I need a local calorie counter

Monday, December 31, 2012

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Dear Donovan,

I really want to know if there is a book, website or anything that can estimate calories in real Jamaican food, like rice and peas with rich coconut milk and butter, or jerk chicken and brown stew fish.

I am desperately tying to lose weight but all the available programmes are so Americanised.

Thanks in advance

I am very happy that you are trying to lose some weight. This will be good for your health in this New Year and many other years to come.

In order to lose weight, you will have to reduce your calories, but this must be done in a healthy way. Calories are the amount of energy present in foods that we consume. Some foods are low in calories, while others are high in calories. A large amount of high calorie foods, for example cake, chocolate, cheese etc, can make you fat.

In order to lose weight, you will have to make sure that the amount of foods/calories that you are taking in is less than the amount of foods/calories you are burning by your activity/exercise level and your metabolism. To reduce your caloric intake, you will have to watch the amount you are eating, and using a calorie counter will help you to do so by keeping you in line with your daily nutritional goals.

While using a calorie counter is extremely helpful, you will also have to pay special attention to your portion size and also how your foods are prepared. For example, one average sized fried dumpling (Johnny cake) would supply 164 calories, while the same size boiled flour dumpling would supply about 151 calories. Using whole wheat versus counter flour would also influence the amount of calories present in this case as well.

Also, let's say you are looking at the same amount of rice and peas from three different sources. Until you know what is in each, you can't be totally sure of the amount of calories you are eating. You must also know how much of what you are eating is considered a serving, since most calorie counters requires this sort of information.

There is one local book that I am aware of that can help you to calculate the amount of calories in your food. It is called Caribbean Calorie Counter, and it is written by nutritionist Patricia Thompson. The book, which can be sourced at local bookstores, gives you the total level of calories and fat contents of a wide variety of local dishes such as porridge, rice and peas with coconut milk, ground provisions and soups.

If you are unable to source this book, you can also visit websites such as caloriecount.about.com, livestrong.com and Sparkpeople.com, which all feature Jamaican cuisine.

In addition to looking at your weight loss programme, I strongly suggest you consider increasing your exercise level if you are not already active. This would help to increase your calorie output, thus helping you with weight loss.




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