I’ve seen the plot. I know how it works now.
‘Counting calories is the only way to lose weight’ they tell us.
So we get books listing calories, or get an app for our smart phone that tallies it for us. And we count the calories. And life goes on. We eat, and we count.
But there are tasks that can wear us down while dieting, and one of them is calculating how many calories there are in a home-cooked recipe. I made my kale soup the other day. The ingredients are simple: 2 bunches of fresh kale, 2 large onions, 8 chorizo sausages made fresh at the store, and 2 boxes of chicken broth.
So the question is – how many calories in a cup of the soup? Well, the chicken broth at 32 oz, was 40 calories. 2 of them made 80. That was the easiest part. Next up, the onions. ‘Medium yellow onions’ are what size? I’m guessing mine were medium.
As the sausage I bought doesn’t have caloric content, I have to use plain pork – but fat content might vary by 100 calories – how would I know? I don’t make them and they don’t have nutrition info.
2 bunches of kale. They measure that by cup. How many leaves can you jam in a cup? Is it loosely packed, or pounded down while cursing how much you hate counting calories? It also lists 7 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber per cup – but I use the stalks – are they counting these since a lot of people don’t use the stalks?
So I had to make a judgement call on every single ingredient except the one in a box with a nutrition label. Now I have to add all these numbers together to get a total. Considering I am also tracking carbs, net carbs, protein, fat and sodium, I need to do this for them, too.
Then I have to figure out how much a serving is. How many cups are in this bowl of soup? I dunno – when I use an immersion blender on 2 onions, 2 bunches of kale, and 2 sausages, and account for evaporation of the broth while cooking – how many cups are left?
I could get out a pile of bowls and count, or using a measuring cup, count out cups into a separate pot as the transfer the soup from one to the other.
I did it mathematically instead, assuming 10 cups, and dividing each number I totaled from the ingredients by 10. I used a spreadsheet because this was getting complicated.
I was left with a bunch of numbers that I am using as that calorie count. And I dutifully enter them into my calorie-counting application, but with a cloud of doubt: I know I under counted the sodium at least in the sausages. And the calories I calculated seem high – but what’s the point in recalculating as I’d just come up with another number I’m unsure of? Maybe I should call the store, or ask the butcher next time if they have calorie information – but they probably don’t.
Or maybe next time I could just buy a Lean Cuisine, or a can of soup – all those processed products have their nutrients listed on the labels.
If I had eaten processed foods, I would have entered the numbers in a second – not a half hour – and I would have felt more confident (perhaps too trustingly so) that the number was more accurate.
So I find myself considering my food choices by how easy it is to count the calories. Anything that comes in a single serving container is great. Atkins shakes and Fage Yogurt are my favorite foods when calorie-counting because they are easy to count – the label is right there.
Single ingredient items like cheese are fairly easy. Cheese usually is the same calories per ounce – but there must be some variation. Something home-cooked, with a dozen items in it is an absolute nightmare of inaccuracy.
And that, my friends, it how counting calories drives you to utter torment – needing spreadsheets to eat a bowl of soup – and also drive you to buy processed food.
Counting calories sucks.