Do you know how many calories are in the foods and drinks you consume every day?
Do you know how many calories a good-sized snack, meal or treat should contain so as not to be excessive?
It’s ok, most people don’t. And the people who think they do are often surprised by the true numbers.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some common meals, snacks and drinks and reveal exactly how many calories they contain and the healthier alternatives you might like to swap them for.
(This post is not about specific brands of products, but offers the calorie amount an average product of that type contains, so it’s applicable to you regardless of where you live or where you shop.)
First of all, a rough calorie guide:
- 500 calories is enough for a decent-sized meal
- 400 calories should be about the size of your meals if you eat little and often
- 300 calories is a good-sized snack
- 200 calories is a small snack
- 100 calories is a quick, very small nibble
500 Calories – A Meal
500 calories is definitely generous enough to provide you with a hearty, filling meal. It is, for example, about the number of calories in a typical roast dinner complete with roast beef, steamed vegetables and roast potatoes, and even gravy. However, it’s easy to go over this amount – a typical chicken tikka masala with pilau rice contains 860 calories, and that’s before adding in any poppadums or naan breads. And once you’ve eaten that 500 calorie meal, it’s easy to eat the same amount again when reaching for dessert – a medium bag of sweet popcorn and a tin of cola contain almost 550 calories, and a typical cheese and biscuit board contains around another 500 calories. If you’re a drinker, be aware that a typical can of beer and small bag of salted peanuts also adds up to another 500 calories.
How can you make these options healthier? Well, when you enjoy your pint, resist the peanuts – that’ll save you over 300 calories. Try popping the popcorn at home and adding spices instead of sugary toppings. If you’re a cheese and biscuit lover, choose a lower-calorie main meal to limit the total caloric intake. And when choosing a curry, go for a tandoori option that will typically provide you with around 300 calories, and plain rice.
400 Calories – Small Meal
400 calories can buy you some pretty delicious meals, including prawn and vegetable stir-fries, and grilled salmon with a jacket potato and salad. Tasty, right? But, 400 calories can also be used up on 2 slices of garlic bread, an 80g slice of chocolate cake, and a large fries from those popular fast food places.
What can you do? Eat less garlic bread.. sorry to be harsh, but it’s normally accompanying a meal that’s already way too high in calories, so try replacing it with a salad. On a brighter note, you can save 100 calories by having oven chips instead of fast food ones.
300 Calories – Decent Snack
300 calories can get you a very decent-sized snack, even a jacket potato with baked beans, pasta with a tomato sauce, or a grilled chicken salad. Filling, yeah? But, 300 calories can also disappear when you eat an avocado, a butter criossant, or a single pork sausage. Wow.
So, what can you do? Just eat half an avocado – don’t avoid them as they’re really healthy as well as being pretty high in calories – to save 140 calories, go for the small croissant to save 100 calories, and grill your sausage (or switch it for grilled bacon).
200 Calories – Small Snack
Even at 200 calories you can enjoy a nice bowl of stir-fried vegetables, filling enough for anyone as a small snack I’d say… but you can also use up 200 calories on a glass of cola, a single tablespoon of butter, a pint of weak lager or 8 brazil nuts.
The good news? Brazil nuts are high in iron, zinc and selenium so just eat a couple rather than avoiding them completely. And try switching to low-fat fromage frais instead of butter. Your cola can be switched to pure orange juice, which will save an incredible 165 calories.
100 Calories – Grazing
100 calories can be invested in a bowl of vegetable soup, a couple of pieces of fruit, a bowl of steamed broccoli, or a small handful of roasted almonds. However, it can also be used up before you realise by eating just 2 squares of milk chocolate, drinking a non-fat cappuccino or enjoying a 125ml glass of dry white wine.
What to do? Save the chocolate for an occasional treat, and try the same with the cappuccino – if you stopped either of these daily habits you would lose 10lbs in a year. How much do you really like your chocolate and coffee? As for the wine, remember that lower alcohol contents mean lower calories.
Everything should be enjoyed in moderation, of course, so try not to deprive yourself of foods or drinks you really enjoy completely.
Instead, be aware of the calories they contain, and choose whether you think they’re really worth that price when there are other, healthier alternatives available.