This article originally appeared in ZME Science
Food calories come in different shapes and sizes – over 1 kilogram of vegetables can have the same number of calories as a chocolate bar, even though they have extremely different nutritional values. Here, we’ll look at how 200 calories look like with different foods, and also discuss the basics about calories. The results will surprise you.
So, what is a calorie? Well, a calorie is a unit of measure for energy. The physical calorie is defined as the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere. However, nutritionists often use “calorie” as a term for 1000 calories – the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.
The large calorie is thus equal to 1000 small calories or one kilocalorie. But the main take-away is that a calorie is not related to nutrients or food quantities – it simply refers to the energy contained (in food, in this case). In spite of its non-official status, the large calorie is still widely used as a unit of food energy. The small calorie is also often used for measurements in chemistry, although the amounts involved are typically recorded in kilocalories.
Today, in many diets, the calorie is regarded as the be-all and end-all measure of how much you can eat. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average adult needs to consume about 2,000–2,500 Calories to maintain their weight, though that can differ significantly based on physical activity and other dietary and environmental factors.
However, as I said earlier, the calorie just measures the energy contained in foods. This means that you could eat a well-balanced meal (say, a cooked vegetable meal) or some candy bars, and get the same amount of calories – obviously, one is not as healthy as the other. So while keeping an eye on your calorie intake is important, there are also other factors to consider. This is the point of the article, to show you just how different 200 calories can be.
For example, you can have 570 grams of baby carrots, 588 grams of broccoli or 553 grams of melon – they all have 200 calories. But then again, so does 60 ml of Baileys cream, a bite of blackberry pie, and a 54 gram peanut power bar. It’s no definite standard, but as a rule of thumb, raw, healthier foods have less calories per gram than more condensed unhealthy foods such as sweets and bacon. If you’re eating just 4 tootsie pops – BAM, that’s 200 calories. Same goes for 17 gummy bears. Canola oil is the most calorically condensed thing here, with 200 calories in a mere 23 grams – little more than a teaspoon.
But it’s not just foods that can have lots of calories. I already told you that it takes just a bit more than a shot of Baileys to reach 200 calories, and alcohol in general tends to have a lot of calories. Half a liter of Coca-Cola does the trick, while it takes only 333 milliliters of milk to get to 200 calories.
Click here to see more foods you can peruse, and you can get a pretty good general idea about what foods have many calories.