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What’s the Deal With Calorie Counting?

1 min Read

All food has a certain amount of energy that it provides you when you eat and digest it. Your body requires this energy to keep up with its functions like breathing, circulation, and digestion, as well as for daily activities like walking, exercising, and all other movements. When you count calories, you track your energy […]

All food has a certain amount of energy that it provides you when you eat and digest it. Your body requires this energy to keep up with its functions like breathing, circulation, and digestion, as well as for daily activities like walking, exercising, and all other movements. When you count calories, you track your energy intake to make sure it matches up with the amount of energy you expend.

What is a calorie?

A calorie is a unit of measure. It measures the amount of energy required to heat a single kg of water by one degree (from 0 to 1 degree Celsius). In regards to meals, most people view a calorie as a unit of energy supplied by food. Your body uses calories for every body function, both voluntary, like jumping up and down, to involuntary, like breathing. 

Intake of calories is necessary for life, and taking in too many or too few can have serious consequences. Undereating calories can result in unhealthy weight loss, resulting in muscle loss and low body fat. In extreme cases, organ failure and death can occur. Typically consuming too few calories is associated with eating disorders like anorexia. Still, older adults may have difficulty taking in enough calories and nutrition for health. 

Eating too many calories leads to excess weight gain and increased body fat. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and death.

Noom provides you with a suggested calorie goal for weight loss.

Through a unique color-coding system, users are taught how to choose the best foods.

Real results with a personalized weight loss program

Noom uses behavioral psychology to help change unhealthy habits one step at time. It does not use restrictive diets. No food is forbidden. Take our FREE 5-minute quiz and see how quickly you reach your goal weight.

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Sources of Calories for Energy

There are four sources of calories – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol. All foods are made up of some, or all, of these sources. Carbs, proteins, and fats are called macronutrients. 

Each gram of:

Carbohydrates = 4 calories

Proteins = 4 calories

Fats = 9 calories

The combination of macronutrients makes up the total calorie count for a portion of food. For instance, if food has:

10g carbs, 10g protein, 5g fat – the total is 135 calories. 

In a Western diet, the most common sources of macronutrients include:

  • Carbohydrates: flour-based and starchy foods like pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread
  • Proteins: animal meats
  • Fats: animal meats and added oils

These sources of macronutrients may be common, but they aren’t the only options. Alternative sources of macronutrients include:

  • Carbohydrates: whole grains
  • Proteins: plant-based proteins like hemp or pea protein or nuts and beans
  • Fats: natural sources like olives and avocado

The total amount of macronutrients, or calories, that you consume fall into one of three categories: 

  • Undereating
  • Balanced eating
  • Overeating

Balanced eating, like that encouraged by Noom, is what all people are striving for. Still, most often, people find themselves either undereating, by choice or by following an extreme diet, or overeating. 

The Difference Between Noom and Other Plans and Programs

When it comes to learning how to eat and how to live for weight loss, Noom works from a psychological perspective. According to the Chief of Psychology for Noom, Dr. Andreas Michaelides, “By understanding the past behaviors and attitudes of all types of users, we know the best way to meet our users where they are in their journey to help them maximize their change of long-term weight-loss success.” Noom, as a weight-loss platform, uses the power of food logging, among other advanced technologies, to teach simple, key behaviors for lasting change. Behavior changes that include self-efficacy, motivation, and knowledge are just the start of how psychology can interact with food, so you lose more weight in a way that lasts a lifetime.

Noom works with tech-based tools partnered with support from real-life coaches in a structured program that connects the user with the social support and positive reinforcement needed to change behavior in a way that increases the likelihood of success.

Not all dietary changes are for everyone, and no two weight-loss plans should be the same, which is precisely how Noom works.

By identifying specific areas where changes can be made to reach goals of weight loss and health improvement successfully, users realize where their best moves are to be made and how those changes are incorporated into a lifestyle they can adopt for the long-term.

More on Undereating and Overeating Calories

Eating too few or too many calories is associated with health risks that can reach as serious as premature death. But, what do undereating and overeating look like? 

Undereating: In terms of weight loss, undereating is considered eating too few calories for healthy, natural, lasting weight loss. Very low-calorie diets, any diet where fewer than 800-1000 calories are consumed daily, can be considered undereating. 

Another example is in patients with anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is characterized by a purposeful restriction of calories for the sake of weight loss, to the point that calorie intake drops to dangerous levels. The psychiatric disorder “has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.”

Often, people with anorexia eat fewer than 600 calories a day and, at times, exercise excessively to burn off the total calories consumed. 

Some of the medical complications associated with eating extremely too few calories include problems with the following systems:

  • Cardiovascular (Heart)
  • Dermatologic (Skin and Hair)
  • Gastrointestinal (Digestion and Waste)
  • Endocrine and Metabolic
  • Hematologic (Blood)
  • Neurologic (Brain Function)
  • Ophthalmic (Eyes)
  • Pulmonary (Lungs)

The aging population also has issues with undereating. With age and specific health conditions, appetite can decrease. Not only does this result in undereating, but it also increases the chance of nutrient deficiency. 

Contrary to what’s typically thought, in the aging population being underweight can cause significantly more severe health issues than being overweight.

“Underweight was as strong a predictor of mortality [death], and even stronger, than overweight.”

Overeating: When far too many calories are consumed than the body needs to function, the cause is often overeating. Overeating is defined as consuming more food energy than the body needs resulting in excessive storage of body fat.

Overeating calories used to be a condition common in the adult community. Still, in the past decade, rates of childhood obesity, often from overeating, have skyrocketed. Overeating, in all age groups, comes with an increased risk of multiple health conditions, diseases, and death. However, not all experts and doctors believe overeating is a choice. 

In one study, researchers found that “evidence suggests that certain styles of eating, such as binge eating, compulsive eating, and chronic overeating, resemble the behaviour of people addicted to drugs.”

This effect could be associated with the fact that dopamine, a part of the brain’s reward system, is released when people eat. The resulting problems affect cognitive control, so overeating may actually be associated with dopamine release and not a choice.

To fight the neurological factors that play a part in overeating calories, we need to continue with clinically-significant research. 

“A better understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that lead to compulsive eating behavior can improve behavioral and pharmacological intervention for disorders of pathological eating.”

Another factor, proven in clinical research, in overeating is stress. The investigation into the relationships between stress, calories, overeating, and obesity has been thoroughly studied. 

One problem is that people under high stress tend to choose foods that are more palatable to them. More palatable foods may contain excessive and empty calories. After research, the authors found “stress exposure may lead to a stronger drive to eat and may be one factor promoting excessive weight gain.”

It’s often chronic stress that has the most impact on eating habits and choices. “Evidence from longitudinal studies suggests that chronic life stress may be causally linked to weight gain, with a greater effect seen in men. Stress-induced eating may be one factor contributing to the development of obesity.”

In some cases, stress eating is also referred to as emotional eating. Research has shown that emotional eating may be combated with “exercise, mindful eating, emotion regulation, and positive body image…” Unfortunately, this research doesn’t take into account the neurological, psychological, or physiological sides of overeating.

The biggest problem with overeating as a reaction to stress or stressful situations is the increased risk of obesity. With obesity comes a long list of potential health problems like increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. Mortality rates are also higher in obese men and women.

However, science is starting to take notice of how the brain and emotions affect eating habits. There’s a chance that fighting “depression or poor emotional regulation” could actually promote eating less food and fewer calories.

Calories, Macros, and Nutrition

Macronutrients make up the foods you eat. These include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each macronutrient supplies a unique set of calories or, based on the definition of a calorie, each provides a certain number of energy units. For instance:

  • Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
  • Proteins: 4 calories per gram
  • Fats: 9 calories per gram

Alcohol is not a macronutrient, but it supplies about 7 calories per gram. 

Are all calories the same?

The body uses all energy or calories, the same way – they are used as a fuel source, and extra is stored (as fat) for later use. However, just because all calories are used for energy, it doesn’t mean all calories are created equal. Does quality matter?

Quality of calories is a huge part of overall health, wellness, and nutrition. Some foods provide empty calories, while others provide nutrient-rich calories that help promote overall health. 

Empty Calories

Source of empty calories from foods that offer little to no nutritional benefit include:

  • Simple Carbohydrates (white flour, white pasta, white rice, sugar)

To learn more about what makes up the calories in your food, let’s take a look at the nutrition label. 

How to Read a Nutrition Label

Most people know that calorie information is included on a food’s nutrition label. Still, they may not know how to read a nutrition label thoroughly. The label consists of lots of valuable information about the nutrients in the food, which can help you decide whether or not it’s worth eating.

The top of the label will tell you the serving size and the servings per container. If you’re not eating the entire package, you should calculate how many servings you’re having. Some foods are measured in grams or ounces, and others are measured in cups. Using measuring cups or a food scale will help you be as accurate as possible when you calculate your calories. Still, you can eyeball it if these tools aren’t available.

Underneath the serving information is the calorie information. This is the number of calories per serving, not necessarily the number of calories in the entire package. To the right of the total calories are the calories from fat, which tells you how much of the serving is made up of fat.

As you move down the label, you can see other nutrition information. Most nutrition labels include the following:

  • Total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and sugars
  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron

To the right of each of these nutrients is a column for the Percent Daily Value. This tells you what percent of your daily recommendation of each nutrient the serving contains. It’s based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so if you eat fewer than 2,000 calories per day, the Percent Daily Value shown will be lower than your personal Daily Value. If you eat more than 2,000 calories, the opposite will be true.

How many calories should you eat to lose weight? Do you need to count calories for weight loss? All these questions can be answered with the help of Noom Guides.

All users can chat with their Guides, who are there to help get you to your goal. Meet your Guides today!

Who Controls Food Labels?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in control of food labeling laws and practices. The agency requires companies to print specific information on labels and ensure the labels are presented in a way that reflects what the food really supplies in terms of calories and macronutrients per realistic serving. 

The food labeling rules were first published in 1994. Revisions occurred in 2008, 2009, and 2013. 

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for assuring that foods sold in the United States are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. This applies to foods produced domestically, as well as foods from foreign countries.”

Calories and Metabolism

What is metabolism?

“Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.

Even when you’re at rest, your body needs energy for all its “hidden” functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells. The number of calories your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate — what you might call metabolism.”

How does metabolic rate work? 

The metabolic rate is the rate at which metabolism occurs. There are a couple types of metabolic rates that commonly come up in health and weight loss. These are basal metabolic rate and resting metabolic rate (resting energy expenditure). 

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Your BMR is the number of calories the body needs to perform life functions like organ activity, breathing, digestion, cell production, and a long list of others. You burn these calories no matter what you do during the day. Even bedridden individuals have a BMR.
  • Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR): Your RMR or resting energy expenditure (REE) is the number of calories the body needs to function at rest. These two numbers will vary slightly, though both are considered as accurate as possible without detailed medical testing. 

How to Calculate BMR

There is no mathematical equation or special calculator that will give you a BMR that’s 100% accurate. However, there is an equation that can give you a general idea. To find a general estimate of your BMR try:

“Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)”

“Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)”

Every pound of body weight equals about half a kg. Every cm equals about 2.5 inches.


For a woman who is 38, 5’4” tall, and 145lbs. 

5’4” = 163cm

145lbs = 65.7 kg

Once these numbers are inserted into the BMR equation, the basal metabolic rate for the woman is about 1400 calories. RMR, as calculated using an online tool, is estimated at 1647 calories. 

For a man who is 38, 6’1”, and 180lbs. 

6’1” = 185.5cm

180lbs = 81.6kg

When put into the BMR equation, the 38-year-old man has an estimated BMR of 1523 calories. When we plugged the same numbers into an RMR calculator online, it said the resting rate was 1793 calories – comparable to the BMR calculation. 

Some people choose to take the average between the BMR and RMR to estimate how many base calories the body needs to function. 

How to Use BMR and RMR

Now that we’ve figured out the BMR and RMR, what can we do with this information?

If we take just the BMR, that estimate can, in theory, help with weight loss. Here’s how:

If the BMR is how many calories the body NEEDS to function and you eat that many calories,  any movement, exercise, or activity will increase calories burned and, over time, that leads to weight loss. Because there are so many contributing factors to weight gain, weight maintenance, and weight loss, this idea is not 100% foolproof. 

What is the Thermic Effect of Food?

The thermic effect of food (TEF) is “the increase in metabolic rate after ingestion of a meal…” There’s some controversy over whether foods with a higher thermic effect can affect body composition or promote weight loss.

It does appear that the foods you eat and the size of your meals have an impact on the TEF. “Evidence suggests that TEF is increased by larger meal sizes (as opposed to frequent small meals), intake of carbohydrate and protein (as opposed to dietary fat), and low-fat plant-based diets.”

Sometimes all it takes is adding one thing to a meal for the thermic effect to increase. After one study, researchers shared, “the results, showing enhanced thermogenesis and reduced feelings of hunger with ginger consumption, suggest a potential role of ginger in weight management.”

The power of food for weight loss is undeniable. The foods we eat help boost metabolism, decrease hunger, and promote overall health.

Track the foods you’re eating with Noom and see what’s working for you.

TEF and Negative-Calorie Foods

For years there have been people who’ve claimed that the thermic effect of some foods is greater than the calories they provide. That means that eating these foods would cause the body to burn more calories than taken in to promote weight loss. 

“A simple search for ‘negative-calorie food’ will return 10s of millions of results. There is no lack of information on the foods that magically cost more calories to digest than they supply. With this theory in mind, eating only negative-calorie foods would result in extreme weight-loss, which could cause severe side effects – over time.”

Research doesn’t show that negative-calorie foods actually exist. The truth is that only about 10% of the total calories supplied by a portion of food are used during digestion. So, even that 25cal serving of cabbage will provide 22.5cals. 

Catabolism and Anabolism

There are two types of metabolism – catabolism, and anabolism. 

Catabolism is the breakdown of energy for use – the destructive side of metabolism. Catabolism concentrates on large molecules.

Anabolism is the breakdown of energy for storage – the constructive side of metabolism. Anabolism concentrates on complex molecules.

The body uses both catabolism and anabolism daily. The macronutrients from foods are initially broken down and used for energy. When the body has all the energy it needs, the remaining calories are then broken down for storage. 

The storage results in body fat, and when in excess, can cause overweight, obesity, and a wide range of health issues.

Body Processes and Catabolism

Some of the body processes that require catabolism include:

  • Breakdown of fat
  • Breakdown of muscle protein
  • Citric-acid cycle
  • Glycolysis

Calories and Body Fat

What do calories and body fat have in common? How are these two big-time players in weight loss related?

The human body is equipped with preservative actions, such as storing extra fuel for later use. This comes from a time, not long ago, in terms of human evolution, when food intake was often feast to famine. During times of feast, when more calories are consumed, extra energy is stored as body fat. In times when food is scarce, the body uses those stores for energy. There’s a careful, natural balance, but in Western cultures where processed foods are more common than whole foods, and portion sizes have grown exponentially, the average person intakes more calories than the body regularly needs, leading to the obesity epidemic we’re experiencing today.

How is a Calorie Stored as Body Fat?

When the body has too many calories to use at any given time, the extra carbohydrates are converted to glycogen – the fuel of the muscles. Glycogen is a complex carbohydrate found naturally in the body. 

The body can only hold on to about 500g or so of glycogen, which accounts for about 2000 calories. After those stores are full, the body holds on to the extra in the case that additional energy sources, more food, aren’t available in the future. 

Calories and Exercise

If you think of calories as energy, for the sake of exercise, you need calories to walk, run, lift weights, swim, and all other activities above and beyond normal daily activities. Even cleaning the house or raking the yard is considered exercise. 

Again, in theory, if you are consuming your BMR and you exercise daily, your chances of weight loss increase significantly. 

But first, let’s take a look at how exercise burns calories. 

Exercise and Calorie Burn

Just breathing burns a significant amount of energy or calories, but what about that 10, 20, or 60 minutes of exercise you’re completing most days of the week? Total calorie burn, which we will discuss in detail later, is dependent on a variety of factors, including current health, age, weight, height, and others. But, outside of how many calories are burned, how does the body burn calories? 

The easiest way to explain how the body burns calories during exercise is by returning to the glycogen stores we discussed earlier. The body stores about 500g of glycogen, the complex carbohydrates the body turns to first for energy during exercise. As the stores of glycogen, particularly the 400g stores in muscles, are burned away, the body pulls from those stores of glycogen found in body fat to replenish the muscle stores and return the balance to 400g. 

A Basic Look at How Many Calories You Need

Several vital factors answer the question, “How do I calculate how many calories I need?” It’s difficult to know how to calculate how many calories to eat. Still, an online calorie needs calculator can give you an estimate. Your calorie requirements depend on your activity level, gender, weight, and age.


