The truth about food: why not all calories are created equal

For years dieters have relied on calorie counting as a way of trying to reign in unwanted fat or maintain a healthy weight.

The only problem with this method of weight management is that not all calories are equal.

Sticking to a 1500 calorie per day diet isn’t going to do you much good if you fill half of those calories with the wrong kinds of foods.

Many people confuse the nutritional value in food with the number of calories it contains.

For example, 200 calories worth of Mars Bars and 200 calories worth of fruit are completely different when it comes to your bodies ability to break down the food and burn fat.

Ad. Article continues below.

“Not all calories are created equal with regards to how our body burns fuel,” accredited practising dietician Caroline Trickey told The Huffington Post.

“The age-old ‘calories in versus calories out’ is not 100 percent accurate.

“That’s where the glycemic index comes into things.

“Two hundred calories of a high GI food can encourage fat storage, whereas 200 calories of a lower GI food won’t – and this is of particular importance for certain individuals (such as those who are insulin resistant).”

Your body will store high GI foods as fat as due to the need to secrete large amounts of insulin to deal with the high level of carbohydrates.

Ad. Article continues below.

“Most of us don’t use that energy at a fast rate, so you’re more likely to store the energy than use it because it’s coming in too fast for your body to use,” Ms Trickey said.

“Whereas if you have 200 calories of a low GI food, it’s going to be broken down more slowly and release that energy more slowly – you’re going to be more likely to secrete the right amount of insulin.”

Low GI foods are things like legumes, nuts and many fruits and vegetables, while high GI foods tend to be processed snacks, such as biscuits, chips and doughnuts.

“Many of these snacks and fast foods contain nasty fats like trans fat which can get into our cells and change how our body metabolises food and encourage diabetes and cardiovascular disease – our number one killer in Australia,” Ms Trickey said.

Whether you’re counting calories or not, it can be helpful to know just what 200 calories of different foods look like to help you make healthier choices throughout the day.

Ad. Article continues below.

food collage 1


  • 3 medium (150 grams) apples
  • 2 medium (170 grams) bananas
  • 2 medium (300 grams) mangos
  • ½ cup (70 grams) raisins


  • 10 cups (700 grams) chopped broccoli
  • 6 small-medium (625 grams) carrots
  • 7 cups (700 grams) green beans
  • 6 cups (approx. 600 grams) snow peas
  • 60 spears (approximately 990 grams) asparagus
  • 60 (approximately 840 grams) button mushrooms
  • 6 cups (400 grams) chopped kale
  • 7 cups (700 grams) chopped celery
Ad. Article continues below.


  • 28 (34 grams) almonds
  • 28 (⅓ cup or 30 grams) walnuts
  • 6 (30 grams) brazil nuts
  • 1 ⅔ tablespoons natural crunchy peanut butter

food collage pic 2

How do you manage your weight? Do you count calories?