September 04, 2013Whether you are a calorie counter or not, everyone has checked the the number of calories for a meal or item at some point. A common question is, how many calories should you eat a day? That depends on a variety of factors, including age, size, and lifestyle. The Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference suggests that women between ages of 31-59 should eat between 1,800 and 2,200 calories, depending on their level of activity. Men in the same age group should eat between 2,200 and 2,800. Calorie usage varies between individuals and are only one factor in a healthy nutritional regimen. That said, it is important to understand what calories are. A calorie is often described as a measure of heat. It is defined as the amount of energy needed to raise 1 kilogram of water from 15° to 16° Celsius and is provided by fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Counting calories is a method to help balance the calories you consume with the calories you burn throughout the day. What you eat as the source of your calories is vitally important. Counting calories can be difficult. We have busy lives and are eating out more than ever! Fast food and prepared dishes don't help either. Twenty years ago, the average cheeseburger in the United States had 333 calories now it's over 600 calories! A small order of french fries from a popular fast food restaurant has 230 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of protein and that's not counting the 15 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates with every ketchup packet you use with those fries! Fats have the highest concentration of calories with nine calories per gram of pure fat. Pure protein and carbohydrates each have four calories per gram. The best option is to eat fruits, vegetables, and other lower-fat foods. The simple fact is that you get more food for less calories! A cup of raw broccoli gives you 31 calories, but fill that cup with ice cream and you're at 250. Additionally, you get all the great nutrients found in healthy, low-fat food, along with the fiber that will keep you feeling full longer! If you eat the right kind of calories, you don't need to count them. Nearly one-quarter of Americans' calories come from sweets, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages (Did I mention there's 7 calories per gram of pure alcohol?). Five percent comes from fruit-flavored drinks and salty snacks like potato chips, while fruits and vegetables make up a paltry 10% of the average American's daily calorie intake. In other words, we're not eating the nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as much as the empty, damaging things like candy, soft drinks and white bread that have been proven to contribute to many serious problems. Count calories as a gauge to help balance your diet with your needs, but be sure those calories count when it comes to your health!
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