Thanks to food regulations, its quite easy to know how many calories are in your bag of chips, or that bar of chocolate. Even restaurants have started providing the calorie count for their foods. But one gray area for calorie counting is home cooked Indian food.
Most people assume that home cooked food is healthy. While it might be healthy in some households, it can’t be used as a blanket statement. Beyond using quality fruits and vegetables, there are three factors that decide how “healthy” the food is:
- Additives like oil, sugar, etc. These can really pack on the calories.
- Cooking process – Overcooking vegetables can deplete them of some nutrients.
- Portion sizes – Clearly larger portions means more calories.
Note that many spices like cinnamon, pepper, turmeric, coriander and cumin are almost calorie free, but are high on antioxidants.
Calorie estimation of home cooked Indian food can be done with a few simple tools. First you need a small weighing scale-easily available in the market. And some measuring spoons and cups. Also, get hold of a calorie chart for basic grains, vegetables and fruits that you use. You can also use Fitho’s calorie counter to search for your food, calculate it’s calories and see its full nutrition facts.
Using measurement instruments, you can figure out the weight of your cooking ingredients. And for each of the ingredients, look up the calorie count by weight. Let’s take an example – Yellow Dal.
As a standard, raw Dal pulses provide 4 calories per gram. Say you use a 100 gms for cooking. You add water (0 calories), salt and spices (negligible calories) and 1 tbsp olive oil (119 calories). The total dish is about 520 calories. Say this produces 8 cups of Dal. That is about 65 calories (520 divided by 8 ) per cup of Dal. Similarly, it is easy to tell the calorie count of a cheese omelette – how much cheese, how many eggs, and other ingredients – add the calories to get the total value.
As standard values, 1 gm of carbohydrates provides 4 calories, 1 gm of protein provides 4 calories and 1 gm of fat provides 9 calories.
This might seem a little involving, but once you’ve figured out the basics, it gets much simpler. To make it easier, you can just take a print-out of the calorie count of the basic foods that you use. Most of us repeat many of the standard food items and they’re cooked the same way each time, so very soon, you’ll have the calorie counts for all your home cooked Indian foods.
While calorie counting is important, its important to consume healthy food rich in nutrients. 100 calories of chips and fruits have the same calorific value, but very different nutritious value. So, besides the quantity, the quality of calories is equally important!Author Information — this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo