Are your calorie counts accurate?

Are your calorie counts accurate?

Counting calories in order to make better eating choices and improve your health takes discipline and commitment, so it surely can be a little frustrating if you don’t feel like you can trust the numbers on labels.

Recent news reports told the story of a major snack brand that reduced the calorie numbers on some of its labels following research that a serving of almonds has 130 calories in it, not 170.

Changes like that can be confusing, especially as you try to navigate what might seem like complicated nutrition advice you’ve heard before.

But Madhu Jain, a clinical dietitian at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL., has some simpler advice: Don’t worry about every single calorie. Nutrition labels are mostly accurate, even when they’re off a bit. Concentrate on eating well and not taking in too many calories, and don’t stress out about whether your count is off by a few dozen here or there.

A 40-calorie difference here or there isn’t going to make or break your wellness efforts. When that handful-sized snack of almonds becomes five handfuls, that might be a different story.

“This is really a good story and timely with all the attention shifting to mindful eating,” Jain says. “The calories quoted on labels may have error of anywhere between 10% and 20%. So a few calories here and there does not matter in the big picture of food intake throughout the day.”

“Reading the nutrition label is the first step towards mindful eating but should not be the last,” she says. “Too much stress on calories or numbers is never a good idea. Focus on good nutrition and  eating mindfully.”

As for the almonds, they’re good for you in reasonable amounts.

“Nuts are a good source of protein and fats and should be part of your daily intake,” Jain says. “Avoid too much processed food and that includes nuts, watch out for added sugar.”

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range.

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About the Author

Mike Riopell
Mike Riopell

Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.