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10 high calorie foods & their low calorie alternatives

Do you find yourself counting calories? Maybe you scrutinise the food labels before putting anything into your trolley or you’re just generally mindful of what you eat on a day-by-day basis.

However you do it, we’ve all found ourselves counting the calories at some point. Sometimes, it can be more than others – if we want to lose a few pounds, so that you’re ‘beach ready’ or are conscious that you’ve over indulged a bit too much at certain times of the year – e.g. our birthdays or at Christmas.

There’s nothing wrong with being mindful about how many calories we’re taking on, as choosing more healthier, leaner foods over fattier and more calorific foods can make a difference to our diet and overall healthiness.

According to the figures published by the NHS, the majority of adults in the UK are overweight or obese; 67% of men and 60% of women. What’s more, 26% of men and 29% of women are classed as being obese. As for children, 20% of year 6 children have been classified as being obese.1 Obesity can lead to health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol.2

Being overweight is generally caused by numerous things, including:

  1. Eating too many calories
  2. Consuming processed, sugary and fatty food
  3. Not exercising enough3

What are calories?

Generally speaking, calories are units that are used to measure the amount of energy that’s in the food and drink products we choose to put into our bodies. In order to function, the human body depends on these calorie/energy units.

Healthy food provides us with the energy that’s needed to fuel our bodies, as well as important nutrients to help keep us fit and healthy and make sure our bones are strong and healthy. But here’s the thing, not all calories are healthy. In fact, certain food and drink products happen to actually contain ‘empty calories’.4

How many calories should we be consuming?

In an ideal world, the average woman needs to eat around 2,000 calories per day to maintain her weight, and 1,500 calories per day to lose one pound of weight per week.

Meanwhile, the average man needs 2,500 calories to maintain, and 2,000 to lose one pound of weight per week.

When it comes to young children, they need to take on between 1,000 and 2,000 calories a day. Older children and adolescents require anything between 1,400 and 3,200 calories a day. Boys generally need to consume more calories than girls.5

What does our Body Mass Index (BMI) mean/do?

The guidance above provides you with a general barometer to monitoring your calories. For more of a tailored approach to calorie counting, based on your personal body make up (e.g. your height, age, weight and activity levels), then you may want to calculate your BMI.

Working out your BMI is relatively easy to do if you use a BMI calculator, such as this one that’s been created by the NHS.6 Once calculated, your reading will instantly tell you if you’re underweight, a healthy weight, overweight or obese for your body proportions. You can also calculate BMI for children too.7

Some food and drink swaps for you to try

Once you start to tune into the calorie content of your food and drink, you’ll be amazed at where the calories are, and which food is high in calories and which food is low in calories.

For instance, did you know that there are 329 calories in prawn crackers (1 60g bag), 150 calories in a Crème Egg and 170 calories in a packet of Super Noodles?8

Foods with high calories

We’ve pulled together a list of some of the drink and food with the most calories:



  Drink/food high in calories Calories
1. Whole milk 150 (8 ounce glass of milk)9
2. White bread 98 (1 slice)10
3. Bagels 277 (1 medium plain bagel)11
4. Butter 102 (1 tablespoon of unsalted butter)12
5. Cheese 89 (per 22g)13
6. Fizzy drinks (Cola without caffeine) 41 (100g)14
7. Crisps 536 (100g)15
8. Peanuts 567 (per 100g)16
9. Chocolate bar 556 (100g)17
10. Granola 226 (per ½ cup)18

 Foods low in calories

 And here’s a list of foods with low calories, which are an alternative to the items listed above:



  Drink/food high in calories Calories
1. Skimmed milk 79 (8 ounce glass of milk)19
2. Brown bread 73 (1 slice)20
3. Rice cakes 35g (1 rice cake)21
4. Low fat spread 50 (1 tablespoon)22
5. Mozzarella 62 (per 22g)23
6. Water 024
7. Carrot sticks & hummus 17025
8. Sunflower seeds 582 (per 100g)26
9. Apple & peanut butter 283 (1 medium apple and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter)27
10. Porridge oats 15028

Foods with ZERO calories (or almost zero calories)

Does food that contains zero calories exist? It may sound impossible, but there is some food out there that contains next to nothing calories. Like these….

  • Water = 0 calories!29
  • Celery = (110g) = 18 calories30
  • Iceberg lettuce (72g) = 10 calories31
  • Lemon or lime juice (30g) = 8 calories32
  • Spinach (30g) = 7 calories33
  • Watercress (34g) = 4 calories34
  • Broccoli (91g) = 31 calories35
  • Cucumber (52g) = 8 calories36

The more you start to look, the more you’ll start to see that there are plenty of foods low in calories to replace foods with high calories, and that it’s possible to steer away from food with the most calories.

It just takes a little bit more thought and an extra minute or two when shopping and cooking your food to use lower calorie alternatives.

If you’d like to incorporate fewer calories in your diet, then check out our range of low calorie, food and drink, vitamins and supplements and weight management products. And for a little extra help along the way, give this calorie checker a try - https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/calorie-checker/

Last updated: 17 June 2020

Sources
  1. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet/england-2020
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/
  4. https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-a-calorie-and-why-should-i-care-3496238
  5. https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-2/#:~:text=Estimated%20needs%20for%20young%20children,higher%20calorie%20needs%20than%20girls.
  6. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/bmi-calculator/
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/bmi-calculator/
  8. https://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/calories-in-food/pasta-noodles-rice/batchelors-chicken-super-noodles.htm
  9. https://milklife.com/articles/nutrition/types-of-dairy-milk#:~:text=There%20are%20150%20calories%20in,12%20percent%20of%20daily%20value).
  10. https://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/calories-in-food/bakery-products/warburtons-medium-sliced-white-bread.htm
  11. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a28712007/how-many-calories-in-a-bagel/
  12. https://www.verywellfit.com/butter-nutrition-facts-calories-and-health-benefits-4109692
  13. https://www.calories.info/food/cheese
  14. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=ndbNumber:14147
  15. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=ndbNumber:19811
  16. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/peanuts#nutrition
  17. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=ndbNumber:19164
  18. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/granola?portionid=16189&portionamount=0.500
  19. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/milk-(fat-free-or-skim-calcium-fortified)?portionid=46739&portionamount=8.0
  20. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=ndbNumber:18385
  21. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/are-rice-cakes-healthy
  22. https://www.calories.info/food/spreads
  23. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/mozzarella-cheese-(whole-milk)?portionid=56437&portionamount=22
  24. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=ndbNumber:14412
  25. https://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2018/08/01/5-healthy-snacks-to-get-you-through-the-workday.html#:~:text=Hummus%20and%20carrot%20sticks&text=Four%20tablespoons%20of%20hummus%2C%20is,be%20a%20very%20satisfying%20snack.
  26. https://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/dry-roasted-sunflower-seeds-no-salt-100g-221221195
  27. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/apple-and-peanut-butter#:~:text=A%20single%20serving%20of%20peanut,fiber%20(%201%20%2C%205%20).
  28. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a19945066/ruining-your-oatmeal/#:~:text=%22Instead%20of%20having%20one%20cup,turn%20into%20a%20calorie%20bomb.
  29. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=ndbNumber:14412
  30. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zero-calorie-foods#:~:text=Its%20long%2C%20green%20stalks%20contain,of%20chopped%20celery%20(18).
  31. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zero-calorie-foods#section13
  32. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zero-calorie-foods#section34
  33. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zero-calorie-foods#section13
  34. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zero-calorie-foods#section34
  35. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zero-calorie-foods#section4
  36. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zero-calorie-foods#section13
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