Comments Off on Calories | Last Update: April 18, 2012

Americans eat an average of 3,770 Calories a day, the highest in the world, but they only spend $7.00 a day on food.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

What Is A Calorie?

The calorie is the measure of energy in foods.

The correct term when applied to food energy is kilocalories (kilo = 1,000).  If you are on a 2,000 calorie diet, you are actually eating 2,000,000 calories per day!

Because the calorie is such a small unit of measure and the number of calories needed daily by the human body is so large, it is more convenient when referring to food energy, to drop the last three zeros and list the numbers in terms of kilocalories.  So a 1 Calorie soft drink actually has 1,000 calories.

With the United States still using the English system of weights and measures, kilo is normally left off and kilocalories are simply called calories.    


A calorie is the amount of energy (heat) needed to heat 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.  It is a metric unit of energy that is being replaced by the metric unit joules (1 kilocalorie = 4.2 kilojoules).  Don’t be alarmed, there is no plan to convert calories to Joules on food nutrition labels.

Food energy comes from four sources; carbohydrates, fat, protein, and alcohol.  The number of calories per gram are: 


Source Calories (per gram)
Carbohydrates 4
Protein 4
Fat 9
Alcohol 7


Proteins and carbohydrates provide the same number of calories.  Fats and alcohol contain about twice as many calories per gram as proteins and carbohydrates.  If you are trying to loose weight or maintain your weight, it simplest change you can make to your diet without feeling hungry all day is to decrease the amount of fat and alcohol in your diet and increase the amount of carbohydrates and protein. It takes about 2 grams of carbohydrate or protein to equal 1 gram of alcohol or fat.

Eating a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet should be very simple, but with so much financial gain at stake it is often made more complex than it should be. Today, the debate rages on about good carbs and bad carbs, good proteins and bad proteins, good fats and bad fats and even good alcohol and bad alcohol!

Should you eat like a caveman or modern man?

Too much of any food is bad for you.  A diet of 100 percent carbohydrate and protein is as dangerous as a diet high in fat and alcohol.  Ideally, you should eat the highest quality protein, fat, and carbohydrates which means a diet high in uncrosses or minimally processed foods.

Your body needs carbohydrates, fat, and protein for optimum health. Alcohol has some health benefits but also poses health risks.

Mediterranean Diet

A person on a Mediterranean style diet should eat healthy foods that provide approximately range of of  Calories shown in the following table:


Source Calories (percent)
Carbohydrates 50-60
Protein 10-15
Fat 20-30
Alcohol 5-10


Fast food, snack foods, and processed foods are convenient, but usually provide more fat and calories than your body needs.  They are also high in sodium (salt) and simple carbohydrates (refined white flour and sugar).

That does not mean you should totally ban these foods from you diet like some diet plans.  What it does mean is that you should restrict the amount of low nutrition foods you eat.  Eating a small bag of potato chips or small order of fried potatoes with your lunch occasionally is not bad like some people would have you believe. It provides variety which helps you stay on plan to achieve your goal.

Eating a daily bag of chips, or two, or large serving of fried potatoes providing few essential nutrients can lead to series health problems as you age when those foods go to your waist or hips in terms of excess body fat.

Fried potatoes and potato chips are also high in salt and fat unless you make them yourself. Eating processed foods and fried foods occasionally as part of a healthy diet poses little risk. Health risks increase when these foods help maintain an unhealthy weight.

Be an informed consumer.  Your doctor can help, but keep in mind nutrition is seldom their specialty.  Medical shoals train how to cure diseases not prevent them.

If you dine out often at fast food restaurants check their website for healthy meal options.  Most list the nutritional value of their foods on their website. Your choices are limited, but with a little research you can eat healthier when dining out.

Eat Less, Live Longer

More and more researching indicates on average, people who eat fewer calories have a longer life expectancy and fewer medical problems.