Calories: Where do they come from?

 Try to answer each of the questions in the column on the left.
The answers appear in the column on the right.


Questions Answers

What is a calorie? 
We can think of a calorie as Energy.

How many calories should each of us be eating? 

It depends on gender, height, weight and activity levelóprobably under 2000 calories for most people in wheelchairs, unless they are a professional athlete, and working out for several hours per day.

There are a lot of different things in the food that we eat.  Some have calories, some donít. Try to guess whether the following components of food have a significant amount of calories.
  • salt
  • carbohydrates
  • fiber
  • sugar 
  • vitamins
  • protein
  • minerals
  • salt - no
  • carbohydrates - yes
  • fiber - negligible
  • sugar - yes
  • vitamins - no
  • protein - yes
  • minerals - no

So, what are our 3 main sources of calories? 
  • carbohydrates
  • protein
  • fat

Where do we find carbohydrates on the Food Guide Pyramid?
Most come from breads, fruits and vegetables
What makes up carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are mostly sugar- both natural sugar (like the sugar in fruit and fruit juice) and processed sugar (like the kind in a candy bar).

Which type of sugar makes you gain more weight:  natural sugar (like in fruit and fruit juice) or processed sugar (like in a candy bar)?
Sugar is sugar!  Basically, all types of sugar have the same amount of calories, and they all cause the same amount of weight gain.

Where do we find protein on the Food Guide Pyramid?
Most comes from meat/meat alternative group and the milk group

Where do we find fat on the Food Guide Pyramid?
Most come from meat/meat alternative group, dairy and the tip of the pyramid

Which has the most calories:

A teaspoon of fat, a teaspoon of carbohydrate or a teaspoon of protein.

A teaspoon of fat has about twice the calories as a teaspoon of carbohydrate or protein.

Which has the most calories?
A tablespoon of butter or a tablespoon of vegetable oil?

A tablespoon of butter has about the same amount of calories as a tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Basically, every type of fat has the same amount of calories.  The difference is that butter is a saturated fat and bad for your heart, and that vegetable oil is unsaturated fat and not bad for your heart.  The key is remembering the difference; they both cause you to gain weight, but vegetable oil is better for your heart.  For more information on this topic, see page on types of fat.

So, it turns out that fat is higher in calories than carbohydrates or protein.  Thatís why when you want to lose weight, you cut down on fat.  But fat isnít the only place that calories come from, they come from 2 other places.  Where? (this is a review from above)
  • protein
  • carbohydrate

Of protein and carbohydrate, which do you think many of our extra calories comes from? 

Why do you think many of our extra calories come from carbohydrates?
Because carbohydrates include sugars- both natural and processed that Americans tend to eat too much of.
Guess where most of the calories come from for each of the following foods (fat, carbohydrate or protein):
  • a piece of hard candy
  • chocolate candy bar
  • French fries
  • macaroni and cheese
  • bread and butter
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • big mac
  • fried chicken
  • lasagna
  • potato chips
  • salad dressing
  • egg rolls

  • a piece of hard candy (carbohydrate -- sugar)
  • chocolate candy bar (fat and sugar)
  • French fries (fat from the oil it was fried in)
  • macaroni and cheese (fat from the cheese)
  • bread and butter (fat from the butter)
  • peanut butter (fat from the peanuts)
  • jelly (carbohydrate-- sugar from the fruit plus added sugar)
  • big mac (fat from the meat, cheese, and sauce)
  • fried chicken (fat from the skin and the oil that it was fried in)
  • lasagna (fat from the cheese and meat)
  • potato chips (fat from the oil)
  • salad dressing (fat from the oil)
  • egg rolls (fat from the oil it was fried in)

Does alcohol have the same amount of calories as a carbohydrate or a fat? 
Alcohol is an exception to the rule: it has more calories per teaspoon than carbohydrates, but less than fat. 

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