Last week I talked about noticing the calorie counts at the local movie theater. This morning, while getting some coffee and some change for bus fare for the youngest, I noticed more calorie signs. How useful are these little signs? Do they chase away customers or do they just ignore them?
Some of the early studies have shown that posting calorie counts makes no difference in the buying patterns. Apathy may play a role, but lack of understanding may be more of a factor. New York City ran an advertising program at about the same time as the requirement to post began, telling subway riders that most adults need about 2000 calories a day. A very round and general number indeed, but a good starting point. Again, I don’t think anyone paid attention.
So if you are wondering about calories, let’s consider a couple of things. Calories are a measurement of energy. They don’t taste like anything and are neither good or bad. Carrots have calories just like candy bars. Every person has a number of calories that they need to eat per day to maintain their current body weight. Calories have nothing to do with eating healthy; they are only about maintaining, gaining or losing weight. If you notice that you are putting on a few pounds you are taking in excess calories.
An individual’s number for maintaining weight is based on weight and activity level (metabolic rate). There are a few different ways to calculate this and there are several websites to help you do so. There are three different calculators on this site to help you figure out your own numbers. Basically, you have a number based on your weight and age at rest. You then need to add a percentage of that which depends on your metabolic rate. Here is another interesting site for calculating your number.
So, what does it all mean? Counting calories seems too stressful and math-like for busy humans. But, if you happen into a fast food restaurant and quickly want to know just how unwise you are being (unless you are just stopping by to pee, you are being unwise) round up. If you are ordering anything nearing 1500 calories total – Big Mac, 540; Large Fries,500; Large Sprite,310 – you are eating nearly all of your daily need. The problem is that in a few hours (or a few minutes) you are going to be hungry and thirsty. That sprite alone has nearly as much salt as it does sugar. If you eat two meals a day like that, no matter what your base rate is, you will gain weight. That doesn’t even take into account how sick you would be.
Okay, you don’t go to McDonalds (which is probably true if you are reading me) so let’s take another example. This morning I was at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. They have a tempting display of baked goods that most likely fly off the shelves. Most people have not eaten breakfast and have just spent an entire night letting their body deplete itself of many calories. The natural tendency is to refuel. So how bad could it be. You have the whole day to burn it off, right? So, the cheese croissant is marked as 520 and that’s all your having – still in the safe zone. But wait, unless you are having a black coffee (10 calories) which you aren’t, a 16 oz coffee drink can be as much as 500 calories. So now, you have consumed more than half of your calories and you haven’t even started your day yet.
It’s not worth driving yourself constantly crazy, but if you are considering some calorie dense treat, it’s good to know where you stand. And, if you find yourself gaining weight, eat less calories. If you want to lose weight, eat less calories. One caveat: Don’t starve yourself. Your body has a mechanism commonly known as “Starvation Mode” which stores calories because it thinks there may not be enough in the future.
Here is an appetizer perfect for cocktail parties and summer gatherings. A good starter for an Italian themed party. Rapini, aka Broccoli Rabe, is a bitter Italian broccoli. It’s one of my favorites and my wife hates it. You might also have some bruschetta for the rapini challenged.
- 1 Bunch Rapini, rough chopped, stem removed
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 Teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 Lemon, squeezed
- 1 Baguette, sliced
- Perorino Cheese
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Sauté Pan
- Chef’s Knife
- Grill, Grill Pan, Broiler or Toaster Oven
- Heat a little olive oil in a pan.
- Add garlic and red pepper flakes, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add the rapini, salt and pepper, and sauté until wilted.
- Add vinegar and lemon juice.
- Slice baguette into nice thick slices, rub with garlic and a little drizzle of olive oil and grill.
- Pile bits of the cooked rapini on each toast and shave a piece of pecorino on top.
- Serve with a great, earthy Italian white wine.