Health Bite: Calories 101

Brian German Features, Health Bite

What kind of energy can you put in your mouth? Any guesses?… It’s a calorie!

Calories 101

Hi, I’m Rachel Eslick with your AgNet West Health Bite. Today we’re doing a crash course on calories and why they matter.

A calorie is a measurement of energy we receive from food. Pretty much everything we eat has an assigned caloric value. When you look at a nutrition label, it’s one of the first and largest numbers you’ll see. One reason calories are so easy to find is because the amount we eat has a profound impact on our bodies. The energy we consume versus the energy we expend determines whether we gain or lose weight, or stay the same. 

Eating in excess of our needs results in weight gain. Eating less than our needs results in weight loss. Staying the same means we’re eating in an energy balance.

It takes about 3,500 calories to gain a pound of weight on our bodies. For the purpose of round numbers, someone who requires about 2,000 calories a day to keep their weight stable, but eats 2,500 calories will gain about a pound in a week. And if that same person ate about 1,500 calories each day, they would lose a pound in a week.

Every individual has different caloric needs based on size, sex, age, muscle mass, metabolism, activity level and more.

Some foods are high in calories based on their weight, like cheese, nuts, and fatty meat. Other foods are low in calories based on their weight, like celery, cucumbers, and cauliflower. 

Most people, at one time or another in their life, have counted calories as a means to lose weight. Although time consuming and a bit tedious, this is still a proven method. Pretty much every diet, whether it’s low carb, Mediterrean, Weight Watchers and more, is a version of a lower calorie diet.

If you need to lose weight for health reasons and don’t know where to start, it’s a good idea to get a feel for how many calories you’re currently consuming. You could do this yourself by tracking in an app like My Fitness Pal, logging everything you eat and drink for two weeks to get an accurate representation. 

Let’s say you find out you’re eating an average of 3,500 calories each day, you could put yourself on a diet of 3,000 calories and you’d theoretically lose a pound a week. If and when your weight plateaus, assess whether more weight loss is still necessary. If it is, you could scale back a couple hundred calories more each day and go from there. As your body size reduces, your caloric needs adjust too.

When tracking calories and staying within an allotted amount, it’s true that someone could eat a diet of Oreos and still lose weight, but it’s certainly not something I’d recommend. Nor do I subscribe to a 100% whole foods only diet. We operate best with the vitamins and nutrients fresh produce, meat and minimally processed foods provide, of course. But a sprinkle of decadent, call them “sinful” foods in moderation usually helps keep us happy and sane.

Health Bite: Calories 101
Rachel Eslick

For AgNet West’s Health Bite, I’m Rachel Eslick. I can help you reach your health and fitness goals with 1:1 and group training. Visit