Calculating Calories the Easy Way!

In today’s world, cooking healthier meals is always on our minds. We can reduce calories, unhealthy fats, and sodium intake by substituting common ingredients to improve the nutritional quality of meals.

As a framework, let’s talk a little about calories and what makes up a calorie. A calorie (or kilocalorie) is a measure of food energy and is known as the heat energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 liter of water 1 degree Celcius. Calories can be displayed in various forms. For example, a small apple has 77,000 calories or 77 kcal or 77 Calories. Calories are generally consumed from macronutrients, which are nutrients that provide energy.

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

You might be asking yourself, “A macro… what?!” Well, we are all familiar with macronutrients. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all macronutrients that provide our bodies with nutrients daily. All of these components are required to maintain a healthy nutritional balance. Let’s get back to Calories! Carbohydrates and proteins supply around 4 Calories each, while fat provides an estimated 9 Calories. For those who enjoy a good spirit or wine, pure alcohol provides around 7 Calories. Alcohol is not a nutrient, but it supplies a lot of energy.

Photo by Crissy Jarvis on Unsplash

Time for some math! You can estimate the number of calories in food but doing some simply multiplying and addition. For instance, if a serving of pizza has 15 grams (g) of carbohydrates, 8 g of protein, and 20 g of fat, you can determine the total estimate calories.

Let’s go!
15 g of carbs (15 g x 4 Calories) = 60 Calories
8 g of protein (8 g x 4 Calories) = 32 Calories
20 g of fat (20 g x 9 Calories) = 180 Calories
Add it all up, and we get 272 Calories!

Notice how the amount of fat compares to the amount of carbohydrates and protein. In the next section, I’ll provide you with suggestions on how you can modify ingredients in your favorite dishes.

Nutrition substitution chart
Schiff, W. (2019). Nutrition for healthy living. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.