If you are sedentary, your only physical activities are your activities of daily living. You sit still at your job, your hobbies don’t involve much activity, and you don’t follow an exercise regimen. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, these are the calorie requirements by age for sedentary men and women at an average height and healthy weight:


  • Age 19-20: 2,600 calories
  • Age 21-40: 2,400 calories
  • Age 41-60: 2,200 calories
  • Age 61 and older: 2,000 calories


  • Age 19-25: 2,000 calories
  • Age 26-50: 1,800 calories
  • Age 51 and older: 1,600 calories

Moderately Active

If you are moderately active, your daily physical activity is equal to walking 1.5 to 3 miles per day at a brisk pace. Here are the calorie requirements for moderately active men and women:


  • Age 19-25: 2,800 calories
  • Age 26-45: 2,600 calories
  • Age 46-65: 2,400 calories
  • Age 66 and older: 2,200 calories


  • Age 19-25: 2,200 calories
  • Age 26-50: 2,000 calories
  • Age 51 and older: 1,800 calories


Active is defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines as engaging in physical activity equal to walking more than 3 miles per day at a brisk pace. If you exercise regularly or are on your feet for most of the day at your job, you fall within this category. Here are the calorie requirements by age and gender:


  • Age 19-35: 3,000 calories
  • Age 36-55: 2,800 calories
  • Age 56-75: 2,600 calories
  • Age 75 and older: 2,400 calories


  • Age 19-30: 2,400 calories
  • Age 31-60: 2,200 calories
  • Age 61 and older: 2,000 calories

If you are taller, shorter, heavier, or lighter than average, your calorie needs will vary. These are general guidelines with average recommendations. If you follow these guidelines but don’t make progress toward your goal, you may have to adjust your calorie intake.

Calories and Food

What to Look for in a Low-Calorie Food

To lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories than you burn. One of the best ways to do this is to fill up on low-calorie foods. You can eat these foods before a meal to reduce the calories you consume during the meal, or you can substitute higher-calorie foods with low-calorie items.

Not all low-calorie foods will be helpful for weight loss, though. Some aren’t very filling, so they won’t help you reduce your portions of higher-calorie foods. It’s generally best to stick to whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains when looking for low-calorie options.

Fiber is one of the most filling nutrients, so low-calorie foods that are high in fiber are the best for weight loss. When eating fruit, the fiber prevents you from having an intense insulin spike from the sugar, so the food will provide a steady supply of energy rather than a burst of energy followed by a crash. The recommended fiber intake is 25 to 30 grams per day, and low-calorie fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources.

Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, so low-calorie foods with high protein contents are best for weight loss. Fruits and vegetables won’t have more than a few grams of protein per serving because they’re so low in calories. Still, choosing produce items that have a higher protein-to-calorie ratio will help you stay full.

Detailed food logging with Noom makes it easy to track protein intake. Check out more on Noom.

Vitamin-Rich Low-Calorie Foods

Watercress: Watercress is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. It’s high in protein, dietary fiber, and antioxidants, which protect your body from damage.

Nutrition per 100 grams:

  • 11 calories
  • 1.3g carbs
  • 0.5g fiber
  • 0.1g fat
  • 2.3g protein

Zucchini: One zucchini has more than half of your daily vitamin C recommendation, and it’s a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin K, and magnesium. Zucchini is also full of potassium, which is vital for heart health.

Nutrition per 100 grams:

  • 17 calories
  • 3.1g carbs
  • 1g fiber
  • 0.3g fat
  • 1.2g protein

Celery: Celery is one of the lowest-calorie foods because of the high water content. Almost all of its carbohydrates come from fiber, so it’s a satiating food you can add to salads or soups.

Nutrition per 100 grams:

  • 8 calories
  • 1g carbs
  • 1.7g fiber
  • 0.2g fat
  • 0.7g protein

Plums: Plums are a good source of vitamin C, and they help your body absorb iron, which is important for keeping your energy levels up. They also contain vitamin K and potassium.

Nutrition per plum:

  • 30 calories
  • 8g carbs
  • 0.9g fiber
  • 0.2g fat
  • 0.5g protein

Cucumber: Cucumbers are 95 percent water, so you can eat a large volume for only a few calories. They contain small amounts of several vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K.

Nutrition per 100 grams:

  • 10 calories
  • 1.5g carbs
  • 0.6g fiber
  • 0.1g fat
  • 0.7g protein

Grapefruit: Like many other fruits, grapefruit is full of vitamins C and A. It also provides fiber, copper, potassium, and biotin. The fruit can help with digestion and lower cholesterol levels.

Nutrition per one-half grapefruit:

  • 52 calories
  • 13g carbs
  • 2g fiber
  • 0.2g fat
  • 0.9g protein

Blackberries: Blackberries are one of the best low-calorie sources of fiber. They’re high in antioxidants, which protect your body from damage and disease. They also contain vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and iron.

Nutrition per 100 grams:

  • 43 calories
  • 10g carbs
  • 5g fiber
  • 0.5g fat
  • 1.4g protein

Popcorn: As long as you don’t load it up with butter or oil, popcorn is one of the healthiest and lowest-calorie snacks. It’s a good source of fiber and protein, and you can eat a large volume for only 100 calories.

Nutrition per 1 ounce:

  • 106 calories
  • 21g carbs
  • 3.6g fiber
  • 1.2g fat
  • 3.1g protein

What to Avoid in a High-Calorie Food

Low-calorie foods are great for weight loss, but you can still eat some high-calorie foods and lose weight. Certain high-calorie foods are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, which all help with satiation. However, if you’re trying to stay within a specific calorie intake to lose weight, it’s essential to carefully measure your portions of high-calorie foods.

Logging your meals in a calorie calculator for food, like the one provided with Noom, can help you make sure you don’t consume too many calories, and it can show you the nutritional benefits of your meals.

