07/17/2018

Should you count calories?

Here are some healthy tips to maintain, lose weight

Struggling to lose weight? Well did you know that if you could cut out just 500 calories a day you’d lose one pound a week? If maintained, that’s more than 50 pounds in one year.

Reducing your calorie intake by 500 may be as simple as cutting out that late night snack or drinking two or three (depending on size) fewer sodas a day. For others, it may be more complicated than that. If you are not sure where to begin, try by counting your calories to see what you can cut out or consume less of.

Andrea Manley
 Andrea Manley, Registered Dietitian at St. Joseph’s Hospital

Calories in food provide energy in the form of heat so that our bodies can function. Energy in vs. energy out can contribute to our body weight.

We often hear of counting calories to maintain or lose weight. While it may not work for some, counting calories does have its benefits.

“If you are overweight and generally healthy but are trying to lose weight to prevent disease, then yes, I think you should count calories,” says Andrea Manley, Registered Dietitian at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “I think it’s beneficial to know how much you are actually getting. People may think they are only consuming 1,500 or maybe 1,000 calories a day, but when you sit down and count them, it could be 3,000 calories.”

There’s not a clear cut answer for how many calories an individual needs to consume and burn to lose weight while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That depends on numerous factors such as age, height, current weight, activity levels, metabolic health and others.

One way to determine your daily calorie needs is knowing your RMR, resting metabolic rate. RMR is the amount of energy, or calories, a body burns while at rest, which accounts for approximately 70 percent of the body’s daily energy expenditure. A dietitian or exercise specialist can use a person’s RMR to help make informed decisions regarding diet and exercise plans.

The St. Joseph’s/Candler Wellness Center offers a Resting Metabolic Rate Assessment. It lasts 60 minutes and costs $75 for first testing. Outpatient nutrition counseling also is available. Visit our Wellness Center website for more information. 

If that is more than you want to invest in, there are online calculators that can measure certain units to give you an idea of your daily calorie intake. Manley recommends calorie counting apps and food journals.

“Sometimes it’s easier to write it down because lot of times you end up not eating as much because you don’t want to keep writing it down,” Manley says. “However, people that count calories without apps might forget to add calories from condiments when there are apps that do that for you. Any way you can get the true outcome of what you are eating can work.”

Related Article: Study: Fitness apps result in more frequent exercise, lower BMIs

Whether you count calories or not, Manley offers these healthy tips you can follow to maintain or even lose weight:

  • Listen to your body. Manley believes the healthiest option to maintain or lose weight is adequate exercise and following a proper diet. When your body is telling you it’s hungry, eat, but eat smart. Manley suggests something small.
    “If you eat breakfast and then are hungry a couple hours later before lunch comes, eat a small, healthy snack,” Manley says. “When you skip meals or ignore hunger, we start starving and then eat more calories at the next meal. The best thing to do is follow your body. If you are truly hungry then eat.”
  • Eat small, more frequent meals. In order to not skip meals, Manley suggests eating small, more frequent meals. Small, frequent meals are good because you never feel too hungry and don’t feel overly full, Manley says. If you eat too much at once, your body can only metabolize so much and then the rest will be stored. When you eat healthy foods more often you usually don’t over consume calories because your body isn’t starving.
  • Read food labels. Especially if you are counting calories, it’s important to pay attention to food labels, especially portion size. You may think a particular product has only 100 calories but the serving size could be five and all of the sudden that afternoon snack is 500 calories toward your daily total. Manley also encourages looking for foods that are full of micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
    Related Article: Here’s why you shouldn’t always trust the front of the food package you buy
  • Put down the soda. Want to lose weight? Stop drinking sodas, Manley advises. Soft drinks are full of high-fructose corn syrup, which is a major contributor to obesity.
    “You are basically drinking sugar when that could be a food full of nutrients,” Manley says.
    Soft drinks are a perfect example of empty calories – foods or beverages that tend to be full of carbohydrates that provide energy but nothing else beneficially to the rest of the body.
    Take for example that afternoon Coke you may drink to get you through the rest of the work day. You could replace that with an apple, light yogurt and two tablespoons of nuts and still be consuming the same amount of calories. Even if you think you need the caffeine, that’s only going to be a quick blood sugar rise before it drops and you feel tired again. Fruits, nuts and dairy products are packed with protein and other nutrients that will keep your blood sugar stable.
    Related Article: Another reason to avoid soda: Help prevent osteoporosis
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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