What’s in Your Food? Looking Beyond the Calorie

You have a specific amount of time in each given day, 1440 minutes. That’s it. Whether you waste it away or use it wisely, you still only have 1440 minutes at your disposal. A poor choice in time management does not award you more minutes to your day, unfortunately.

Calories are exactly the same concept.

You have a specific amount of recommended calories for each day. Whether you wasted away your calorie intake on cupcakes and soda pop or pack in the punch with more nutritious options, doesn’t change the fact that you still only have a certain calorie count at your disposal.

But Rah, that’s not right. I can go over my calorie count any day that I want to. I can’t just add on more minutes to a day.

Sure, that thinking might be technically correct, but do you really have the luxury of adding on more calories? Isn’t that thinking what got you here in the first place? And, if I’m not mistaken, aren’t those added calorie counts actually just minutes you are subtracting from your life total?


Recommended Calorie Ranges

Personally, I stick to the age-old 1200 calorie a day recommendation, though this is only an average. Some days, I’m lucky to hit 900, others I strike somewhere among 1500. I use “daily calorie recommendations” as a guideline tool, not a strict rule that I must follow or else.

According to WebMD: women aged 19-30  should consume 2,000 daily calories and men of equal ages 2,400, from the ages 31-50 women should consume 1,800 and men 2,200.

I find it ironic that as obesity rates have risen so have the recommended daily calorie amounts, but this could have resulted from better scientific data, so don’t take my crazy conspiracy theory too far on that one.

Anyhow, these calorie ranges are based on how much energy it takes your body to function each day. Everything your body does needs energy, which comes from calories. Blinking, breathing, sleeping, sitting, peeing, walking the dog, running a marathon, climbing Mt. Everest, whatever you do, even “inactive” stuff, uses energy.

You have a specific amount of calories you should consume each day to provide your body the energy, or fuel, that it needs to function. If you go over this amount, the body stores the excess calories and you gain weight. If you go under this amount, the body gets its fuel from your energy reserves (fat) and you lose weight. Simple science, right?

That’s how they came up with the calories in versus calories out theory that “health experts” (and recently coco-cola coolers at your local grocery) push so hard… But, it’s not really as simple as that. Where you get your calories from matters much more than “they” let on.

Where do my calories come from?

Most simplified, an apple is 95 calories, and a donut is 195. You could eat two apples for the calorie price of one donut, therefore making you fuller and less likely to grab a second donut (or third apple) an hour later.

But it goes even further than that. A donut contains simple sugars. Simple sugars quickly course through your system, give you a short burst of energy, and then they drop you like a hot potato. Plus, what your body doesn’t use, which is typically a good amount, gets stored as fat. An apple contains fiber along with the (natural) sugar causing it to course much more slowly through your body, providing you long-term energy throughout your day that is much more likely to get used rather than stored.

Is this food even healthy?

To make things even worse for us guys that are trying to lose weight, the foods that you to think are healthy aren’t even that healthy for you.

Take yogurt, for example, a prime “healthy” choice popularly used as a breakfast or snack replacement. Here’s a snap of the yogurt container that is hanging out in my refrigerator:



Basic nutrition facts to check out; We’ve got 3/4 of a cup serving size, 130 total calories, 22 grams of sugar, and zero fiber.

Now, let’s look at the ice-cream, that we all typically consider an unhealthy option, that’s chilling (haha) in my freezer.



Let’s review the same nutrition facts as we did the yogurt; 2/3 cup serving size and 150 calories. Okay, those things are slightly different, but only by a tiny amount. But look at the other two items… 23 grams of sugar and zero fiber.

So… the yogurt is a “healthy” option because it has 1 gram of sugar less than the ice cream? Hmmm…. doesn’t quite add up, does it?

Rice cakes are a similar illusion. Did you know that rice cakes (despite tasting horrific) are nearly identical, nutritionally, to the cracker they’re supposed to replace in a “healthy” diet?

Why are nutrition labels important?

You need to know what you are eating. What you are fueling your body with. What nutrients your body needs to function at its best.

The food industry IS a business. They decide, advertise, and create products in THEIR best interest, not yours. This doesn’t make them evil or corrupt; It’s just how businesses operate. With the increased desire for weight loss and health products, naturally, it has led to the food industry creating the illusion that their products are healthy.  It benefits them to have you believe that their product is good for you.

For example; I discovered a hilarious irony in my “sugar-free” coffee creamer when I started paying attention to nutrition labels.

Remember those catchy little adverts teaching how sugar goes by many names, most of which end with a rhyme of “gross?”

Well, my “sugar-free” creamer is technically sugar-free. Not once in the entire nutrition facts or ingredient list does it specifically name sugar as an item. (So the company isn’t really lying) But, it does name corn syrup and sucrose and dextrose, all of which are known alternative names for sugar.

Clever little coffee creamer company, eh?

You cannot rely on your impressions of a food product. Check the nutrition facts for yourself.

Wrapping It Up

We often assume what foods are good for us and which are not. We eat our fill of “healthy” foods, unknowingly consuming far more calories and fuel lacking nutrients than we realize. Then we are told to just burn it off.

“Balance what you eat, drink, do.”

What “they” don’t tell you is that it is nearly impossible for your body to burn through the number of calories you consume when they are lacking the nutrients your body needs as a fuel source.

You’re on a hamster wheel, going nowhere… it’s time to get off.

This week I’d like you to realize what you are eating and drinking.

Glance at your labels and track your calorie count and sugar intake, remembering to calculate according to the labeled serving size.

For one week, see what’s really in the food you eat and where you are at with your calorie counts.

Come on back next week and we’ll dig deeper into food groups, the food guide pyramid, and My Plate recommendations. See you then!








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