Fat has more calories than protein and carbs, and high-calorie foods are often full of fat. This doesn’t mean they’re definitely unhealthy, though. Unsaturated fats are considered to be “healthy” fats as they benefit the heart and regulate your cholesterol levels. Foods that contain unsaturated fats include:

  • Fish and seafood
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive, canola, and peanut oil
  • Avocados

Saturated fats, on the other hand, are the “unhealthy” fats that many high-calorie foods contain. Saturated fats can raise your cholesterol, increasing your risk of stroke and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends getting only 5 or 6 percent of your daily calories from saturated fats. On a 2,000 calorie diet, this is 13 grams per day. The following foods are some of the most common sources of saturated fat:

  • Pork
  • Fatty beef
  • Poultry with skin
  • Cheese, butter, and other whole-milk dairy products

Trans fats are another type of unhealthy fat that should be avoided. Trans fats occur naturally in small quantities in some foods, but they’re mostly artificially created. Like saturated fats, they raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Saturated fats and trans fats are both included on nutrition labels, so most calorie calculator apps will include them in your food journal. You can also check the ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oils, which are the primary source of trans fats.

Some high-calorie foods, especially baked goods, contain large amounts of added sugars. Your body breaks down simple sugars quickly, so they don’t provide a steady, long-term supply of energy. A cookie or piece of cake may have the same number of calories as a healthy, high-calorie whole food. Still, it won’t provide as much energy or satiation. The recommended daily sugar intake is only 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Check the nutrition label on your foods for the sugar content, or use a calorie calculator for meals to make sure you’re not wasting your calories on too much sugar.

Healthy Food Choices With Higher Calorie Counts

Quinoa: Quinoa is a whole grain that can be added to salads, pasta, soups, and other meals. It’s a complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids. This is rare for plant foods, so quinoa is especially beneficial for vegetarians and vegans. It also contains magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and iron.

Nutrition per 100 grams (cooked):

  • 120 calories
  • 21.3g carbs
  • 2.8g fiber
  • 1.9g fat
  • 4.4g protein

Avocado: One avocado has about 300 calories, so it’s much higher-calorie than most fruits. However, it’s also much more filling than other fruits because it contains unsaturated fats. Most of the fruit’s carbohydrates come from fiber, which makes it even more satiating. Avocados provide vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and copper.

Nutrition per 100 grams:

  • 160 calories
  • 9g carbs
  • 7g fiber
  • 15g fat
  • 2g protein

Chocolate: Eating chocolate with every meal won’t help your weight loss, but chocolate does have plenty of health benefits. Dark chocolate, in particular, is a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper. It has lots of antioxidants as well. Instead of eating other baked goods for dessert, you can have some dark chocolate made with at least 70 percent cocoa to satisfy a craving while also getting vitamins and minerals.

Nutrition per 1 ounce of dark chocolate:

  • 155 calories
  • 17g carbs
  • 2g fiber
  • 9g fat
  • 1.4g protein

Pistachios: Pistachios are high in calories, but they have several health benefits. They’re full of potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B6. They’re high in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Because of their fat and protein content, they’re filling and satisfying, so they make a good snack to tide you over between meals.

Nutrition per 1 ounce:

  • 160 calories
  • 8g carbs
  • 2.9g fiber
  • 13g fat
  • 6g protein

Track the nutrition of the foods you eat with Noom.

You can customize the serving size, so the information is accurate and dependable, and there is a fantastic number of foods and meals to choose from. 

Myths and Facts about Calories and Weight

Negative-calorie foods. 

Myth: Negative-calorie foods do not exist. All foods supply calories and foods take about 10% of total calories to digest. There are ways to increase the calorie burn, like adding in spicy hot peppers. Still, the change is not enough to burn the remaining calories in the negative-calorie food. 

Fact: How to create a negative-calorie environment. There is a means of creating a negative-calorie environment in your body. Still, it will only work for very-low-calorie foods. For instance, if a serving of vegetables contains 50 calories and, soon after eating those calories, you exercise and burn more than you consumed, you’d create a negative-calorie environment, in theory. 

Calorie counts are accurate. 

Myth: The Food and Drug Administration does not require all calories to be listed on a nutrition label. For instance, one packet of artificial sweeteners, like Splenda, contains maltodextrin (a sugar) to prevent the powder from caking and sticking together. Each packet contains enough of this sugar to account for nearly 1g of carbs. Each gram of carbs is 4 calories. So, depending on the number of packets you use in a drink, you could be taking in a substantial amount of calories and, for low-carb dieters, carbohydrates. Just 10 packets of sweetener a day supply 10g of carbohydrates – about half that suggested on the earliest stages of low-carb dieting. Zero-calorie powdered sweeteners are not calorie-free. 

Fact: Switch out powdered sweeteners with liquid varieties. The liquid products do not require maltodextrin because the delivery system is not dry. If you want to leave behind artificial sweeteners altogether, try switching to unsweetened drinks like tea, coffee, and water. 

The only purpose of exercise is to burn calories.

Myth: The only reason to exercise is to burn calories – or so many people believe. Exercise plays a much more significant role in overall health, including heart, bone, and neurological health. Training is also critical for the digestive process. Exercise also works to:

“Help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels. 

Help you quit smoking. 

Help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. 

Reduce your risk of some cancers. 

Reduce your risk of falls. 

Improve your sleep. 

Improve your sexual health. 

Increase your chances of living longer.”

Fact: Exercise at least 10 minutes a day on most days of the week to start out. As you grow more accustomed to daily exercise, you can increase the total time gradually. If you feel like you’re working out a little too hard, you can back off and work your way up from there. It is a gradual process. 

Recommendations for making exercise part of your daily routine include:

“Make everyday activities more active. 

