Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

October 22, 2015

Calorie Visualization: How Much Are You Really Eating?

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When it comes to dieting, most of us know a lot, but have little clue as to how to make it meaningful. I always assumed it was hard to keep up with health obligations — I thought that, to eat healthily, I would have to pre-plan what I eat and restrict myself to only a few food items, like salad. Even the thought of having a veggie burger made me feel guilty. But going hungry is not an option for someone with a busy day.

I met with Michele Lefebvre, Director of Nutrition Management at Cornell Dining, to talk about healthy eating at Cornell. She said that a lack of good eating strategies is an acute problem. “Some students tend to get a whole day’s calories out of one single meal, and that’s not always the best route to a balanced day,” said Michele, acknowledging the predicament many students face nowadays. She showed me some examples of a meal that easily tops 2,000 calories, the amount an average American needs for a whole day’s activity. For instance, this fried fish and mac & cheese combination, ubiquitous at the North Star Dining Room, contains a mind-boggling 2,060 calories.

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

 

Food

Serving Size

Calories

Fried Fish

8 oz

490

Mac & Cheese

1 ½ cups

660

Coleslaw

1 cup

240

Tartar Sauce

¼ cup

80

Clam Chowder

8 oz

190

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

1 ½ cups

300

Pepsi

12 oz

100

Total

2,060

So does this mean I have to sacrifice my love for mac & cheese to eat healthily? Not necessarily, according to our dietician. She said that, holding everything else constant, you can knock off 525 calories just by switching from fried fish to broiled fish, and replacing coleslaw with steamed broccoli. It may seem improbable, but it’s true.  You can even have dessert: Replacing the hard ice cream with soft ice cream saves 80 calories!

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

 

Food

Serving Size

Calories

Broccoli

1 cup

55

Broiled Fish

3 oz

150

Mac & Cheese

1 cup

440

Vegan Tomato Soup

8 oz

80

Soft Serve Ice Cream

1 cup

220

Total

945

See? Making substitutions and slightly reducing portion size actually goes a long way. It even allows you to keep one or two of your “guilt food” items.

So what about a-la-carte dining locations? If I have to pay per item, how can I eat healthily? Michele offers answers to these questions as well. It turns out that even with a restricted set of options, the nuances of each order can make a difference.

Here’s a burrito from Trillium:

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

 

Food

Serving Size

Calories

Whole Wheat Wrap

12”

310

Chicken

3 oz

120

White Rice

2 oz

60

Lettuce

1 oz

5

Tomato

1 oz

5

Cheese

1 oz

100

Chipotle Ranch Sauce

½ oz

65

Sour Cream

1 oz

50

Total

715

And this is almost the same burrito. Without the wrap, the calories are cut in half.

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

Food

Serving Size

Calories

Chicken

3 oz

120

White Rice

2 oz

60

Chipotle Ranch Sauce

1/2 oz

65

Lettuce

1 oz

5

Tomato

1 oz

5

Cheese

1 oz

100

Sour Cream

1 oz

50

Mild Salsa

1 oz

10

Total

415

For me, a salad is a salad, and there is no better way to cut down on calories, right? Nevertheless, a salad can contain a lot of calories if you’re not careful about selecting ingredients. For example, these two salads look somewhat alike:

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

Qijia Yu / The Sun Contributor

But if you take a closer look, they are not the same. The one on the right has three times as many calories as the one on the left. So next time when you are ordering the salad, keep in mind that all salads are not created equal.

Left:

Food

Serving Size

Calories

Mixed Greens

2 cup

30

Spinach

1 cup

10

Onions

1 oz

10

Edamame

1 oz

25

Chickpeas

1 oz

35

Carrots

1 oz

10

Broccoli

1 oz

10

Feta Cheese

½ oz

40

Grilled Chicken

1 oz

40

Total

210

Right:

Food

Serving Size

Calories

Mixed Greens

2 cup

30

Spinach

1 cup

10

Croutons

1 oz

100

Edamame

1 oz

25

Black Beans

1 oz

30

Black Olives

1 oz

30

Eggs

1 oz

40

Asparagus

1 oz

5

Peaches

1 oz

20

Chickpeas

1 oz

35

Grilled Chicken

1 oz

40

Feta Cheese

½ oz

40

Cheddar Cheese

½ oz

60

Asiago Cheese

½ oz

50

Blue Cheese Dressing

2 oz

230

Total

745

A few more takeaways from the dietitian:

1. You don’t have to forgo your favorite foods just to eat healthily — you can decrease calories by leaving out other unhealthy foods that are not your favorite.

2. Be careful of the “extras” on your plate. The calories of dressings and sauces can add up in your total calorie intake. For example, 2 tbsp. of mustard contains a mere 30 calories, while the same amount of honey mustard dressing contains 160 calories.

3. Fill yourself up with veggies and legumes. These foods are high in minerals and vitamins, and make you feel full without making you feel that you are skimping on a meal.

Winter is drawing near and around a third of the semester is already behind us. To weather the upcoming challenges, both in academics and in life in general, we need a lot of fuel each day. But before you sit down at one of Cornell Dining’s delicious dining locations and start enjoying your meal, you might want to keep an eye on what you have been piling up on your plate. With a few useful strategies in mind, you don’t need to make unreasonably significant compromises to cut down on calorie intake.

2 thoughts on “Calorie Visualization: How Much Are You Really Eating?

  1. I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO LOOSE WEIGHT FOR 15 MONTHS AND I HAVE LOST 25 POUNDS I AM 67 YRS. I WRITE ALL OF MY CALORIES DOWN 6 DAYS A WEEK THE LAST 2 MONTHS I HAVEN’T GAINED BUT NO MORE WEIGHT HAS DROPPED IF YOUR PROGRAM HELPS PLEASE E-MAIL ME

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