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The Truth About Calories

Calories by category and weight 

Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories
Alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calories 

A gram is a measurement of weight. Imagine a paper clip or small button, which weighs about a gram.  And even though a gram of carbohydrate is equal to 4 calories, all carbs may not be created equal.  

Spinach and romaine lettuce, for example, are green leafy vegetables and are usually placed in the carbohydrate class. However, they are made up of 95 percent water, contain protein, and have only a negligible amount of healthy vegetable fat. 

In addition, all green leafy vegetables (and most other regular vegetables and fruits) have countless amounts of vitamins and minerals. An extremely large bowl (e.g., 4 cups) of romaine lettuce and spinach weigh 150-200 grams, which works out to about 32 calories. If you add plenty of veggies, fruit, and a low-calorie dressing, you likely will have created a large meal for less than 300 calories.   

Bread and pasta also have a majority of their weight made up of carbohydrates, but as you might imagine, those carbohydrates are not significant sources of vitamins and minerals. A dinner-size portion of pasta (2 cups) weighs about 100 grams, which translates to 400 calories. Keep in mind that’s pasta without sauce, meat, bread, or side dishes!  After adding in all those extras, that pasta dinner is easily over 600 calories and usually comes close to 1,000 calories. As a frame of reference, a Big Mac has 550 calories!

A note about alcohol: As you can see in the chart above, alcohol has 7 calories per gram of weight, so an average glass of wine (6 ounces) represents about 150 calories.

It’s important to remember that alcohol is made up of empty calories, as there is no nutritional value in fermented carbohydrates.

Consuming alcoholic beverages occasionally is usually not a problem, but bear in mind that drinking a glass or two of wine with dinner every night adds an extra 1,055-2,100 calories per week, and 3,500 calories translates to a pound of weight. Therefore, cutting out one to two glasses of wine per day may represent a half pound or more per week of weight loss. And this comes without making any other changes to your diet!

Sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way when preparing or choosing your meal. Try to think about the nutritional content of what you are eating, as well as the actual calories you may be consuming with your choices. It would be very hard to rack up too many calories by eating large amounts of vegetables and most fruits. Plus, you’d get the benefits of all of those healthy vitamins that give you energy and keep your weight down!


Medical Disclaimer

The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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Dr. Kulka

Dr. Kulka is a board-certified family medicine physician with 20 years of clinical experience. Placing an emphasis on improving wellness and avoiding illness, Dr. Kulka has a passion for educating people about their health, weight loss options, and specific medical concerns in an easy-to-understand way.

If you, like so many people, struggle to be consistent with your healthy diet and exercise routine, or feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start on your journey to a healthier lifestyle, check out our Seriously Simple Steps to Health and Wellness program.

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