. All the diets and information available today can feel a little daunting and over bearing at times. But, don’t let this stop you from taking charge of your health, because this decision will be one of the most important things you will ever do.

Rest assured there is an easier way to understand all of this information. This article will help you understand what calories are, so you can use this information to make better food choices both at home and when dining out.

At first, being healthy may not seem easy, but the benefits are definitely worth it. Use this guide as a step in the right direction to better health and enjoy your journey to a happier life.

What is a calorie?

For all of us non-scientists, a calorie can be basically thought of as the amount of energy in our food. We need energy from calories to fuel all of our activities and we get this energy from the things we eat and drink. Exercising, moving, breathing, and pretty much everything else involved with living, will burn energy.

All of the food and drinks we love contain things called nutrients. To easily understand calories, we can look at the large classification of nutrients known as macronutrients. They are:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrate
  • Fat

All macronutrients contain calories in different amounts

  • 1g Protein = 4 calories
  • 1g Carbohydrate = 4 calories
  • 1g Fat = 9 calories

This means that it is important to make sure that each meal has a nice balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat, so that we are able to get all of the wonderful nutrients from our food without overloading on calories.

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How can understanding calories help me lose weight?

Think of your body as if it were a car. You put fuel into your car and the car then burns that fuel when you drive it. The fuel that is not burned is stored in the petrol tank for later. Our bodies will also store the fuel that we don’t use; unfortunately for us it stores it as fat.

Eating way more calories than we burn, will result in excess and unwanted fat appearing on our bodies.

To lose weight we need to make sure that we are taking in fewer calories than we burn in each day.

How much we need depends on a lot of things, like:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Activity level

The guide for the average Australian suggests that:

Males

  • Age – 31 to 50
  • Height – 190cm
  • Weight – 70kg

Moderately active require = 3,000 calories per day
Are not active require = 2,400 calories per day

Females

  • Age – 31 to 50
  • Height – 160cm
  • Weight – 60kg

Moderately active require = 2,350 calories per day
Are not active require = 1,800 calories per day

It is very important to remember that in order to lose weight you should only reduce your daily intake by 500 calories.

Any more would be classed as unhealthy weight loss and may in fact cause you to hold on to fat rather than burn it, as the body will go into starvation survival mode.

Are all calories created equal?

All calories are not equal. What this means is that eating 100g of carbohydrate from chocolates and lollies is not the same as 100g of carbohydrate from fruits and vegetables.

The best choices for each macronutrient group include:

Protein:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Fish
  • Turkey

Carbohydrate:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Potato

Fat:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fish
  • Coconut
  • Olive oil
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Calories vs. Kilojoules

Calories and kilojoules can be confusing. All you need to remember is that calories and kilojoules are different units of measurement for energy. It’s the same as inches to centimetres and degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit.

If you need to work out how many kilojoules are in a calorie just use this formula:

1 calorie = 4.2 Kilojoules

So if you are in a restaurant and the food item you want to order is 1,260 kilojoules, and you want to know how many calories that is:

1,260 ÷ 4.2 = 300 calories

Luckily, restaurants like Hog’s Breath provide both calorie and kilojoule information on their menus to make your life easier – its ok, you can put the calculator away.

How to make healthy choices when dining out

Now it’s time to put all of this information into practice.  As mentioned earlier, restaurants like Hog’s Breath now offer menus that provide the caloric values of their meals. Following a healthy lifestyle has never been easier now that you have the option to carefully choose the meal that best suits your needs for that day.

If you have decided you want to lose a couple of kilos, and require less calories for that day, you can compare the regular menu at Hog’s Breath with the new health conscious Trim-a-Licious menu.

Consider these meal swap suggestions the next time you visit a Hog’s Breath Café:

Swap
250g Eye fillet steak w/Salad and Hog Tail Fries = 821cal

with
250g Eye fillet steak w/ Trim-a-Licious Salad = 515cal

Swap
Avocado & Honey Mustard Chicken w/ Salad and Sweet Potato Wedges = 770cal

with
Avocado & Honey Mustard Chicken – Lite w/ Trim-a-Licious Salad = 666cal

Swap
Apple Crumble Sundae = 706cal

with
Tutti Frutti Sundae = 234cal

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These are just a few of the healthy choices you can now make at your local Hog’s Breath using the new Trim-a-licious menu. There are many other options available that will excite your taste buds without stressing your waistline. Remember, a healthy lifestyle comes down to healthy choices – understanding calories makes these choices a lot easier to make.

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