When Calories Don’t Matter

You won’t find a single recipe with a calorie count on this website. This may make some of you run screaming for the hills. No calorie counting? This is surely a step too far you cry! But wait, hear my logic and maybe you’ll change your mind.

Yes calorie intake is important. If we eat more calories than we burn then we put on weight. The stark truth of our current obesity crisis is that the majority of the UK population consumes too many calories and does too little exercise.


What’s wrong with calorie counting?

Almost all diets involve counting calories and restricted calorie diets do work, for a time. But counting calories can be difficult to do accurately. It also encourages the belief that all calories are equal, which they most certainly are not. Eating an apple with a calorie count of 80 is very different to eating a donut with a calorie count of 80.

You could argue that we are a nation of ‘fat dieters’. We count calories, we eat low calorie processed food with neat nutrition labels on the packaging to tell us exactly what we are eating. We add up the calories in our daily cereal bars, porridge sachets and tins of soup and that is how we control our food intake. Until we get fed up of counting calories and fall off the diet wagon.


Just eat real food

So many of our excess calories come from processed foods and drinks such as sugary soft drinks, baked goods, white pasta, sugar and alcoholic beverages. It is possible to eat a balanced healthy diet without counting calories. The trick is to remove the sources of these empty, non-nutritious calories. Whole foods don’t usually come with labels on them. If they do, they rarely include a calorie count.

Eating a diet high in whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables and meat frees you from the constraints of counting calories.


Not an open meal ticket

Before you eat your bodyweight in almond butter, this doesn’t mean that you can gorge on unprocessed food and not put on weight. The earlier statement still holds true – if you eat more calories than you burn then you will put on weight. However if you can learn how to portion your meals out correctly, then you can learn to moderate your food intake successfully without ever totting up your days calorie count again.

The amount of protein, carbohydrate, fibre and fat that you should eat with each meal varies depending on body weight and composition. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has issued guidelines on what these levels should be.


Portion size guidance

As an approximate guideline, with each meal, you should aim to eat a palm sized portion of protein (for example meat, eggs, fish and pulses) and half a tablespoon of natural fat (mostly unsaturated). A large portion of your plate (approximately 60%) should be made up of carbohydrates. Although some of this carbohydrate can come from starchy foods such as brown rice, whole grain pasta and whole grain bread, you should aim for the majority of your carbohydrate to come from fruits and vegetables.


If you eliminate the source of excessive calories in the modern day diet (refined starchy carbohydrates and sugars in processed food), and eat in moderation, you do not need to count calories for weight control.


Related articles:

Why a Low Fat Diet May Not be the Answer

Portion Sizes: Building a Healthy Plate of Food


About the author: 

Sonia Nicholas is a Biomedical Scientist and Freelance Clinical Science Writer & Editor. She has been working in the field of clinical science for fifteen years.

Sonia believes that everyone can improve their health by eating a clean diet – a claim that scientific research increasingly supports. Sonia also believes that healthy, clean eating is accessible to all and doesn’t have to be an expensive lifestyle choice.

All of the information on The Green Apple Club website is in line with current, recommended Government guidelines. All of the articles are evidence based and fully scientifically referenced.

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