Be active with friends and family. 

Keep track of your progress. 

Find activities that you can do even when the weather is bad.”

It is suggested that most healthy individuals exercise at least 150 minutes of moderate activity. 

Cutting calories always leads to weight loss.

Myth: If you cut calories, you will lose weight. 

Fact: There’s absolutely no guarantee that if you cut calories, you will lose weight. There are multiple contributing factors, but if you’re eating far too many calories, you may still be overeating even if you cut some calories. 

Losing weight is about more than cutting calories. Noom teaches you how to choose the right foods to lose weight for good.

15 Common Ways to Cut Calories From the Diet

1. Don’t drink your calories. Drinks aren’t as filling as food, so it can be easy to forget how many calories they have. Sugary drinks like fruit juice and soda are extremely high in calories. Coffee based drinks from Starbucks and other cafes can contain more calories than an entire meal, and calories from alcoholic beverages add up quickly. Most of these beverages have few nutritional benefits, but they can add hundreds of calories to your diet every day. Here are the calorie counts for some popular drinks:

  • 12 oz soda: 140 calories
  • 12 oz orange juice: 180 calories
  • 12 oz sweet tea: 130 calories
  • Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino: 420 calories
  • 12 oz beer: 150 calories
  • 5 oz wine: 120 calories
  • 1.5 oz liquor: 105 calories

Eliminating just one of these drinks from your diet each day could cut out 150 calories. After a month, you’ll have saved 4,500 calories.

2. Substitute with lower-calorie options. Changing your diet entirely to reduce your calories can be overwhelming and unsustainable. Instead, you can try to substitute your usual foods with lower-calorie alternatives.

When cooking, use non-stick cooking spray instead of oil or butter. In baked goods, you can use applesauce to replace half of the butter, shortening, or oil. Instead of using sour cream in dips or dressings, use plain yogurt. If you drink coffee, try using sucralose (Splenda) or stevia as a low-calorie substitute for sugar. These alternatives shouldn’t change how your food tastes, but they can save you hundreds of calories.

3. Exercise. Exercise isn’t the most critical factor in weight loss, but it does make a difference. Instead of reducing your calories consumed, you can increase your calories burned. It’s important to be accurate when measuring your calories burned during exercise, though. Many people overestimate the number of calories burned during their workout, so they end up overeating by mistake.

Just like you can enter your food into a calorie counter or calculator, you can also use a calorie calculator with exercise. You’ll enter your height, weight, exercise performed, and duration of the workout and the calculator will give you an estimate of your calories burned. You can also use a fitness tracker or calorie calculator watch to track your activity all day. Even if you don’t go to the gym, being more active throughout the day by taking walks, using the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther from a building’s entrance can increase your calories burned.

4. Cook your meals at home. It’s difficult to calculate the calories in foods that are prepared by someone else. Most chain restaurants have their calories and nutrition facts available online, but not all restaurants provide this information. You may not be able to find the nutrition information for your meal in your calorie calculator for losing weight. Also, added sugars, oils, and dressings can increase the calorie content of restaurant foods. Still, you can be more confident in the calorie counts of meals you make yourself.

5. Cut back on the sauce, oil, and dressing. Cooking oils contain over 100 calories per tablespoon, and salad dressings can add hundreds of calories to your meal. They’re great for adding more flavor to your food, but they should be used sparingly. Instead of drowning your salad in dressing or your pasta in sauce, measure out a serving with your food calorie calculator.

You can also make low-calorie substitutions for these ingredients. Instead of putting an oily dressing on your salad, you could use flavored vinegar. Lemon and lime juice make good low-calorie dressings as well.

6. Drink water before you eat. Several studies have found that drinking a glass of water before your meal can make you feel more satisfied and prevent overeating. In one study, half of the participants were given water before a meal, and the other half were given nothing. Those who drank water before their meal consumed 13 percent fewer calories than those who didn’t have water.

Water creates a sense of fullness, so you don’t have to eat as much during your meal to feel satisfied. This is especially helpful for fast eaters because it takes some time after your stomach is full for your brain to realize that you’re no longer hungry.

7. Add vegetables to your meals. Vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, potassium, and other important nutrients. Most have a high water content, so a large serving is low in calories. Bulking up your meals with vegetables will allow you to eat a larger volume for fewer calories. If you start your meal by eating the vegetables, you’ll likely feel full before you finish the higher-calorie foods.

Side salads are a great way to incorporate vegetables into your meals. Still, you should be careful not to use too much dressing. You could also add vegetables to the main meal. Plants are good additions to pasta sauces, sandwiches, pizzas, casseroles, soups, and many other recipes.

8. Eat less bread. Whole grain bread is a good source of fiber, but most types of bread are high in calories, especially if you add butter or other spreads. Bread often contains preservatives, salt, and added sugars. Reducing how much bread you consume is an easy way to shave 100 or 200 calories off of your daily intake.

Take the top slice of bread off of your sandwich or the top bun off of your burger. Instead of eating bread with your meal, have a side of vegetables or soup. You don’t have to eliminate bread from your diet to reduce your calories or lose weight, but you probably won’t miss it if you cut back.

9. Use a smaller plate. Most people want to fill their plates with food, but they also feel obligated to finish everything on their plate. Using a smaller plate or bowl can help you reduce your portion sizes and avoid overeating. You can still feel the satisfaction of finishing all the food in front of you, but you’ll have consumed fewer calories. In one study, researchers discovered that diners at a buffet with large plates ate 45 percent more food than those with smaller plates. Even when the customers were warned about the dangers of eating off of a large plate, those who used large plates still overate.

