How to Count Calories:

How to Count Calories

Whether you’re male or female looking to lose weight or gain some size, counting your calories is probably one of the best methods out there for either. Now, I figure if you’re willing to do the exercise of learning to count your calories, I’m assuming you have decided to take your nutrition more seriously. I can show you how I do it , and perhaps it might shed some light to your questions on the matter. It may also raise further questions … but that’s good.

Now, the difference between Calories and Kilojoules? Nothing, they’re just different metric systems. You’ll find some products will give you one or the other. There are many converters on the web, gosh, I think you can even get apps for your phones and tablets. I use a simple formula, which isn’t the most accurate but it’s close enough. Here’s an example; if your product says 1000 kilojoules per 100grams, just divide the 1000 by 2 (= 500), and then take the result and divide that by 2 again (= 250) and that’s round about the number of calories. With a converter, the result will be closer to 240, but unless you’re planning on competing on stage and need to be deadly accurate, it’s not necessary to be that precise.

By counting your calories you will learn about portion sizes, and balancing your meals and their macronutrients. It’s a skill I think everyone should learn from an early age, and it’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life once you understand the concept.

What you’ll need:

  1. A kitchen scale
  2. A calculator
  3. Measuring cups/spoons
  4. Pencil and paper

That’s it. I’ll supply you with some links to useful websites that give you the nutritional breakdown of different foods and beverages, but you will preferably be using the values given to you on the food product’s packaging that you’re cooking with. It also helps if you always use the same type of products when you cook, for example the same brand of Olive Oil.

Before you start counting:

There are a few things you need to find out before you should start counting. It’s great to be able to count your calories, but what would all that mean really? The whole point to counting calories would be to control your weight loss or weight gain. To do this you’ll first want to find out what your current Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) or the closely related Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is. Simply put it is the amount of energy you expend daily at rest, or better yet, the amount of calories your body requires to live. This is based on your age, height, current weight and your level of physical activities. I’m assuming a sedentary lifestyle, so if you exercise then your calorie requirements will be a little more. To lose weight you will need to eat slightly less (a calorie deficit) than your BMR, and to gain weight you’ll need to eat a little more (a calorie surplus) than you current BMR. I have included links at the bottom of this article to find your BMR.

Here’s a tip, if your desired weight isn’t far off, calculate your BMR using the desired weight and not your current weight. That way you’ll know how many calories you will need to consume to achieve your goal. Otherwise, a good number to go by is either slowly adding or subtracting 250 calories to or from your current BMR until you reach your goal weight. Going too high in calories in either case will have a negative effect to your results, so don’t try to make these changes in large quantities. Rather go slowly so you are able to maintain your nutrition and not shock your system into packing on fat, or even more annoying, not allowing you to get rid of any! Yip, it can do that.

How I count calories:

I’m going to use one of my daily meals as an example. Below is the nutritional breakdown of each ingredient that I use for my lunch. These breakdowns came from the product packaging itself. I basically use the same ingredients every time so once I’ve measured the correct portion sizes, I don’t need to continue counting the calories for this meal.

My process will apply to any product you use (as long as you are able to find the macronutrient breakdown of each ingredient), and with a little mathematics, you can measure all your meals. I’m including the macronutrients with these because the formula applies to those as well so you can see how your meals are balanced out.

Quick link for a kilojoule (kJ) to calorie (cal) converter

1. Tuna: Light meat chunk tuna in salt water [per 100 grams]
– Energy (calories) : 430 kJ (102.70 calories)
– Protein : 18.2 g
– Carbohydrates : 2 g
– Total Fat : 0.7 g
2. Pasta: Fatti’s & Moni’s Wholewheat Spaghetti [per 100 grams dry]
– Energy (calories) : 1370 kJ (327.22 calories)
– Protein : 15.6 g
– Carbohydrates : 67 g
– Total Fat : 2.4 g
3. Olive Oil: PnP Extra Virgin Olive Oil [per 100 ml]
– Energy (calories) : 3670 kJ (876.56 calories)
– Protein : 0 g
– Carbohydrates : 0 g
– Total Fat : 98.9 g
4. Tomato: 1 Tomato, red, ripe, raw (per 100 grams)
Nutritional facts for this and other foods can be found at http://nutritiondata.self.com/
– Energy (calories) : 18 calories
– Protein : 1 g
– Carbohydrates : 4 g
– Total Fat : 0 g
5. Onion: 1 Small onion, raw (per 100 grams)
Nutritional facts for this and other foods can be found at http://nutritiondata.self.com/
– Energy (calories) : 40 calories
– Protein : 1 g
– Carbohydrates : 9 g
– Total Fat : 0 g
6. Vinegar:
The values for vinegar are so low, and unless you’re using large quantities of it, there’s no need to calculate the macro-nutrients for this. I use Apple Cider Vinegar specifically.

