If you are anything like me, since starting on the cinnamon & benzoate-free diet, you will have found yourself gravitating towards meals that are higher in fat, sugar & calories. This isn’t because I have anything against, say, a salad, in and of itself, but that salads (and similar meals) all have things in that I cannot eat. A fully loaded jacket potato with butter, cheese & bacon always feels like a safer option than a tuna salad any day of the week – but these higher-calorie choices definitely show!
I’ve looked at some of the commercial diet plans & diet clubs and many of them put me off simply by their prescriptive nature – I already have a limited scope of foods I can’t eat, and I don’t want to reduce that scope further in order to try and stick to a plan that’s going to cost me £5 a week to follow anyway. So I try and lose weight by the simple method of old-fashioned calorie counting – getting advice from a professional source about how many calories per day I need, and then counting all my foods and ensuring I don’t go over that number.
A NOTE TO READERS – what follows is a brief explanation of the basic mathematics needed to work out the calories in meals you make ‘from scratch’. If you’re comfortable with how to do this, there’s no need to read further.
If you’re used to counting calories by buying ready-made meals and deserts in single portion packs, and then simply writing down the total calories the whole pack contains into your log book, going onto a benzoate-free diet and being faced with having to calorie-count from scratch can be a nightmare. Where do you start?
Well actually, it’s quite easy as long as you have a bit of paper, a pen, a set of weighing scales, some accurate liquid measuring cups or jugs, and a calculator. (I recommend a set of digital scales that weigh to the nearest gram – they are far easier to use and you’re far less likely to under- or over-estimate weights than you would if you were trying to use a dial scale.)
Let’s say I was making a vegetable stew of some sort – it may later turn into a chilli, or a bolognaise sauce, or diluted and blended to form a soup, but to keep it simple we’ll call it a stew. Step 1 would be to prepare all the ingredients and weigh or measure them accurately:
Sweet potato 280g
Red pepper 145g
Green pepper 81g
Olive Oil 25ml
Yeast extract 66g
Step 2 would be to turn either to the calorie tables on the packets, or to a book that logs calories of standard foods, and look up what the calories were of a particular food:
15og Onions = 54 calories
130g raw Sweet Potato = 109 calories
80g raw old carrots = 28 calories
110mls olive oil = 900 calories
The third step is where the mathematics starts – divide the number of calories you found from your book or the packet, by the number of grams of food the table has calculated them for, and then multiply the result by the number of grams of food you actually have. An example will hopefully make this clear:
For onions –
54 calories divided by the 150g weight of onions given in the book:
54 ÷ 150 = 0.36
then multiply this figure by the actual weight of onions you have:
0.36 x 142 = 51.12 calories
Ignore any numbers after the decimal point – what this tells you is that your onions for this recipe contain:
142 grams of onions has 51 calories
Working out the other ingredients in this particular stew in the same way gives:
Sweet potato 280g = 234 calories
Carrot 97g = 33 calories
Red pepper 145g = 46 calories
Green pepper 81g = 12 calories
Olive Oil 25ml = 204 calories
Lentils 30g = 31 calories
Yeast extract 66g = 148 calories
Step 4 – add all the calories together, then divide them by the number of potions of food you are making:
51+ 234+ 33+ 46+ 12+ 204+ 31+ 148 = 759 calories
If this was a 2-potion meal I’d then do 759 ÷ 2 = 379 calories per person for the meal.
And that’s it! I know it looks pretty complicated but once you are used to the method it’s not so difficult. Other things from the nutrition information tables e.g. protein content, carbohydrate content etc. can all be worked out in the same way.
Note that you do not have to calorie-count the majority of herbs and spices as you rarely put enough of them in a meal to make any appreciable difference.