Q. 1: I am very keen to know how many calories I should eat in a day. How does one find out how much one needs. Also I would like to know the caloric value of some common foods.
A. 1: The caloric requirement of an individual is a very specific and personal thing and has to be worked out for each person specifically. In a Nutrition lab it can be very specifically and scientifically measured. I will try to give you a simple way of finding out this. I have examined the calorie and food intakes and weight changes of over 4000 people personally during the last 11 years and generally I would say at that the average adult woman in Bangalore city burns about 1700 – 2000 cals per day and men about 2000 – 2200. This is with at least 20 – 30 minutes of walk /day. Those doing an hour of aerobics or other heavy games like tennis, badminton, swimming etc or gym workouts will burn additional 200 -300 cals per day.
The next step is to decide whether you want to loose, gain or maintain weight. If you want to maintain weight and you are burning about 2000 cals per day then you need to eat food worth 2000 cals. So if you have been checking your weight regularly and have seen your weight as 60 kgs for the last 3 weeks then what you have been eating is exactly enough for your body in terms of calories. If you then want to loose weight, say 0.5 kgs per week and your burning is 2000 cals you have to eat only 1500 cals per day. The missing 500 cals. will be removed from your body fat stores and utilized each day. If you thus pull out 500 cals for 7 days you would have totally pulled out 3500 cals and that will show as a 0.5 kg weight loss on your weighing scale.
In the same way if you want to gain weight you have to eat an additional 500 cals every day for 7 days to see a 0.5 kg gain. The most important factor that I would stress is that in this issue of weight control and calories one has to be regular and systematic. God has created all of us with a natural inbuilt mechanism to regulate the calories that we need and those seen to stay trim and fit without any effort are those who have listened and been sensitive to that inner voice and mechanism and follow it without any effort. Many of us have learned to tune off that voice and give in to the habit of over indulgence just for fun, pleasure or also very often to use food as a means of comfort and consolation. On the other side are those who have usually turned off eating during some illness when they were young and then never got back to a healthy normal diet. We also have some who do not eat just to seek attention from their working parents or busy adults. Then it becomes a habit not to eat properly and they stay underweight.
I will give you some general caloric values but I want to stress here that it is not only calories that you need to worry about for good health and a fit body but most of all that you are eating a proper balance of nutrients like carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamin, mineral, water and fiber. For this my simple advice is please do not follow any diet or advice that tells you to cut out basic food groups and eat only certain groups abnormally. No cereal diet, only fruits, only cabbage soup, only liquids are all totally wrong.
Calorie values - these are approximate and in general.
1 slice bread, 1 iddli, 1 dry chapatti, ½ cup cornflakes, ½ cup porridge = 50 – 60 cals.
1 c skimmed milk /curd, 200ml = 60 cals.
1 c malai removed milk/curd = 90 – 100 cals.
1 c whole milk / curd = 120 cals.
1 medium green banana, 1 chickoo, 1 custard apple, 1 mango, ¾ c grapes = 90 -100 cals.
1 apple, 1 pear, 1 guava, 1 orange, 1 – 2 c papaya or watermelon = 50 – 60 cals.
Vegetable palya/sabji ½ c = 75 cals.
Dhal / sambar ½ c = 75 cals.
Pulses ( channa, rajma) ½ c = 75 cals.
1 egg boiled whole = 80 cals.
1 egg boiled white only = 22 cals
Fish/chicken grilled 100 gm, 2 small pieces = 100 cals.