One bowl of cereal: 120 calories. Venti latte at Starbucks: 190 calories. A chocolate chip cookie: 140 calories. If this sounds like you, then you may fallen into the calorie counting trap.
Counting calories has become very popular: the belief is that if we keep track of every calorie in every food we are putting into our mouths, we are somehow healthier: we are more aware of what’s “bad” or fattening and can steer clear. However, this is not the case. If anything, calorie counting allows us to rationalize that we can have that Starbucks latte or cookie on a diet as long as we’re staying within our daily calorie range.
But this is not a mentality that will lead us on the path to a healthier life because not all calories are created equal! Our bodies burn calories from either fats, carbs, or proteins. So paying attention to the total amount of calories we eat per day, without paying the same amount of attention to the kind of calories (whether fats, carbs, or proteins) being consumed, isn’t going to lead to results, whether it be through weight-loss or just an improved healthier lifestyle.
For example, the chocolate chip cookie we were talking about earlier is only 140 calories: way better than a 500 calorie piece of chocolate cake. Therefore by eating that cookie (or two) we can stay in our calorie range for the day. Sounds good, right?
But let’s think about this another way, we can also get 140 calories from a scrambled egg and small fruit smoothie that is loaded with antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients for our bodies. Add a slice of toasted to that and the count may rise to a 260 calorie breakfast, but at least it is balanced: the appropriate amounts of fats, carbs, and proteins are added into our morning meal to give the body sufficient energy throughout the day.
It is important to recognize that while calorie counting may make us aware of the caloric content of food, the more important thing to realize is that the quality of the calories we are eating is far more important for a healthier life than the quantity of calories.