A Few Questions About Calories

November 19, 2007 · 5 comments

I got to thinking this weekend about calories.  In particular, how many calories there were in some soup I was thinking of making from scratch.  Maybe this is a dumb question, but how do I figure out how many calories (and other nutritional data for that matter) are in something I make from scratch?

I’ve Googled the topic to death and the answer seems to be very consistent: you simply add up the calories from all the raw ingredients in your recipe and you get your total, which you then divide by servings to figure out calories per serving.

That doesn’t seem right.

For example with my soup I needed to make a broth which started with a bunch of chicken and vegetables.  Much of that ends up getting thrown out.  Now obviously in that case there simply has to be some calories being removed.  But what about something as simple as steamed broccoli?  Haven’t I read that vegetables lose nutrients when you cook them?  Does that include calories?

If I make a reduction like a black cherry gastrique (yum), does 100% of the calories stay in there or did some of them evaporate away?

I assume the answer is no, but is it possible for the sum to be greater than the parts?  In other words, to end up with more calories in the total recipe than the sum of the ingredients?

Now that winter is coming up I know I am going to be in the mood to cook a little more and I’d like to be confident that I know how to properly determine the nutritional value of what I am making.  Obviously the easiest way to go is assume all calories remain and just go with that, but the engineer in me doesn’t like that answer.

Can any better Googlers out there point me to some answers if you don’t have them yourself?

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{ 5 comments }

diana the scale junkie November 19, 2007 at 11:05 pm

Dishes like this are hard to calculate so at best I guesstimate. You know some bowls of soup are going to have more of something than others, but when you reduce things down, the calories stay the same….I think.

GroovyBabe November 20, 2007 at 2:42 am

You’re never going to be completely accurate with home made food so the best thing to do is add up all the raw ingredients (you could weigh once youve prepared them).

Calories are not nutrients, t herefore t hey will not be removed in cooking. In fact, depending on how you cook them calories are more likely to be added. The only way calories would evaporate would be if you didnt eat as much as the product as you intended to.

john - from fat to fit November 20, 2007 at 6:51 am

What cooking methods would actually add calories? Butter, oil or any other cooking additives would be included in the raw ingredients.

Maybe this wasn’t such a dumb question!

Israel November 20, 2007 at 11:55 am

your making my brain hurt with trying to add things up. ouch. just add up the calories, the ingredients too calories too.

Michelle November 23, 2007 at 10:22 pm

I eat meals from scratch nearly every day. As an epidemiologist, I’m usually perfectionist as well, BUT here are my thoughts on the topic.

I always add up all the calories and divide by the number of meals I am going to get out of it. If one portion size is slightly larger (or different) than the other, over the course of the week, I’m still eating the total number of calories of the whole recipe. Granted this will be slightly different for you because you have a family…

Yes, you do lose some calories for removing ends, but that is very minimal. For instance, a single carrot is 30 calories, if you chop off of the ends, you’ll only lose a few calories and unless you are making up a huge quantity of food, it shouldn’t matter that much. I drain all meat, but there is no way how much fat I’m removing, etc. An estimate in the slightly higher range only means you may be actually consuming less calories and that will get you closer to your goal.

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