A calorie is a unit of energy supplied by food. No matter the source: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, or  sugars – a calorie is a calorie… or is it?

Foods are generally a combination of carbs, fats, proteins and/or sugars . So, if you know how many of each component is in your food choice, you can calculate the calories (or energy) that a food contains.

About now you might ask….Why do I need to know how to count my own calorie?  After all, you can read a box. Right?  Well, first, the bulk of our diets should not be from a box! That aside, unfortunately, the number of calories showing on a box does not always match the number of calories listed on the label. Yup, you read that right. And, this is legal!

The standards for nutrition labels are not strict.

In the U.S., there is an allowable 20 percent margin of error between the stated value and the actual value of nutrients & calories.  See the package of cookies below. Now imagine the scientists and chefs are done with the making of the cookie and the packaging goes to the marketing dept. I’m not saying anyone would purposefully reduce the amount of calories on their packaging but if you could legally reduce the “total calories”… which might make their product have more appeal…. might one be more tempted to do this?

The number of calories for each food type (component: carbohydrates, protein, and fat) remains constant.

It is below.

Protein 4
Carbohydrate 4
Fat 9




To get the real caloric count of the cookies (to the right), you multiply the total grams for each (carb, protein & fat) by the their constant number of calories & add up the totals. For this box of cookies it would look like this:


TYPE OF CALORIE Total per serving Calorie per gram Calculation Total
Fat 8 9 8 x 9 72
Protein 2 4 2 x 4 8
Carbohydrate 18 4 18 x 4 72
Total calories 152

The box says the calories are 140 per serving but it’s really 152! And who eats just one cookie? Well, maybe you do… but I don’t! So, two cookies is 304 calories. If you are an adult woman your caloric intake (without considering special needs such as strenuous exercise, breast- feeding or pregnancy etc.) is  between 1,600 – 2,100 calories a day. At 1,600 calories, a day, those two cookies are nearly 20% of your diet….and you’re still hungry after you eat them!

To defend the caloric label making society of America…

The caloric count on a box is difficult to regulate & declare. There are a couple of reasons for this.


One reason accurate calorie counting is difficult is because the number of calories you eat doesn’t necessarily equal the number of calories that are digested or absorbed. Think leaky gut, food sensitivities, quality of food, and raw vs cooked etc.


You’ve heard of the empty calorie. Processed foods are basically “pre-digested” forms of food. This means they are already broken down. A food that is already broken down does not require the body to expend energy for this function so the nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body. Problem is processed food really doesn’t have much value. It’s NOT nutrient dense like a whole food. This is why it is called the empty calorie.


How food is cooked or prepared affects the digestion of the nutrients. The more something is cooked, the more it is broken down. This means (like the example above) the calorie is easily digested without much energy expenditure by the body.


Our bodies don’t completely digest or absorb fiber. This is good for our body but makes calorie counting difficult for labelers too. Some calorie counting approaches only count the calories that our body typically absorb from a food…. but not everyone is typical.


Caloric density (CD) is the number of calories per pound of that food. Caloric density is highest in processed foods and lowest in whole foods that are predominantly plant-based. Eating more veggies or other whole foods – especially raw foods –  helps you to eat less calories but feel fuller, and requires more energy to process it. This also helps to balance your blood sugar.

Eating an empty calorie, processed food, or “junk” food isn’t just bad for your waistline it is bad for your cells. This means its bad for your emotions, brain and energy level. It actually robs you of vital energy and good health. It generally turns to sugar in the body. Bathing your cells with sugar causes aging too. Instead of buying an expensive cream to apply to your face… buy organic veggies and eat them!

Each person’s caloric & nutrient intake need is different. My husband who strenuously works out daily & thinks nothing of running 20 miles or working out for 4 hours on a given day has a much different caloric need then I do.   Talk to your doctor about the right number of calories for you based on your health & weight goals. Below is a guideline for the average person. It does not take into consideration height, muscle mass, workout intensity, pregnancy, nursing, bone structure etc.

ADULT WOMAN 1,600 – 2,100
ADULT MEN 2,100 – 3,000
CHILDREN 1,000 – 2,000

So, stick with whole nutrient dense foods and when you cheat… dont be duped. Know your caloric intake.

April 7, 2017