There’s More To Calories Than A Number

If you are counting calories it’s more than likely that you are eating less calories than what your body needs throughout the day so that it starts burning off your excess unwanted fat. Which means, it’s lighter foods and less food than what your stomach and body are use to. The first week or two might be a little uncomfortable and feel like you are hungry all the time if you are not eating nutrient dense foods. And you might be thinking you can still eat whatever you want, just as long as you don’t go over your calories. Calories then just become a number. But, there are some factors to consider.

  • What keeps you fuller longer?
  • What are healthy fats? Do you need to eat them if you’re trying to loose fat?
  • Are Calories Equal?
  • What else does your body use for energy when eating a caloric deficit diet?


Photo by Marta Reis on Unsplash
Fiber Keeps You Feeling Full

Nutrient dense foods are usually high in fiber which is digested slowly and aids in loosing weight.

Nutrient Dense Foods with Fiber

  • Nourishes your body
  • Helps it to process the stored fat
  • Makes sure you are not starving right after eating

Because they are high in nutrients, your body will not be lacking. It might take a week or so for your body to adjust since these are usually lighter foods, but if your body is able to get a balanced diet it will be able to process better, which will help you not be so “hangry”.


Photo by Mira Bozhko on Unsplash
You Need Healthy Fats

Fats are calorie dense and are something to watch when you are trying to loose weight. Your body needs to burn off the stored fat, so not taking in a lot of fats, and more fiber rich foods like vegetables is the way to go.

However, your body needs healthy fats. Those fats are the unsaturated fats. Think nuts, avocados, salmon, olive oil, etc. I usually try to get my fats from the actual source and not add it by having oil so it’s digested with the fiber, vitamins, and minerals it was produced with naturally. So I’ll have almonds as a snack, or have a few slices of avocado on my salad. Fats are digested slower and can help keep you fuller longer. So having a small handful of almonds in between a meal if you are starting to get “famished” can do a lot of good.

Still watching the amount to not go overboard and to keep your caloric intake low, still add them into your diet. They do a number of good things, like aiding in joint health, rebuilding of cells, healthy brain function and keeping healthy nerves. But too much of a good thing can be bad and throw off your goals. Keep it in check. Try to only have 1-2 servings of fat rich foods in your diet a day if you are trying to loose weight by counting calories.


Calories Are Not Equal

Although nutrient dense foods can be low in calories, you get so much more with it. So to eat enough calories a day with nutrient dense foods goes a long way. Let me illustrate by using a 500 calorie breakfast.

  • Plain Bagel with 6 tbsp Cream Cheese = 500 calories
  • 2 Scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast w/butter, and 1 cup sauteed veggies = 500 calories
Photo by Larissa DeCorves.


Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash
Bagel & Cream Cheese Nutritional Information:

511 calories | 27 g total fat | 2 g polyunsaturated fat | 8 g monounsaturated fat | 16 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fats | 81 mg cholesterol | 823 mg sodium | 51 g carbohydrates | 4 g fiber | 9 g sugar | 16 g protein | 40% Vitamin A | 15% vitamin B12 | 0% vitamin C | 4% vitamin K | 21% iron

Eggs, Wheat Toast w/Butter & 1 cup Sauteed Veggies Nutritional Information:

523 calories | 25 g total fat | 2 g polyunsaturated fat | 11 g mono unsaturated fat | 8 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fats | 1245 mg cholesterol | 487 mg sodium | 36 g carbohydrates | 8 g fiber | 8 g sugar | 29 g protein | 261% vitamin A | 315% vitamin B12 | 81% vitamin C | 72% vitamin K | 44% iron

Although they are about the same in calories and about the same amount of calories from fat, the fat with breakfast #2 is the healthy fats (unsaturated) that are used more easily in the body. Then looking at the vitamin percentages with the sauteed veggies will definitely give you a vitamin and mineral boost. For the calories, breakfast #2 would give your body more of what it needs and what it can use and not store right away like with breakfast #1. If you are feeding your body the things it can readily absorb and use right away it won’t be stored as easily and you’ll be able to loose weight quicker without it being unhealthy or without your caloric intake going too low.


Caloric Deficit Takes Away More Than Fat

When you are eating a caloric deficit for your body, your body will take away things that are stored to use for energy since you are eating less calories (energy) than what it needs throughout the day. So ideally it will only be burning off the stored fat, but that’s not the case. Your body will also be taking away healthy things that have been stored. Think muscle mass and bone density. With keeping in mind that not all calories are the same, it’s important to make sure the few calories that you are having are rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy protein so that you are fueling your body with things you want it to keep, and not fueling it with fats that you want it to burn off. So although you “can” have that double bacon cheese burger and it’s the same amount of calories as a turkey sandwich with a salad, stay mindful of what you are feeding your body, not just the calories you’re putting into it.


Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash
Bottom Line
  1. Calories are a number and a guide, but is not everything. If you are trying to loose weight by a caloric deficit, keep in mind where your calories are coming from.
  2. Fiber will keep you fuller longer, so stock up on your vegetables.
  3. Fats, although calorie dense, are important in your diet and are needed.
    • Make sure you are eating the healthy unsaturated fats that your body can use right away – nuts, seeds, avocados, salmon, etc.
  4. Calories are not equal. Whatever you are fueling your body with, make sure that it’s vitamin and mineral rich. By eating nutrient dense foods you keep the good parts and loose the bad.