calorie counting

How to manage your calorie count

03 Jun 2023


Feeling hungry while trying to eat well can make you feel unsatisfied, frustrated and more likely to over-eat. Here are our top tips on how to fill up while watching your calories.

Choose energy-light foods

To feel satiated (full) on fewer calories, eat fewer energy-dense foods. Energy-dense foods, usually from refined carbohydrates or fat, provide a high number of calories per bite and aren’t necessarily very filling. This may cause you to eat too many calories.

Most vegetables and some fruits are not energy-dense. They are largely made up of water and fibre, which provides bulk without the high calorie count. So, eating less energy-dense foods allows you to have larger portions without consuming too many calories.

The fibre found in fruit and vegetables is also a good source of fibre, which helps you feel full. This is because it provides bulk in your gut and slows down the rate of digestion and the rate at which your stomach empties itself, minimising hunger.

A large helping of boiled or steamed vegetables with a smaller portion of protein (e.g. wild salmon) and a smaller portion of grains (a couple of tablespoons of brown rice) is likely to leave you full and satisfied without taking in too many calories.

Get calories from protein

Foods high in protein have been proven to promote satiety more than fatty or carbohydrate-rich foods. A 2005 study at University of Washington School of Medicine in the USA found that increasing the protein in your diet from 15% of daily calories to 30% of your daily calories has been linked to reductions in appetite.(1)

Make a meal out of it

Slow down during mealtimes. So many of us eat meals from our laps while flicking through news or apps on our smartphones. While this can be a hard habit to break, it’s worth a try if you’re serious about eating fewer calories. Even if you’re eating alone, lay a place at a table and put your phone away for the time it takes to eat.

This way, you can concentrate on the process of eating, which will cause you to slow down. You’ll feel fuller on less food if you eat slowly.

Another tip is to be mindful when eating out of large packets or sharing-size containers. It’s easy to eat several portions from a larger pack without thinking. If you’re snacking at home or at the office, put a portion into a bowl and put the rest of the packet away. That way, if you do want more, you’re at least aware of how much you’re eating.

Invest in kitchen scales

The reality of portion sizes might surprise you. By weighing out your portions, you can make sure you’re not eating too much without paying attention. You don’t have to weigh out each portion of food forever. However, using them for a couple of weeks will give you an idea of what a portion size truly is.

Drink water

Water promotes satiety by filling up the stomach which then sends signals to the brain that it’s getting full without the body taking on any calories. Staying hydrated also helps your digestive system move along smoothly, removing waste from your body.

Remember – fruit juices and smoothies can be high in calories, so keep glasses to 150ml.

Go for complex carbs over refined carbs

Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, rice, pastries and biscuits are converted quickly into blood sugar by your body. This causes a sudden raise in blood sugar and insulin. When your blood sugar drops again, you may be left feeling hungry.

Refined carbohydrates also have less fibre than complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains and legumes, meaning they won’t fill you up as effectively.

Ditch the alcohol

Or go for low-alcohol beverages which have fewer calories. Alcohol has 7kcal per 1g, and most alcoholic drinks, including wine, prosecco and cider, are also packed with sugars. As a general rule, the higher the alcohol volume, the higher the calorie count. Further, these calories are known as ‘empty’ calories as they provide no nutrients.

Alcohol doesn’t fill you up - and can lead to poor eating choices as willpower can melt away after a drink.

If you’ve ever wondered how many calories are in a bottle of wine, the answer is up to 680kcal!

Last updated: 30 March 2020