Expert nutritionists and clinical dieticians are now warning that calorie counting does not always work. For maximum weight loss, they say that smart eating will help you to suppress your hunger and feel fuller for longer. You should focus on eating the right sort of calories, rather than on the amount of calories in your daily diet.
If you go on counting but ignore where the calories are coming from, you will become hungry more quickly. By learning about foods that keep you feeling fuller, you could easily drop another 100 calories from a meal.
Smart Calories versus Empty Calories
TV doctor Chris van Tulleken explains why not all calories are equal. It’s because eating more of the type of food that is harder for the body to digest is better than consuming calories that contain very little nutrition.
The empty calories you get from sugary drinks and sweets, for example, will not satisfy your hunger or thirst, so you keep on wanting to eat and drink more. Even something that is good for you, like yogurt, will not be very satisfying and can contain empty calories in the flavourings.
Eating more bulky foods will fill you up and keep hunger pangs away for longer. The most satisfying types of food you can eat are protein foods and things that score low on the Glycaemic Index, which help your body to burn fat more efficiently. Your hunger is satisfied for longer when you eat beans, cheese, eggs and nutritional foods that take longer to digest, such as broccoli and kale.
A bowl of vegetable soup will satisfy your hunger more than if you were to eat all the ingredients separately, because the extra water content makes soup more filling.
If you have more bulky food in your main course, you won’t be tempted to follow it up with a high-calorie dessert.
The Way Food is Cooked Will Make a Difference
A single serving of steak and chips can add up to 1,000 calories, but the way it is cooked can reduce the amount of calories and make it more filling.
Steak takes longer to digest when it’s served rare, so it’s less calorific than when a steak that is served well-done. Shaking the oil off chips after frying, and then adding some broccoli, is an effective way to reduce the fat content and add some nutritious bulk.
Clinical dietician Rick Miller, who is also spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, explains that the consistency and texture of food has an effect on the amount of energy used in digesting it. He says that more calories are used by the body when consuming the sort of food that requires more chewing. Few or no calories are used when digesting highly processed and soft foods.
Foods That Use Up More Energy to Digest
High protein food that is low in fat takes longer for the body to digest, so you might use up to twenty times the amount of energy when digesting chicken than is used for digesting soft processed foods that are high in fats.
There is also a difference between eating a slice of white bread spread with smooth peanut butter and a wholemeal slice with peanut butter. They might both have the same calorie value, but the extra energy that it takes to digest the grains in wholemeal bread means that more calories are used by your body.
A fruit flapjack and a fruit muffin can contain the same amount of calories, but your digestive system has to break down the oats in a flapjack, so there will be more calories used than if you had just eaten a soft muffin.
Fast Foods and Ready Meals
Food researcher Zoe Harcombe has written a book on The Obesity Epidemic, and she reveals the fact since the 1970s the obesity rate has increased six-fold. This is despite a UK National Food Survey in the year 2000 that showed we were consuming 25% fewer calories then than in the 1970s.
By sticking to counting calories and ignoring the facts, the people of Britain have been putting on weight while consuming fewer calories. According to the clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, Dr Matthew Capehorn, counting calories is less effective now because more people are eating microwavable ready meals and buying fast food from their local takeaways.
There is evidence to show that anything which alters the structure of food, to make it easier to cook, is also adding more calories. Ready meals that are meant to be heated in a microwave, and takeaway food that is designed for fast cooking, are easy to digest, so your body is not using up any calories when you are consuming ready meals or fast food.
Drinking Adds Extra Empty Calories
Recent research shows that most people are unaware of how many calories they consume through drinking, or how much extra weight can be put on by downing a regular pint of beer or enjoying a few glasses of sparkling wine every week.
A comparison chart compiled by The Royal Society for Public Health reveals that:
- There are as many calories in a pint of lager as in a small piece of chocolate cake
- In a 250ml glass of white wine there are as many calories as in four fish fingers
- An alcopop has as many calories as a slice of pizza
- A pina colada and a Big Mac have the same amount of calories
Daily Calorie Consumption
The recommended daily amount for women is no more than 2,000 calories and for men it’s 2,500. Dr van Tulleken explains that even a few extra calories a day can present a danger. If you were to consume an extra 100 calories each day for ten years, you would add another stone to your weight.
It’s very easy to have a few biscuits with a cup of tea, but it’s important to remember that four digestive biscuits are the equivalent in calories to one hamburger.
The Truth About Burning Off Calories
It takes 30 minutes of running to burn off the calories in two pints of lager, and an hour of cycling to burn off a double Baileys. The bad news is that men have the ability to burn calories faster than women, even without doing any exercise. When sitting on a sofa watching TV, a woman will be burning fewer calories than the man beside her.
The surprising news is that the same amount of calories can be burned during a morning of housework as will be used up during a strenuous workout.
An experiment carried out for the TV show The Truth About Calories reveals that there is a big difference between the calories burned by the women and the men. After eating a fry-up of 600 calories, three couples were assessed for the amount of energy used for three different activities.
One couple spent the morning sitting down, the second couple spent an hour at the gym and the third pair spent three hours doing housework. Nick and Margaret spent their morning doing some house cleaning. He used 862 calories and she used 629, which is the equivalent of a strenuous workout, and the task left them feeling exhausted.
Jim and Elaine spent their morning lifting weights in a gym. He burned off 834 calories and she used 729. After Patrick and Roma had spent all morning sitting on a sofa, he had used up 640 calories, while his wife burned up only 292. This is because Patrick has a lot of lean muscle and Roma weighs much less than he does.
Dr van Tulleken explains that women burn fewer calories than men when they are at rest, because generally their weight is lower than a man’s and they will not have developed as much muscle mass.
The amount of calories burned off in a day can be likened to the number of miles that a car can do to the gallon. Unfortunately the amount of fuel we can put into our bodies is not limited like it is by a car’s fuel tank. The more fuel we put into ourselves, which is not used up, the more our bodies will store it as fat.