Know What You Are Eating

by Sylvia Melendes, MS, RD, LDN, CPT

Most people have no idea of how many calories, fat, sodium (salt), cholesterol, etc. they are consuming every day.  I am always surprised to find out how little people now about what they are putting in their mouth!  Every time I ask the question about how many calories are in an authentic enchilada serving, not one is even close to the 900 calories per serving.  Yes, you heard that right!  One serving of an authentic enchilada with crema, guacamole, queso fresco, etc. has over 900 calories per serving.  I believe that if we only knew all the calories we consume every day, along with all the saturated fat, cholesterol and salt found in our every day foods, we may be a little more motivated to eat just a little less which could ultimately result in a weight loss!    


With an obesity epidemic at its highest (we hope!) it is no wonder we need to bring light regarding the nutrients we are consuming so we can see where we are exceeding and where we are lacking in nutrients. 


It is important to remember that calories are very important.  They measure the amount of energy that is supplied by carbohydrates, fats and proteins in food.  The energy supplied by food is much needed for important for body functions such as growth, movement, and many others.  The problem with calories is that we tend to consume too many of them without even realizing. With this in mind, how can we consume the appropriate amount of calories for our bodies?  Let me share a few tips for staying within within your calories so you can learn how many calories you need to fuel your body and daily activities. 


Basically, to meet the body's daily energy and nutritional needs while minimizing risk for chronic disease, adults should get 45 percent to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20 percent to 35 percent from fat, and 10 percent to 35 percent from protein, as stated by the newest report on recommendations for healthy eating from the National Academies' Institute of Medicine.


To find how many calories you need to maintain your weight – The national Academy of Sciences makes the following daily calorie recommendations:

1,600 calories – is about right for many sedentary women, and some older adults

2,200 calories – is about right for most children, teenage girls, active women, and many sedentary men (women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may need somewhat more.)

2,800 calories – is about right for teenage boys, many active men, and some very active women


Know that your calories can vary depending on your daily activity level. Excess calorie consumption plays a major role in being overweight. People who do not know the basics about nutrition or understand food labels are less likely to make healthy food choices.  Remember that just about any food or beverage, except plain water, is going to have calories.