10. Eat slowly. People who eat slowly are less likely to overeat than people who eat quickly. It takes time for your brain to send signals of fullness to the rest of your body, so eating too fast could cause you to overeat before you realize you’re full. Eating slowly is a tough habit to develop, but the best way to slow down your eating speed is to focus entirely on your meal. Eat each bite consciously and mindfully, and pay attention to how full you feel. Don’t prepare another bite with your fork or spoon until you’ve finished chewing and swallowing your current bite.

11. Don’t distract yourself while eating. When you’re distracted, you’re more likely to eat quickly and continue eating after you’re full. Instead of eating in front of the TV or looking at your phone during meals, try to focus all of your attention on your food. You’ll probably eat slower and enjoy your food more when you’re not distracted. You’ll also probably eat fewer calories.

12. Eat with your non-dominant hand. If you’re a fast eater, eating with your non-dominant hand is a great way to slow down. It may feel awkward, but each bite will take more time. You’ll have to think more about your food and less about any distractions in your environment, so you’ll be more mindful of how full you are.

13. Try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates periods of eating with periods of fasting. Some of the most common eating patterns include the following:

  • Feeding Window: Only eating during a set time window every day, like from 12 pm to 8 pm or 2 pm to 6 pm.
  • Alternate Day Fasting: Eating for 24 hours then fasting for 24 hours.
  • Random Meal Skipping: Eliminating meals randomly throughout the week.

You shouldn’t fast for 24 hours or longer without getting advice from your healthcare provider. However, fasting for 16 or 18 hours of the day has many health benefits. It can strengthen your heart, improve your blood pressure, and help treat type 2 diabetes. It’s also an easy way to reduce your calories because you’ll eat fewer meals each day. Your meals may be larger if you’re hungry after the fast, but you’ll probably still consume fewer calories than if you were eating three or more meals per day.

14. Reduce calories in alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is high in calories, so cutting back is one of the best ways to lose weight. Mixed drinks can be especially calorific from added sugars, but you can make some changes to reduce the calories. Avoid drinks made with sugary sodas or juice, and mix your drinks with lime juice or club soda instead. Using diet sodas, sugar-free syrups, and artificial sweeteners can also help you cut back on calories. To slow down and stay hydrated, drink a glass of water between every alcoholic beverage.

15. Split restaurant portions in half. Most restaurants serve larger portions than you’d typically eat at home. When the food is right in front of you, it can be tempting to keep eating after you’re full. In one study, the size of a pasta meal at a restaurant was varied on different days. Those who were given the more substantial portion ate 43 percent more calories than those who were given the standard portion. Still, both groups of subjects reported that the meal was equally appropriate in size. This study shows that it’s hard to judge what’s an appropriate portion just by looking at the meal.

To avoid the temptation of eating a massive restaurant meal, split your food in half as soon as you receive it. Putting one half in a takeaway box to save for later will help you forget about it and focus on a more reasonable portion size.

No foods, whether cooked at home or via take out, are restricted with Noom. Learn how to eat the foods you love and still lose weight.

The Problem with Calorie Calculators

There are two primary forms of calorie counters on the market – exercise and food. Exercise calculators take several data points into consideration to estimate how many calories a person burns during exercise. Food calculators estimate the number of calories is a specific food or recipe/meal. 

Exercise Calorie Calculators

The most basic of exercise calorie calculators give an estimated number of calories burned by time spent performing the activity and weight. So, if you weigh 180lbs and you run for an hour, you are supposed to burn about 650 calories.

Some estimated calories burned for common exercises performed for one hour (180lbs) are:

Leisure Biking: 328 calories

Yoga: 246 calories

Stair Climber: 738 calories

Walking 3mph: 271 calories

You can even burn calories doing activities around the house and with friends and family. 

Here are the calories burned for various lifestyle activities performed for 10 minutes each.

Vacuuming: 48 calories

Dancing: 62 calories

Playing With Your Pets: 38 calories

Playing With Children: 38 calories

Now when you get into more intense exercise, the total calories burned increases dramatically. Based on one hour of training, calorie calculators say a 180lb person can burn:

Vigorous Biking: 820 calories

Hot/Bikram Yoga: 492 calories

Running Stairs: 1230 calories

Walking 5mph: 656 calories

We also have to take into consideration weight. The more a person weighs, the more calories they will burn doing the same activity as a person weighing less. Going back to our lifestyle activities, how many calories would a 280lb person burn doing the same things?

Vacuuming: 74 calories

Dancing: 95 calories

Playing With Your Pets: 85 calories

Playing With Children: 59 calories

The problem with these estimates is that they don’t take the current activity level or muscle mass into consideration. There’s also the impact of metabolism and metabolic rate on the number of calories burned.  

Food Calorie Calculators

When people talk about a calorie calculator, they are most often talking about a calorie counter. These counters allow the user to input the food they’ve eaten and the portion size to receive an estimated number of calories supplied for the food. 

So, if you eat a medium apple, a calorie calculator will estimate how many calories you’ve consumed.

The trouble with many calorie calculators today is that the information they provide is the same information spit out with all other calorie counters.

But, newer technology and food databases managed by professionals are available with apps like Noom. The database is continuously updated with fresh foods, recipes, meals, serving sizes, and more. 

Pros and Cons of Calorie Counting


Counting calories is reliable and predictable. There are a wide variety of diets that require you to eat a specific meal plan or eliminate food groups. These diets work well for some people, but others are left wondering why they weren’t successful. When you use a calorie counter to lose weight, there is no guesswork. As long as you track everything you eat, stay within your calorie calculator goal, and use an accurate calorie calculator to lose weight, you’ll see the results you want.

Counting calories doesn’t eliminate any foods from your diet. With the calorie counting method of weight loss, all you have to do is stay within your daily calorie requirement. You can eat all of your favorite foods as long as you use the calorie calculator to watch your intake and stay within your goal. This is helpful for many people who struggle with diets that restrict food options. It’s better for your health to eat nutritious foods. However, a calorie-counting diet allows you to gradually make those changes while still achieving results.

