Are you underestimating your calories?

Underestimating your calories?

Worldwide research shows that most of us are guilty of underestimating the calories we eat – and that includes the experts.

For example, researchers at Louisiana State University asked a group of dietitians to estimate their own calorie intake. Analysis showed that the diet doctors underestimated the calories they were consuming by around 10%.

A researcher from New York University found similar results. He asked 200 dietitians to estimate the calorie count of four popular restaurant dishes and found that the professionals underestimated the calories by a whopping 250 to 700 calories per dish.

So if the professionals underestimate the calories in food, it stands to reason that the rest of us do it too. Research shows that no matter how good we think we are at estimating food intake, we all get it wrong at least some of the time. People underestimate their daily eats by 25-40%, even those of us who are on weight-reducing diets.

Plus, it appears that the greater the excess weight that an individual carries, the more likely he or she is to underestimate the calories that they're eating.

Firstly, we tend to forget things, especially items eaten between meals or eaten whilst doing other things, like watching TV or even while driving. Secondly, we get the portion sizes wrong, usually they are bigger than we think. Thirdly, we forget about drinks – juices, coffees with whole milk and soft drinks all provide calories. And lastly, alcohol. This can bring on its own particular kind of food amnesia because you may be more likely to forget what you’ve eaten whilst you’re drinking.

Exercise amnesia

Research also shows the dieters tend to overestimate the number of calories that they burn during exercise and/or the length of time that exercise sessions go on for. The only way to know for sure is to check your timings and be mindful of exercise intensity.

If you're ready to avoid food and exercise amnesia, here are our top tips:

Write it down first

If you need to slow things down, promise yourself that you won’t eat anything unless you write it down first. This could be especially helpful if you’re a mindless snacker. Putting everything into your online diary will help you to really think about the food you’re about to eat and help you to be much more conscious about your decisions. When you boost your awareness of just what is going into your mouth, you should find that you feel fuller sooner, too.

You can count the calories faster in your diary if you make up combos of your favourites. So, if you have toast and fruit each morning, make up a morning combo to save time and effort.

Perfect your portion sizes

Weigh and measure your foods and drinks. You will quickly learn to better estimate portion sizes. Use smaller plates and cups so it looks like you’re piling up your plate and load up with the vegies.

Watch the BLTs

Make a pact to include every single bite, lick and taste (think of them as BLTs); they all add up. So, if each BLT amounts to 25 calories and you have just four tastes per day, you could be adding around 36,500 extra calories in one year, which equates to over 10kg over the course of a year. Stop assuming and start calculating.

Count your sips

Even the most diligent diarist can be tricked by the calories in drinks. So include the cappuccino that you bought on the way in to work (84 calories) and that glass of cordial you downed with lunch (81 calories) and that large glass of wine at dinner (122 calories).

Time it

Time all your exercise and place it into your diary. You may be pleasantly surprised – or you may not. So, for example, if your usual exercise regime includes walking to work, think about investing in a pedometer, which at under $20 shouldn’t break the bank. You might be surprised to see just how far you are walking in steps (the recommended healthy number of daily steps is 10,000) and in kilometres or just how little you’re actually moving. You might also want to time yourself to see if you can do the same distance faster and this can slowly clock up your calorie burn. Have a real go at sticking with the exercise duration and intensity recommended to you in your personalised ClickFit plan.

Secrets revealed

Your food diary can be as revealing as the famed Bridget Jones’ variety. You’ll get a clearer picture of your eating and exercise and later, you can get a glimpse into how much you’ve improved your diet; compare the entries in week one and you can also discover which decisions translated into kilos lost (such as eating more fruit and veg, eating breakfast, cutting out take-outs and walking more) and the ones that hold you back.

Take the time to really look at the calories you’ve consumed at the end of the day, after each week and each month. Have a look at the nutritional analysis and see if there are any gaps and ways that you could eat smarter. Start today!