Special Report

17 Things Nutritionists Want You to Know About Calories

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1. More calories doesn’t mean more stamina

A calorie is a unit of energy, but eating many calories doesn’t necessarily makes us more energetic. In fact, “People sometimes say that when they eat less they have more energy,” Michele Jacobson, a certified nutritionist at Michele Jacobson Nutrition. This may be because the body expends less on digestion. “However, it is important to eat quality food from all the food groups, in order to be healthy, have the energy you need and function optimally.”

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2. One size does not fit all

Guidelines about how many calories people need are vague. “Like overall nutrition needs, individual calorie needs are very specific to the person,” Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area, said. How many calories you need in a day depends on so many things, including your age, gender, activity level, and weight goals, she noted.

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3. The best source of calories are plant-based foods

“People don’t look at the nutritional profile of the foods they are eating,” Kearney said. You can eat a decent-sized breakfast that is 500 calories, but if the foods were not a great source of nutrients and are processed quickly, you’ll be hungry in no time and likely to eat another 500 calories soon, she explained. “You really should be looking for plant-based food because they are low in calories but high in nutrients that give the body what it needs.”

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4. Counting calories is not sustainable

Jacobson said she did not believe that calorie-counting was a positive way to monitor one’s eating. “This is not a sustainable way to live,” she added. Constantly checking the calories, keeping a diary, calculating the numbers, having to decide a few times a day if you should eat something or not — it’s exhausting. “And furthermore, [it] tells nothing about the quality of the food you are eating.”

Eating a balanced diet with plenty of plant-based foods automatically takes care of the problem, Kearney added. “These foods are naturally low in calories, so you don’t have to worry about counting them or restricting yourself so much.”

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5. Calorie-counting apps are not ideal

These apps don’t focus on vitamin and mineral content, so in a way their information is deceiving, Kearney noted. “You may be getting the right amount of calories according to the app but still not feel your best because you’re not getting the nutrition you need.” You need fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats to keep you full and healthy, not just a certain amount of calories.