Tag Archives: calories

Should I count calories?

With all these calorie counting apps that are around and the pressure is better on us to look a certain way calorie counting can be an easy trap to fall into. Whilst it can be useful in some clinical instances I don’t think it is helpful for the general purposes of dieting.
Formally, a Calorie is a measure of the amount of energy required to heat one kilogram of water one degree Celsius. It was first used in engineering and physics, but eventually found its way into nutrition, we have Wilbur Atwater to thank for that.
Whilst it may make sense that tracking your calories, macros and nutritional intake will help you with your weight, overall health or dietary intake in fact it can have the opposite affect. It can lead to you becoming obsessed with counting everything you eat and feeling you have to stick within a certain number of calories per day. This will stop you enjoying your food and impact your socialising too.  What if you are out with friends in a cafe, a once a week occurance and the cake you is 450kcals plus a coffee 150kcals but you are only allowing yourself to eat 1500kcals a day? That cake is 1/5th of your calorie intake for the day, so is it worth eating it? Do you choose to eat it knowing you will be over your calorie limit for the day but that you have enjoyed your cake and time with friends, do you choose to eat the coffee and cake but then restrict your calories the next day to make up for it or do you decline the cake and feel deprived and as if you cannot join in?
Dietitian UK: Why I don't like calorie counting
I’d suggest that calorie counting can be a useful guide and tool for one off occasions but over the long term it has the potential to become obsessive.  Following a calorie restrictive diet does not make it a balanced diet. You could be getting all your calories from just fruit and veggies or be skipping a whole food group out.
There is also the question of is it even accurate? There is no way to accurately know the exact calories of the food apart from using a calorimeter in a laboratory. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to burn my food up each time! Yes this is worked out for us on food labels but that is a guide. A slightly different portion size, a different way of cooking, a slight change to a recipe and it will have a small affect. Does that matter? No not really as the calories are just a guide. 
Delving deeper,  your body will also not necessarily absorb all the calories that you eat. For some foods such as nuts for example, a proportion of the calories are excreted. So even know you may be eating  X  amount of calories you are not necessarily going to be absorbing all of those. Other foods can make your metabolism work harder, again showing calorie counting to not be a 100% accurate tool.
Personally I do not think counting calories on a daily basis is helpful and it can be a negative trap that you fall into. Instead look at the balance of your diet. Think about getting a range of nutrients in to your day and a wide variety of foodstuffs. Ensure you cook from scratch as much as possible, eating wholegrains and starchy foods, fruit and veggies, protein and healthy fats regularly. Enjoy what you eat, stop when you are full, eat when you’re hungry and be mindful of the food that you consume but not consumed by it.

Eating Breakfast makes you Slimmer!

Do you eat Breakfast? Do you know it can affect your BMI and lead to your being slimmer? I bet you want to eat it now!

Dietitian UK- Porridge
Dietitian UK- Porridge

Research has shown that people who eat breakfast usually have

  • better nutritional intakes
  • improved cognitive function
  • are less prone to depression
  • have a lower BMI

It may seem upside down that eating a decent breakfast can lead to you being slimmer, the reason for it is not fully known but here are the theories:

  • Breakfast eaters may eat less calories later on in the day and make better food choices. Not all studies agree with this, but some studies show Breakfast skippers over-compensate later in the day.
  • Breakfast eaters may burn off more energy in the day, some studies show breakfast skippers are less active.
  • Eating breakfast boosts your metabolism in the morning and this may play a role in burning calories.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has shown children eating breakfast cereal have better nutritional  profiles and are slimmer than breakfast skippers and those eating other forms of breakfast foods. Adults eating a high carbohydrate breakfast such as bread/cereal also had a lower BMI.

Breakfast Eaters tend to have better intakes of fruit and vegetables, calcium, fibre, vitamins A,C, zinc, iron, carbohydrate and consume less soft drinks and fat. This may also help explain whey breakfast eaters have been found to be slimmer, they have a healthier lifestyle!

Eating breakfast also improves mood, concentration, memory and learning ability. So not only could it make you more effective at work but it can help children at school too.

What to eat for Breakfast:

The best choices are high fibre whole grain foods – cereals and toast. Here’s some suggestions:

  • A high fibre, wholegrain breakfast cereal with milk and fruit is a great option.
  • Wholegrain toast with a 2 tbsp baked beans or grilled tomatoes.
  • Scrambled/poached egg on rye bread.
  • Porridge with dried fruit and cinnamon.
  • Home made muesli using oats, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, served with low fat natural yoghurt.
  • Wholegrain bagel with lean ham and sliced tomato – great to take on the run.
What are your favourite breakfasts?


1. Hubert P et al (1998). Appetite 31: 9-19

2. J AM Diet Assoc 105: 1373-182

3. Nutrition  Bulletin 2007, 32: 118-128.

4. Complete Nutrition. April 2011. 3 (1): 9-1

5. http://www.breakfastcereal.org/resources/The-benefits-of-breakfast.pdf accessed 11/4/12