A regular question I’m asked as a nutritionist is ‘How many calories should I eat each day?’ Here I’ll try to explain why that is probably not the correct question to ask.

The magic number

It is not difficult to get a calorie target online, there are any number of calculators. You put your stats into the calculator, you choose how active you are (be honest!) and hey presto you get your magic number.

What now?

Now starts the actual work. The only way that ‘calorie counting’ works is when you weigh and measure EVERYTHING that passes your lips. Otherwise, how would you know how many calories you’ve consumed?

A bit of help

You have your set of numbers but now what? When I work with people who want to count calories these are my suggestions:

  • Consider a weekly target instead of a daily one, this removes the guilt if you happen to go over any day
  • Processed food will eat into your calories much quicker than whole unprocessed foods
  • You must weigh/measure all foods and drinks for this to be accurate
  • Stick to your numbers for a week to ten days then assess, compare from your starting weight/measurements and alter your calories if you need to
  • If your energy starts to decrease and you are very tired, reconsider your target calories
  • It may take a few weeks to find the numbers that suit for you to achieve your goal

Way too complicated…

Does that all sound like hard work, well to be accurate it is. Studies show that people (even nutritionists) struggle to accurately count calories.

What else could I do?

People search for the exact number of calories and breakdown of macros that they need when in reality there are many habits that they need to focus on first. These are known as the ‘low hanging fruit’ – stuff that people are ignoring in the pursuit of what they think is the premium fruit at the top!

These are the habits that we know will bring benefits. Most of the time I will talk about ‘increasing’ things in your diet rather than ‘removing/reducing’ stuff as this is where the real magic lies.

For many people, increasing protein, increasing veg, increasing water, increasing movement, increasing sleep are the habits that make the difference.

Having a ‘perfect’ calorie target but not wanting to eat any veg will not put you on the path to health.

I can help you

These are the habits that we focus on in my ‘Health for Life’ program. It’s not a quick fix, it’s a full year to find out what works for you. If you’d like more details visit https://www.konutrition.ie/health-for-life