When you’re on a diet everyone seems to have food recommendations …
Here in Australia, the normal daily intake is 8700 KJ for an adult. That’s about 2000 calories which is probably consistent with what Americans get told is their normal daily intake.
This means each day you should get about 8700 KJ in your food to cover off what you will, on average, burn up over the day.
Now, 8700 KJ breaks fairly neatly into three meals of about 2000 KJ each plus some snacks totaling about 2000 KJ. About. The same in American is 500 calories apiece. I use those numbers as a guide. It’s a bit like Santa – knowing whether you’ve been naughty or nice. Okay, it’s a stretch; but it is a related principle.
If you wanted you could do three meals of about 2000 KJ plus morning and afternoon tea of 1000 KJ each. That works and it fits with the norm around here. That said, many people snack at random times throughout the day (whenever they get hungry). That’s fine too. Just don’t have the morning tea and afternoon tea as well as snacking or you’ll go over the total.
Alright then. Let’s talk about food recommendations from others. As I started with, everyone seems to have advice. It often goes, “Oh you’re dieting. You should eat XYZ – they’re really good for you.”
Now “XYZ” might be really good. It might be healthy. It might have great nutrients. It might be low fat. It might be totally wonderful. But that isn’t the point. Dieting causes people to lose weight because they burn up more than they consume. The burning and the consume are measured in KJ (or calories). It is simple maths.
You don’t want to die of malnutrition whilst you’re trying to diet. It will lower your weight but you don’t get any of the benefits you’re hoping for that come from dieting. The desired outcome is a happier, healthier, more successful life; or something similar. Surely no-one just diets for the number.
You do need to eat healthy food. You do need good food. It is more than just the KJ / calories. However, once you’ve found foods that keep you alive and seem to provide the right combinations of food groups that meet your body’s needs, you do need to pay attention to the KJ scores.
People will tell you to eat this or that. They’ll recommend things. They’ll tell you that certain things are not too bad or that they’re really good. There’s a lot of information that gets passed on by word of mouth and which has been passed along over the years. However, a lot of it is wrong.
I’m not trying to start a conspiracy cult here. We already have plenty of those. Go and join one of them if you like. Let’s just go off food labels.
What I’ve been seeing is that most snack foods are about 2000 KJ per 100g (3.5 oz). Some are more. Some are less but they are usually around 2000. It doesn’t seem to matter what you pick – any commonly sold snack food around here is about 2000 KJ per 100g.
That’s “bad” food like:
potato chips (Smiths Crisps, 2010 KJ),
chocolate (Cadbury Dairy Milk, 2240 KJ), and
sweet biscuits (eg Woolworths Orange Cream, 2160 KJ).
It’s also “good” or healthier foods like:
non sweet biscuits (Arnotts Savory Shapes, 2000 KJ),
rice crackers (Sakata Plain, 1660 KJ),
ordinary plain crackers (Jatz Original, 1960 KJ),
low fat crackers (Jatz 97% fat free, 1560 KJ).
Yep. Some of them are a little better, but it isn’t a lot of difference really. What astounds me is that I could eat sweet biscuits for 2160 KJ or cut out all that sugar and have savory ones for 2000 KJ. That’s less than 10% difference. Even chocolate (2240 KJ) is only about 10% worse than savory biscuits.
No matter what you choose, no matter what others recommend, you’re going to lose an entire meal’s worth of food if you eat any of the typical snack foods sold to the public.
That’s before we even start discussing serving sizes. Yes, there might be 3.3 serves in a 175g pack of Twisties (which are 2080 KJ per 100g) and each serving is only 1092 KJ (about 250 calories); but – have you ever sat down to eat 0.3 of a pack of anything? The fact is, if it is a 175g pack then 175g is going to get eaten. Otherwise they go stale. If you can share with 3.3 people you’re fine but few of us have 0.3 of a person available to make up the numbers. Now, 175g will give you 3640 KJ. It isn’t quite, but it almost is, two meals. That’s in one pack.
I know no-one recommends that you eat Twisties whilst you’re on a diet. That said, rice crackers at 1660 KJ are better but not a lot better than 2080 KJ. People will tell you to just eat rice crackers.
We never eat the “really bad” things. We stay away from the ones that everyone knows are “bad”. These are things like:
ice cream, regular (average across brands, 820 KJ per 100g)
jelly (Aeroplane, original, average, 266 KJ per 100g served)
icecreams (Paddlepop, chocolate, one = 68g, 331 KJ)
It is surprising how much better the “really bad” things are for us if we’re trying to lose weight. They come in at less than half the calories of anything that snack manufacturers can manage to produce.
Forget the conventional wisdom. A lot of it isn’t wise. Lots of people follow conventional wisdom and lots of people need to lose weight. Read the packet. Avoid snacks as far as possible but if you have to snack don’t just pick something that everyone says is good for you.