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Calories Count! (But We Don't Count Them)

Foods are a combination of the three macronutrient “building blocks” (fat, carbohydrates, and protein). The caloric breakdown of each macronutrient remains constant; if you know how many grams of each macronutrient is in a given food, you can calculate how many calories (or energy) the food contains.


Each person’s body is unique and will have slightly different needs. A balanced, healthy diet and regular physical activity is the recipe for good health and energy balance. Use your estimated daily calorie needs as a general reference point. Instead of focusing on counting calories, focus on the bigger picture – increase dietary quality, manage stress, and include enjoyable physical activity in your daily routine.


A calorie is a unit of energy supplied by food; no matter the source, a calorie is a calorie.

Calorie density (CD) is the number of calories per pound for each food. Notice that CD is lowest in unprocessed plant foods. This means that these foods contain fewer calories per volume. Foods of a higher calorie density value contain more calories in a smaller amount of food. Focusing on CD may naturally “crowd out” less favorable food choices, thus helping to maintain a healthy weight. Keep in mind that the values on the following pages are based on one pound of each food, which is more than a typical serving size but helps put the remarkable differences in calories per pound that exist between our many food choices into perspective.


Foods of a higher calorie density value contain more calories in a smaller amount of food.


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