In the early 1900’s a healthy diet was considered to be no more complicated than a simple addition and subtraction of calories. In other words, if you consume the equal number of calories to meet your body’s energy needs, your weight should not change. Despite 100 years having passed, to this day, many foods and meals continue to be merited based on their energy content rather than vitamin and mineral or metabolic benefit to the human body.
Most people will be surprised to learn that many high calorie foods are recommended by dietitians due to their nutritional value and ability to provide long lasting energy. For example, a typical piece of white toast with vegemite and butter will provide 120 calories as compared to a slice of wholegrain toast with peanut butter which provides 145 calories. If you were watching your calorie intake, you would certainly pick the vegemite toast as the healthier option. However, when we take a look at the other nutrients provided in the vegemite toast, we see it contains only 4g of protein and 1.3g fibre compared to the impressive 7g protein and 5g fibre provided in the peanut butter toast. Additionally, the vegemite toast contains excessive amounts of saturated fat (2.7 g) and sodium (360 g), which is more than double the amount provided in the peanut butter toast.
Superfoods have become all the rage over recent years with many new healthy options now available at cafes such as toasted granola or acai bowls. These popular choices are teeming with anti-oxidant rich fruits, vegetables and super powders as well as high protein, heart healthy nuts and seeds. Sounds healthy, right? Surprisingly, a typical acai bowl contains between 600-800 calories per serve which is well above the 500 calories found in a McDonald’s Big Mac burger.
So, what is the answer? Should we count our calories or make our calories count?
Like most health and nutrition debates, there is no black and white answer. It is both equally important to consider the quality and quantity of the foods you eat. While both an acai bowl and slice of wholegrain peanut butter toast are highly nutritious foods, if eaten in large or excessive quantities, their calorie content can contribute to weight gain. However, don’t forget that these higher quality foods, provide important nutrients that contribute to feelings of fullness, long lasting energy as well as physical and mental wellbeing. Choosing the nutritious option is more likely to keep you satisfied and therefore less likely to overeat or snack frequently between meals, reducing your overall calorie intake for the day.
It is always best to choose the most nutritious option on the menu but remember to watch the portion and consume mindfully.
This article was written by Christie Austin-Hore, Accredited Practising Dietitian at Nutrition Force.
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