At least once a week or so I get an email from a reader requesting the calorie count of one of my recipes or a suggestion that I include it at the bottom of all my recipes.
My response is always the same. Thanks for your suggestion, but I don’t believe in counting calories. And then I suggest they find one of the many websites that can calculate these things for them.
But I’ve been thinking a bit about my reasons for not buying into the counting of calories, carbs, fat or whatever. So I thought it was about time I put pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard, to be more accurate.
6 reasons to NOT count calories
1. Counting calories takes the joy out of eating.
This is the biggest reason for me. Food, especially sharing it with loved ones, is one of the great pleasures that should enrich our lives.
2. Counting calories encourages you to eat packaged processed food.
I was talking to a friend recently who mentioned her teenage daughter has become very interested in nutrition and has started to keep an eye on her calories. But the sad part is she’s noticed that her daughter is more likely to choose food out of a packet than something fresh because she can easily tell how many calories she’s getting from the pack.
3. Counting calories doesn’t guarantee you’re getting the nutrients you need.
As with most of life, getting the quantity right doesn’t mean the quality is also where it should be.
4. Counting calories teaches you to ignore your natural satiety cues.
We’re all equipped with a system for our bodies to tell us when we’re hungry and when we’ve had enough. The problem is it tends to be quite subtle. Especially the ‘I’m full’ signals.
Wouldn’t it be better to slow down and relearn to let your body guide you?
5. Calorie restriction doesn’t work for maintaining weight loss in the long term.
In the book ‘Why we get fat’ Gary Taubes mentions study after study showing that limiting calorie intake doesn’t lead to lasting weight loss. But if you’ve tried calorie restriction for any amount of time, you probably already know that.
6. Counting calories doesn’t address the root cause of your problem.
We don’t just eat because our bodies need fuel. Sometimes it’s boredom. Sometimes it’s emotional stuff or one of countless other reasons.
Trying to use willpower and counting every calorie isn’t going to fix what’s causing there to be a problem in the first place. Talk about setting yourself up to fail…
So what’s the alternative?
For me the easiest way to make real lasting changes to how you eat and how you feel is to put it on autopilot. What do I mean by that? I’m talking about adopting a new habit of eating mindfully. It’s about slowing down. It’s about focusing on eating so you not only enjoy your food more, you can tell when you are full.
I’ve recently read an excellent book called ‘Foodist’ by Darya Rose. One of the biggest lessons I’ve had from the book is to focus on eating mindfully. Darya has a few tips for this but my favourite is…
How to eat mindfully
When you start to load up your fork for the next mouthful, check to see if you’re already chewing. If there’s food already in your mouth, put your fork down and focus on chewing and enjoying your mouthful. There’s no need to rush to swallow. Then once you’re done you can pick up your fork and get the next bite ready.
It’s actually harder than it sounds but it’s the best technique I’ve come across for fostering real mindful eating AND more importantly, maximum food enjoyment!
Slow Baked Bangers
These days with a little one in the house, I’m all about meals I can prep in the afternoon without much effort and let them cook away while I focus on feeding Fergal and getting him ready for bed. And even though spring is here, I’m still finding the oven to be my favourite cooking method because I can set and (almost) forget.
These sausages are a big favourite. But if bangers aren’t your thing see the variations below. Or think about trying a new butcher who takes pride in making their own sausages. Quality is key here!
Enough for 2
4 onions, peeled & quartered lengthwise
4 thick sausages
1 cup red wine
1 cup stock or water
a few sprigs of thyme, optional
3-4 handfuls baby spinach to serve
1. Turn your oven on to 150C (350F).
2. Pop onions, sausages, wine, stock or water and thyme, if using an oven proof pot.
3. Bake for about 2 hours turning the sausages about half way if you get the chance to.
4. Serve on a bed of baby spinach.
short on time? – crank your oven to 220C (450F). Should be done in 45 mins.
vegan / vegetarian – replace sausages with vegetables such as a sweet potato, parsnip, carrot, beets, potato, eggplant or mushrooms. You may need to adjust the cooking time. Serve with nuts for extra protein and crunch.
different meat – chicken thighs or drumsticks work well and will cook in about the same amount of time. Osso buco or lamb shanks would be my red meat choices. They’ll need a lot longer, 4-5 hours. And you might need to add more liquid if it’s drying out.
alcohol-free – just replace with stock, water or tomato purée or a can of tomatoes.
onion-free – replace onions with a mixture of other aromatic veg such as celery and carrots.
different herbs – thyme is my fav here but rosemary or sage or a few bay leaves will be lovely too.
Video version of the recipe.