Counting calories can be useful for dieting novices to get an idea of the calorie content of various foods, especially high-calorie fast foods. But once you’ve gotten a feel for it, you may not need to do calorie-counting every day. Here are five good reasons why you might be better off skipping the calorie counting.
- It’s not all that accurate.Researchers from Tufts University analyzed the calorie content of a variety of supermarket and restaurant foods and found that, in many cases, the actual calorie content of the food varied considerably from number of calories listed by the manufacturer or restaurant. In fact, there are no strict standards for calorie counts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires only that the calorie content of packaged foods doesn’t exceed the stated amount by more than 20 percent. For restaurant foods, there’s no limit at all. What’s more, figuring out how many calories you need in a day (called your basal metabolic rate) and how many calories you burn doing exercise is also difficult to pinpoint.
- It drives you crazy and is counter-productive.Lots of people overeat when they are stressed out, and for some, calorie-counting is just too time-consuming, mind-numbing and, in many cases, futile. That could lead to your giving up and quiting dieting altogether.
- You do better tracking portions and portion size.Rather than counting calories, counting portions would do the trick and is much, much easier. And after a while, once you have a feel for what is an appropriate amount of food, even that becomes unnecessary.
- You are an intuitive eater.If you focus more on internal cues than external cues to tell you how much to eat, calorie counting can work against you. You are conscious of your hunger signals, and have learned to stop eating when you start to feel full—a difficult skill to develop. Looking at the number of calories on a label could take your away from your focus and even persuade you to eat more (“I can’t possibly be full after eating only 200 calories!”). It’s more important to know the difference between real hunger and cravings and to be mindful of how you eat.
- You’re more concerned with quality than quantity.It takes some effort to overeat when you are dining on kale, tofu and brown rice. If you stick with nutrient-dense, high-fiber, low-fat, low-sugar foods, you generally don’t have to count calories or measure portion sizes. You’ll fill up before you meet your calorie quota.