How many calories are in my food and drink?

Calories (Cals) are not nutrients in themselves; they are actually the units used to measure the amount of energy in food and drink. The number of calories varies according to the nutritional composition of each item of food and drink we consume. The calorie content per gram of carbohydrate, protein, fat and alcohol is as follows:

1g carbohydrate = 4 cals; 1g protein = 4 cals; 1g fat = 9 cals; ag alchol = 7 cals

Fat has twice the amount of calories per gram compared to carbohydrate and protein, which explains why if you eat foods that are high in fat, you are likely to consume more calories and gain weight.

How many calories should I aim for each day?

Age, gender, physical activity levels and weight goal (maintenance, weight loss or gain) all affect your calorie requirements. A registered dietitian can help give you a more accurate idea. The reference intake for calories is 2,000 for an average adult, who has no special dietary needs.

Why count calories?

Calorie counting helps you understand the number of calories in food and drink you consume. You can then choose appropriate food to avoid excess, select healthier options (usually lower fat options) and maintain a healthy weight. If you are currently gaining weight, this indicates that you are consuming more calories than you burn through physical activity and while doing your everyday activities. This can easily happen:

100 cals per day extra - 36,500 cals over a year = weight gain of aroung 5kg/10lb in one year

Portion size

The amount of calories is determined not only by the type of food, but also the portion size. For example, a small portion of spaghetti bolognese may contain around 300 calories, whereas a large portion may contain over 900 calories! Here 3 different portion size examples, small, medium and large.

Different portions of spaghetti bolognese with different cals; 305 cals; 615 cals; 920 cals

If you are aiming to reduce portion sizes, it is a good idea to ensure your meal contains plenty of vegetables or salad. These are low in calories and a source of fibre. For example, if you chose the smallest portion of spaghetti, you could add a side salad or additional vegetables into the bolognese, such as extra mushrooms and carrots.

When choosing a dessert, be aware that portion size makes a big difference to calories. Opting for a smaller portion can satisfy your sweet tooth for only 100 or 200 calories, rather than a bigger portion that can have the same calories as a main meal.

Different portions of tiramisu with different cals; 110 cals; 220 cals; 435 cals


Toast with butter & jam, porridge with semi-skimmed milk and croissant:

Toast with butter & jam 125 cals; porridge with semi-skimmed milk 185 cals; croissant 190 cals

Fried egg, 2 scrambled eggs with semi-skimmed milk and 2 eggs benedict:

fried egg 115 cals; 2 scrambled eggs with semi-skimmed milk 185 cals; 2 eggs benedict 575 cals

Fruit & veg

Strawberries, grapes and banana:

strawberries 40 cals; grapes 50 cals; banana 70 cals

Cherry tomatoes, carrots and sweetcorn:

Cherry tomatoes 25 cals; carrots 25 cals; sweetcorn 60 cals

Cakes & biscuits

Custard slice, chocolate sprinkle doughnut and cinnamon swirl:

custard slice 285 cals; chocolate sprinkle doughnut 300 cals; cinnamon swirl 355 cals

Jaffa cake, ginger biscuit and chocolate digestive:

Jaffa cake 45 cals; ginger biscuit 45 cals; chocolate digestive 75 cals


Small portion of french fries, chicken burger and 2 slices of pepperoni pizza (thin crust), many takeaway meals can add up to over 1000 calories:

smsll portion french fries 270 cals; chicken burger 400 cals; 2 slices of thin crust pepperoni pizza 415 cals


Orange juice, smoothie, cola, latte with whole milk and espresso:

Orange juice 50 cals; smoothie 75 cals; cola 115 cals; latte with whole milk 170 cals; espresso 5 cals

Lager, stout, red wine, Irish cream and whisky:

Lager 210 cals; stout 210 cals; red wine 190 cals; irish cream 155 cals; whisky 55 cals