Your complete guide to calories in food. Picture: iStock
Your complete guide to calories in food. Picture: iStock

Nuts vs. Tim Tams: Which has more calories?

How would you feel if I told you everything you need to know about calories? Well listen up, here goes nothing.

What are 'calories'?

Here's a quick refresher: the energy that comes from food is measured in calories or kilojoules - but note the terms are not interchangeable. You see, one calorie is equal to 4.18 kilojoules.

And another no-brainer: different types of foods provide different amounts of energy. One gram of protein or carbohydrates has about four calories and one gram of fat has nine calories. What a lot of people don't realise is that one gram of alcohol has a whopping seven calories. Mind blown.

How many calories do you need?
This is where things become a little trickier.

The amount of energy you expend each day is divided into three components. The first is our basal metabolic rate - the level of energy our body needs on a daily basis to simply keep us alive (think beating hearts and breathing lungs). Our basal metabolic rate is individualised, depending on things like age, gender and body composition. Then, there's the 'thermic effect of food', which is the amount of energy used for eating and digestion. The third component is physical activity, which of course is highly variable. As you can see, the amount of energy we need per day is quite unique.

As a rough guide, however, basing your diet on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is a good way to get you in the ballpark for the amount of energy most people need. For women aged between the ages of 19-50, you're recommended to have six serves of grains, two and a half serves of protein and the same of dairy, five serves of veg and two serves of fruit each and every day. We then have an allowance for extra foods based on the abovementioned factors.

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How many calories are in your favourite foods?

But how many calories are in specific foods?

Now, I'm generally not a fan of counting calories - nutrition is so much more than calories in and calories out. Rather, I like to focus on the nutrient value of foods. But of course, there are applications where counting calories is quite useful. So, to give you an idea of the calorie content of certain foods, here's that of 30 foods that might be in your shopping basket:

  • One slice of Helga's Mixed Grain bread - 117 calories
  • One Sun Rice Steamed Rice Rice & Quinoa Quick Cup - 202 calories
  • Two Weet Bix - 107 calories
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Choc Chip Muesli Bar - 122 calories
  • One Chobani Greek Yoghurt Passionfruit (170g) - 149 calories
  • One Tamar Valley Greek Style No Added Sugar Passionfruit Yoghurt - 131 calories
  • One cup of Pauls Full Cream Milk - 167 calories
  • One cup of Pauls Skinny Milk - 105 calories
  • Two slices Coon Tasty Cheese - 170 calories
  • A quarter of a South Cape camembert wheel (50g) - 183 calories
  • Two eggs - 139 calories
  • 100 grams of lean eye fillet steak (raw) - 136 calories
  • 100 grams of skinless chicken breast (raw) - 105 calories
  • 100 grams of Macro Chinese Honey Soy Flavoured Tofu - 159 calories
  • One tin of Sirena Tuna Oil Italian Style (drained) - 113 calories
  • One medium Fuji apple - 88 calories
  • One medium banana - 138 calories
  • Half an avocado - 144 calories
  • One cup of mixed lettuce leaves - 6 calories
  • One tomato - 27 calories
  • One carrot - 41 calories
  • One 220g tin of Heinz Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce - 197 calories
  • A small handful (30 grams) of cashews - 183 calories
  • One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil - 177 calories
  • One tablespoon of honey - 90 calories
  • Two Tim Tams - 190 calories
  • One 45g packet of Kettle Salt and Vinegar chips - 217 calories
  • One 53g Mars Bar - 244 calories
  • One Almond Magnum (95g) - 329 calories
  • One Somersby Apple Cider (330mL) - 182 calories

This story originally appeared in Body and Soul and has been republished with permission.