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Counting Calories is Overrated

Our society seems completely obsessed with quantities of food, instead of quality of food.  I have read several blogs and forums around the web where individuals will choose a product over another because it contains fewer calories.  I’m not talking about major differences in caloric values…this choice is often made around two products that differ by 20 calories.  This is not to say that the number of calories isn’t important, but it needs to be looked at from a holistic perspective. In short, what do the calories represent?

Understanding the ingredients, as well as the nutritional content of a product is more important than understanding the number of calories it contains.  Let’s take two products: Low-Calorie Product (100 calories) and Higher-Calorie Product (120 Calories).

  1. Ingredient Quality: If the calories in ‘Low-Calorie Product’ represent low quality ingredients that are processed (such as sugar, partially hydrogenized oils, bleached flour), and the ‘Higher-Calorie Product’ mainly has ingredients that are higher in quality (such as honey instead of sugar, olive oil instead of hydrogenized oils, whole grains instead of bleached flour) than the fact that the ‘Low-Calorie Product’ has lower calories is irrelevant.  You are actually ‘wasting’ calories by eating this product.  You are better eating 20 calories more of good, wholesome ingredients, than 20 calories less of crapola.
  2. Nutritional Quality:If the calories in ‘Low-Calorie Product’ represents little to no nutritional value, and the ‘Higher-Calorie Product’ offers good nutritional value, you are once again wasting calories by eating any of the ‘Low-Calorie Product’.   Nutritional values you should be paying attention to include:
    • Fiber: Given you should aim to get 25 grams of fiber a day, always look at how much fiber you are getting in the product.  The higher the fiber, the better.  Additionally, fiber helps to fill you up and keep you feeling fuller longer.  This means that you won’t be hungry in a half hour after eating.
    • Sugar: Sugars that aren’t a natural part of a food (such as fruit), are really no good.  If the product is high in sugars, then that is a good sign you aren’t getting a lot of nutritional value.
    • Fat: Fat can be good…if it is under 30% of your calories per product (This means 3.3 gms of fat per 100 calories) and if it is unsaturated (meaning monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated).  If a product has most of its fat as saturated fat or trans fat, this is no good.
    • Vitamins and Minerals: If a product has little to no vitamins or minerals, than again…you are eating empty calories.  Aim for the product that has some amount of vitamins and minerals to ensure you are working towards getting in your recommended daily intake.

What this all means is that the quality of your calories is way more important than the quantity of your calories.  If you try to find foods that have very few calories, you aren’t going to get any nutrition.  Without calories, you have no nutrition.  It is as simple as that.  So stop counting calories, and start counting nutritional value.  A great site that allows you to track the nutritional values of your food throughout the day is: Fit Day

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