Counting calories makes you aware of your eating habits. Mindless snacking is a common problem, and using a calorie counter and calculator will force you to be more aware of what you eat. You may not realize how many times per day you snack until you log it in your calorie counter app, or you may not know how big your portions are until you record them in a diet calculator.

Counting calories teaches you portion control. The recommended portion sizes in packaged foods are often smaller than you’d think, but measuring out your portions to determine the calories will give you a better idea. When you start using a calorie tracker, you may have to carefully measure all of your foods to make sure the portions are correct. Over time, you’ll be able to guess serving sizes more accurately, which will help with portion control.


Counting calories does not consider other nutritional factors. Eating fewer calories than you burn will make you lose weight, but there’s more to your health than weight loss. You could eat nothing but processed meals and fast food while using a calorie calculator to lose weight, but it won’t be good for your health. You should also consider your intake of protein, carbs, fat, and micronutrients, but calories don’t tell you that information.

Counting calories is time-consuming. You have to log all of your food into a calorie calculator daily, which can take a long time until you adjust to the process. If you’re not eating an entire package of something, you have to carefully measure out your portion to be accurate. If you’re cooking, you have to measure every ingredient and figure out how many calories the recipe has per serving.

It’s easy to be inaccurate. Calorie counting is predictable when you’re sincere and accurate with your food intake. Mistakes happen, though, and they can slow or stall your progress. The vast majority of people don’t know how to count calories accurately by eyeballing portion sizes. If you guess a serving size instead of measuring, you might underestimate how many calories you consume. If you eat at a restaurant that doesn’t provide nutrition information, you have no choice but to take your best guess. Many people underestimate the calories in cooking oils, salad dressings, or sauces. Still, all of these items can add hundreds of calories to your meals.

Counting calories can become an obsession. People with a history of disordered eating are discouraged from using a calorie counter to lose weight because it’s easy to become fixated on the numbers. You may find yourself trying to reduce your calories more and more each day until it becomes unhealthy. One visit to your calorie calculator per day could turn into dozens of visits to make sure your intake is low enough. Even if you stay at a healthy calorie intake, you may become addicted to calculating your calories, which can make going over your daily limit very upsetting.

You don’t need to count calories to lose weight – as a matter of fact – it may be hurting your efforts.

Noom takes the time to teach you healthier lifestyle habits and guides you toward a life of eating healthy and losing weight.

Research into Calorie Calculators and Counting Calories

There’s a ton of research into calories, weight loss, weight gain, overeating, undereating, eating disorders, and more. Calories are at the heart of all things human because without them, the body couldn’t live. Let’s take a look at some of the research into how calories impact our lives.

Calorie Restriction Is More Effective for Obesity Treatment Than Dietary Fat Restriction

Annals of Behavioral Medicine

In this study, which was published in 1999, researchers showed that restricting fat intake was no more effective at promoting weight loss, and weight maintenance, than limiting calorie intake. Since this study, the idea behind calories in and calories out has changed dramatically. 

“Dietary fat restriction did not prove to be superior to calorie restriction, thus strengthening the public health message that calories do count.”

Weight Loss Maintenance: A Review on Dietary Related Strategies

Journal of Research in Medical Sciences

This 2014 review of research showed that data from more than 25 studies resulted in support for consuming fewer calories to maintain weight loss

“It seems that consuming fewer calories helps people to keep weight loss. Further research to find strategies in obesity management, focusing on successful maintenance of weight loss, is needed.”

Calorie Estimation in Adults Differing in Body Weight Class and Weight Loss Status

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

No matter how the debate between calories and weight loss goes, there’s evidence that people tend to overestimate the number of calories burned during exercise and underestimate the number of calories in each meal. This can lead to the idea that counting calories does not promote weight loss when a lack of results may be related to improper calorie calculating. 

“There was a wide range of under and overestimation of calories during exercise and in a meal. Error in calorie estimation may be greater in overweight adults who are not attempting weight loss.”

Reducing Calorie Intake May Not Help You Lose Body Weight

Perspectives in Psychological Science

Though many people still hold on to the idea that calories in and calories out is at heart of weight loss, the process is much more complicated than that. New guidelines need to be established that take into consideration all aspects of metabolism, lifestyle, health, and more. 

“As obesity reflects only a small malfunctioning of these mechanisms, there is a need to understand the control of energy balance and how to prevent the regaining of weight after it has been lost. By itself, decreasing calorie intake will have a limited short-term influence.”

Relative Effects of Calorie Restriction and Weight Loss in Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus

Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism

It appears, based on older research, that calorie restriction is about more than weight loss, especially in people with certain health conditions like non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. 

“…calorie restriction has an important regulatory effect on the metabolism of obese patients with NIDDM that is independent of weight loss.”

Calorie Calculators Questions and Answers

How do I calculate my calorie intake?

Using an app, like Noom, you can plug the foods you’ve eaten, and the serving size of each, into a food database. The database will offer nutritional information, such as calorie totals. There are also paperback books that list some of the more common foods and calorie counts per serving.

How many calories a day should I eat to lose weight?

Total calorie intake plays a part in weight gain and weight loss, but there are quite a few other factors that come into play. You can use a BMR calculator to evaluate how many calories your body needs at the least and start from there.

How many calories do I burn per day?

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) estimates how many calories your body burns each day when completing normal body functions. This gives a vague look, but metabolism and metabolic rate change constantly, so there’s no definite answer.

How co you determine calories in food?

Calories in food is determined in a laboratory setting. For the average person who doesn’t have access to thousands of dollars in equipment, calorie totals available in food databases tend to give you an average estimate.