November 15, 2011 Recipes and Calorie Counts
I’m not really a fan of them. When you’re cooking your own food, and have a good sense of hunger and satisfaction, you shouldn’t need them unless you are on a prescribed diet. From the aspects of accuracy to the vagaries of your own metabolism, there are many factors that significantly skew their utility into oblivion.
With packaged and (some) restaurant food, there are numbers available. Are those numbers accurate? No. Everyone is always horrified, but when students and researchers go buy food and then burn it in a calorimeter (to determine the actual number of calories), they don’t match. “Not matching” can be by 5%, 10%, or by 40%. Using inaccurate numbers to determine your daily intake is counterproductive when they may be telling you that you are eating far less (or maybe even more) than you actually are. Unsurprisingly, whole foods vary quite a lot naturally… one pig may be leaner than another while one plum has more sugar than another.
Recipes are particularly vulnerable to change. Within One Bowl, there are many options for substitutions, and I’m quite sure many of you will use it as a resource for ideas and skills rather than as a prescription for how to make a salad. Topping something with a different kind of cheese can half or double the calories, as can guessing how much oil you are actually pouring into the pan. For example, in the very first recipe, using blueberries and non-fat yogurt leads to a breakfast that is 353 calories while using bananas and whole milk Greek vanilla yogurt leads to a breakfast that is 459 calories. Eating the skin on the Duck Breast adds almost 150 calories (primarily fat). Both versions of each dish follow the recipe.
Finally, while weight control is vital to managing some conditions, developing healthful eating habits and an awareness of how hungry or full you actually are would serve most of us better than knowing that the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup with Lime had X number of calories. Stepping on a scale or keeping an eye on your belt size can give you a close view of how your habits are affecting your waistline. However, if you are interested in calorie counts, I’ll be posting a list of some free calculators next week.