The Diabolical Plot To Make Dieters Eat Processed Food

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.

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6 thoughts on “The Diabolical Plot To Make Dieters Eat Processed Food

  1. Dear heaven !!! Get yourself Weight-By-Date and save yourself a lot of grief. Recipe ingredients are easily entered and you can decide yourself how large a “serving size” is. W-B-D does all the math.
    But it is true, you have to accept with a bit of fudge-factor for errors in measuring the ingredients.

    • W-B-D doesn’t look any more useful or user-friendly than DietPower, Livestrong MyPlate, FitDay, or LoseIt!, all of which I have used for tracking food. LoseIt! is what LCC is using, I think because it’s available for free for the iPhone. I tried it on his recommendation and I think I’ve been using it for 2+ years now. I have come to love it best, because it has a bar-code reader, which makes entering processed foods a breeze. They also have MyFitFoods entrees in their database, which are not processed foods and which I eat regularly. It makes tracking really quick and easy. The hard part is just doing it. It’s another one of those habit-building things.

  2. Ahh, welcome to my world! Now imagine trying to figure out the nutritional information for cheese made at home from unhomogenized milk, with the butterfat all in it and everything. Or what happens if we make it with 2% milk. Maddening.

    I do everything by weight using my kitchen scale. It’s MUCH more accurate than trying to figure out how tightly packed a cup of leaves is supposed to be. A serving of vegetables is 3 oz., no matter whether it’s green beans, mushrooms or spinach. 84 grams on the scale. Done. (Yes, 84 grams of fresh spinach is a mind-boggling amount if you’re not used to it!)

    Remember that you tend to eat the same things over and over, unlike me, so time invested now is a lot but later it will not take any time at all to count the calories in that kale soup. Also, if you make a batch and you’re not sure about whether you’re eating 1 1/2 cups or 2 cups, I wouldn’t worry too much. It will even out over the course of eating up the recipe.

    I make my breakfast all in one batch for the week, and I do, but shouldn’t, fuss over getting 46 grams of cooked sausage, 56 grams of cooked rice, and 224 grams of egg white/veg scramble into each container. What the hell difference does it make if the proportions are a little off each day? Over the course of the week, I get all of it…

    But that’s the kind of problem-head that my brain can be. It fusses over that crap and then eating sweet potato fries four days in a row is somehow A-OK. It’s that kind of thinking that has me carting around 25 pounds of extra blubber.

    Sorry for the book. Aaanyway, I wouldn’t sweat relying on the processed food right now. You’ve stated that your goal is to count calories for a short period of time to lose a specified amount, so using that “diet aid” for a short period of time isn’t a big deal.

  3. Why are you counting calories on a low-carb diet? One of the attractions of the Atkins Diet for me was no calorie counting.

  4. LOL! I have done exactly the same thing over & over again…and I hate not knowing EXACTLY…it’s like some kind of “advanced calorie calculus” …today I made the Kale soup (turned out pretty good). But, I forgot to weigh the Kale & onions before I cooked them. Then I had to measure the hot liquid to see how many cups the final recipe produced…time consuming & not exact I’m sure.

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