August 23, 2018
Whether you’re a calorie-counter or an “anything goes” type of eater, one thing is for sure: everyone has a favorite when it comes to food. There’s a reason we gravitate towards comfort foods like mac ‘n cheese, fried chicken, and ice cream — they make us feel better when we’re not feeling our best and provide relief during stressful times.
Beyond these comforting dishes, people all over the country enjoy a wide variety of cuisines, from lasagna to burgers and fries to clam chowder and Caesar salads. Most people don’t routinely track their daily calorie intake, but it’s useful to know how many calories you should be eating on average to maintain your current weight or shed some pounds. While personal calorie intake depends on a number of factors (like age, height, activity levels, etc.), the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily intake of 1,600-2,400 calories for adult women and 2,000-3,000 calories for adult men. Assessing the nutritional value of your meals can help you better understand what food works for you, or against you.
In a perfect world, we would all wake up to a home-cooked, healthy, delicious breakfast. But many people don’t have time to cook an elaborate breakfast, and instead choose to start their day with grab-and-go staples like bagels with cream cheese. A bagel alone is roughly 280 calories, with cream cheese clocking in at 51 calories per tablespoon. If you prefer an omelet in the morning, it’s helpful to know that a single large egg equals 72 calories. While bacon does provide a significant amount of protein, a single slice is 46 calories, with 32 of those calories attributed solely to fat.
Many Americans opt for a simple sandwich when lunchtime rolls around, but what toll does the average sandwich take on your diet? Ham and cheese, a common choice for kids and adults alike, contains roughly 350 calories. Hoagies — a renowned Philadelphia favorite — aren’t exactly great for the waistline, with the classic Italian hoagie averaging 700 calories. Burgers are another popular choice that can be harder to nail down when it comes to pinpointing an exact calorie count. In general, a quarter pound cheeseburger can contain anywhere from 400 to 700 calories, depending on what toppings you prefer.
Ground beef and steak are also commonly found on the average American’s dinner plate, and for good reason: Red meat is high in protein, as well as essential nutrients like vitamin B3 and iron. However, if eaten in excess, red meat increases your chance for heart disease, and is even linked to health complications like diabetes and certain cancers. A lean cut of 8-oz. sirloin steak weighs in around 450 calories, but a T-bone with a high fat content can get as high as 700 calories.
Pasta is another common dish that varies based on how you prepare it. Plain pasta without any bell (peppers) and whistles contains 182 calories per serving. Adding a simple marinara can elevate your next bowl of spaghetti without packing on extra calories, so consider skipping the homemade gravy by going all-in with a top-shelf tomato sauce.
Generally speaking, moderation is the key when it comes to balancing your diet. Calorie-heavy foods should be tempered with fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. For example, consider swapping out mac and cheese for this tasty spaghetti squash with chunky tomato sauce recipe, which is low in calories (122 per serving) and high in both nutrients and flavor.
While it’s typically not necessary to calculate every calorie you consume, remaining aware of the nutritional value of the common foods you eat every day will help you control your weight and improve your health, from the inside out.