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Is counting calories helpful for weight loss?

Man eating a healthy meal

Dietitian Caroline Trickey looks at calorie counting vs watching fat content in food for weight loss and finds a better approach.

Q When considering weight loss, is it better to count the calories or the fat grams in a specific food?

Jenni, via email

A If I had to choose, it would be counting calories — if only to convey the idea of how energy-dense some foods are. However, neither category offers an insight into the nutritional quality of the foods, or takes into account the need for variety, essential for good health.

After all, not all calories are equal. A healthy meal could have as many calories as a plate of chocolate biscuits, but we know which one is
better for us. And some high-fat foods are super-healthy, such as avocados and extra-virgin olive oil.

The best approach to weight loss — rather than being guided by other people’s opinions — is to listen to your body. Get really good at paying attention to your hunger and fullness signals.

Your body lets you know when to eat and when to stop, but many of us don’t listen. Instead, we allow external influences such as time (as in ‘it’s time for lunch’) to guide us.

Focusing on your hunger levels is also the best approach to keeping weight off once you reach your desired target — as is planning meals ahead so you’ll always have a healthy option on hand when you’re hungry.