A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie … Or is it?

By: Elise Gordon, M.S., R.D./L.D.

So, if I eat the same number of calories from a candy bar versus from a lean turkey sandwich with cheese on wheat, they are equal?
As far as weight management goes….YES!

If you eat as many calories as your body needs, your weight will be stable.  If you create a deficit (with calories or increased exercise) you will lose weight, and if you eat more calories than your body needs, you will gain weight.  Simple, right?

Another question would be:  Does eating enough Calories = Nutrition? Nourishment? Well-being?

Firstly, what are calories?

In brief, they are a scientific measure of energy.  We all need a certain number of calories to meet our basic metabolic needs and to cover our energy expenditure for daily activity and exercise. It is important to provide one’s body with this amount of calories for nourishment.  To know exactly what your basic metabolic needs are, you would need to complete a simple breathing test.  From this information, we can predict how many CALORIES it will take for your body to function on a day to day basis.  In other words, how much it would take for you to maintain your weight.Once you normalize your calorie intake and remain consistent within this range, your body learns to trust that you will be feeding it regularly.  It then becomes easier to follow Mindful Eating as a way of maintaining your weight, enjoying a wide variety of foods and honoring some of your cravings and food preferences.

We DO recommend that you eat a variety of foods from all the food groups.  We also suggest you aim for a balance of protein-carbohydrate-fat (P-C-F Balance).  This will ensure you are getting the Nutrition your body needs to function optimally.   So to answer the question above, NO, only meeting your calorie needs does not always equal Nutrition, Nourishment or Well-Being.
SO, when you start on a meal plan and you hear your dietitian say that she has no problem what you eat, as long as you MAKE YOUR CALORIES, it is true!  Of course, as we analyze your diet, we like for you to incorporate variety in your meal plan;  but most importantly, in the recovery process, is feeding your body what it needs and reaching your nutritional goals.


Happy Eating!