How many calories did you eat today?

Now that you know about the calorie content of foods, how do you get to know your actual calorie consumption?

Here you have to use your math if you want to be specific. Many nutritionists have provided the calorie content of a portion of a prepared dish. How do they do it? By calculating the energy value of the total amount of foodstuffs in the recipe, measuring the number of portions and dividing the total by that number, for each portion. Simple, isn’t it?…Hold on – not so simple, because, the recipe varies in many ways, even if it is a standard recipe.

The variables are: food quality and size, the cook and his or her cooking habits, quantities of cooking ingredients like liquids, fats and sugar, measuring units and equipment like cups, spoons, etc., and portion size. And, finally, how you eat the product.

Let’s say you ate a masala dosa for breakfast. It gives you  about 200 kcals depending on the variables:

The ingredient variables are:

  • The dosa batter (rice and urad dhal proportions), how thick or runny it is
  • Quantity of batter used
  • Quantity of oil/ ghee/butter used
  • Quantity of potato masala used
  • Accompaniments like chutney, podi and sambar, served

How did you eat it?

  • Completely, clearing all the items including the last piece of dosa
  • Took a second helping of the side dishes
  • Removed most of the masala and hardly touched the side dishes
  • Left out or shared certain parts of the dosa
  • Requested specially for a no-oil preparation

Well, I can go on and on.

So, you see that there is a great difference in the intake of a specific dish and its calculated energy value. However, the reported values are a general guideline to food consumption. Energy intake through food and energy expenditure through activities can never be accurate. We have to settle for an average.

Suppose you are playing football and the energy expenditure is __ kcal per hour. A player who plays in the centre position expends much more energy running all over the field than the goalkeeper who is not running around as much. Even if you are walking briskly in the park for an hour, you may not be walking at the same pace throughout the hour. Hence, our calculations based on energy expenditure/hour can vary. Don’t worry about this, unless it is for a scientifically controlled research project. Life is all about averages, is it not?

Listed below are the quantities of common food items that measure about 100 calories. It can be seen that the energy values can be multiplied and/or divided to plan your requirements. This topic will be dealt with in the next article. Till then, get familiar – I mean, with the food values!!

List of foods providing 100 calories each

Food Stuff Weight or measure Food stuff Weight or measure
Phulkas 2 small Bread 2 slices
Pulses, cooked ½ katori Potato 1 medium
Vegetables, cooked 1 katori Fruits 160g
Banana 1 long Egg 1 big or 1 ¼ small
Fish, chicken 1 small, 1 leg Meat 1 small piece
Milk 1 small cup Biscuits 3 small
Ice cream 1 med. cup Soft drink bottled 1 glass
Cooked rice 2/3rd katori Potato fry 25g, about 10 pcs
Upma ½ katori Oothappam 1 small
Plain masala dosa ½ dosa Idly 2 small
Poori 1 medium Coffee 1 cup

(To be continued)

Malathi Mohan

Ms. Malathi Mohan is Dean, Academy of Fitness Management, FitnessOne, Chennai.

This is the fourth of a five-part series on calories by nutrition expert Malathi Mohan.

Click here to read last week’s article: Want to know what to eat?

Check this space for more on nutrition every Wednesday

Image: Flickr/creativecommons gsz