1. Tuna …
Now, for the first ingredient I use the entire can which is over the 100 grams of measurement, the can is 170 grams net, and 119 grams drained. I drain the can so I’m going to use the 119 grams of tuna as said on the can. So with the breakdown of the macronutrients do the following:
Each breakdown is multiplied with the grams used, with the decimal point moved 2 places (119 becomes 1.19), as such:
Calories : 102.70 x 1.19 = 122.213
Protein : 18.2 x 1.19 = 21.658
Carbohydrates : 2.0 x 1.19 = 2.38
Fats : 0.7 x 1.19 = 0.833

2. Pasta …
The same formula is applied to the grams of pasta used. Measure your dry pasta on a scale to get the amount in grams. For this example I am going to use 60 grams. By moving the decimal, 60 becomes 0.60, and used as shown below:
Calories : 327.22 x 0.60 = 122.213
Protein : 15.6 x 0.60 = 21.658
Carbohydrates : 67 x 0.60 = 2.38
Fats : 2.4 x 0.60 = 0.833

3. Olive Oil …
Here we are using millilitres as shown on the product. You could use measuring spoons for this but you can also use a standard spoon or a teaspoon. A spoon is the equivalent of 15 millilitres, a teaspoon is equivalent to 5 millilitres. In this example I am using a tablespoon of olive oil with my lunch. Again we move the decimal two points so 15 becomes 0.15, and used as shown below:
Calories : 876.56 x 0.15 = 131.484
Protein : 0 x 0.15 = 0
Carbohydrates : 0 x 0.15 = 0
Fats : 98.9 x 015 = 14.835

4. Tomato …
Weigh your tomato to get the amount in grams. For this example my tomato is 117 grams. Move the decimal two points and we have 1.17. Apply the same logic here and this is what you get:
Calories : 18 x 1.17 = 21.06
Protein : 1 x 1.17 = 1.17
Carbohydrates : 4 x 1.17 = 4.68
Fats : 0 x 1.17 = 0

5. Onion …
Weigh your onion to get the amount in grams. For this example my onion is 35 grams. Again, move the decimal point so that 35 becomes 0.35. Use the same formula again like below:
Calories : 40 x 0.35 = 14
Protein : 1 x 0.35 = 0.35
Carbohydrates : 9 x 0.35 = 3.15
Fats : 0 x 0.35 = 0

We have now calculated the calories and macronutrient breakdown of each ingredient of my lunch. The last step is adding all the corresponding figures (in green) together to give us the total of each for the whole meal. So, here it is:

Total Calories:

122.213 (Tuna) + 196.332 (Pasta) + 131.484 (Oil) + 21.06 (Tomato) + 14 (Onion) = 485.089

Total Proteins:

21.658 (Tuna) + 9.36 (Pasta) + 0 (Oil) + 1.17 (Tomato) + 0.35 (Onion) = 32.538

Total Carbohydrates:

2.38 (Tuna) + 40.2 (Pasta) + 0 (Oil) + 4.68 (Tomato) + 3.15 (Onion) = 50.41

Total Fats:

0.833 (Tuna) + 1.44 (Pasta) + 14.835 (Oil) + 0 (Tomato) + 0 (Onion) = 17.108

This Meal’s Totals Summary:

485.089 Calories
32.538 grams of protein
50.41 grams of carbohydrates
17.108 grams of fat

Remember, these quantities will vary if your goal is to gain or lose weight. The purpose of this exercise is to learn to count how many calories you are consuming and then adjust where necessary. You may perhaps use less carbs and oil to meet your daily calorie allowance, or you may learn that your meals aren’t exactly balanced to begin with. Apply this method to all your meals and you will have the total amount of calories, proteins, carbs and fats you consume for the day. Make adjustments to your ingredients to meet your desired goal. I hope this exercise was helpful to you.


Useful Links:

kilojoule (kJ) to calorie (cal) converter:

Nutritional values for food types:

Basic Metabolic Rate calculators:

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