The term, “calorie creep” is often used to define calories that are consumed mindlessly, like eating directly out of a package instead of using a serving bowl or picking up a piece of chocolate from the office candy dish out of habit, eating while watching or working on a computer.
Portion distortion, our inability to determine a portion size, is also a contributing factor to calorie creep, like pouring an additional 2 ounces serving of wine (8 ounces portion instead of 6 ounces portion).
In addition, government “labeling rules” allow manufactures variances and this contributed to calorie creep. An example of this, is manufactures being allowed to state”0″ grams of fat, “0” grams of saturated fat and “0” grams of trans fats when the amounts in a portion of a product are less than 0.5 grams.
When the portions size is small, like a teaspoon coffee creamer in 8 ounces of coffee, it is easy to over portioning if not measured or if the user wants a creamer (lighter looking) beverage and decides to “put in a bit more”. Double the portion and now you could have 1 gram of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat or 1 gram of trans fat. With a small portion, the calories would tend to be low like 10 or 15 calories per serving (1 teaspoon). However if that coffee now becomes a 16 ounce or 24 ounce beverage, and the individual tends to over portion, chances are 3 times the creamer could be used. That could be 6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) or 60-90 calories. The fat content could be 3 grams (for a product labeled “0” grams of fat.
Calorie creep can also result from all of the extras added to foods or the plate, like taking that extra slice of buttered toast and jelly at breakfast, wrapping shrimp or scallops with bacon, doubling up on condiments like full fat mayonnaise, or eating those extra fries that your significant other left in the French fry bag.
Calorie creep can also result from adding “healthier foods” to your diet like nuts and seeds, or peanut butter to an already calorie packed smoothie … all of which can deliver a calorie boost … without removing something else from the diet to compensate for the added calories.
It can also include added sugars to foods considered “healthier”, like “candied” almonds, walnuts or pecans.
If you are monitoring your calorie intake, knowing these variables can assist in determining where calories may be creeping into the diet and planning a strategy to reduce this type of “calorie creep”. For example if someone trying to stop weight gain or reduce weight and is dining out 5 days/week; reducing it to 2X/week may reduce hidden calories in sufficient quantities to stop additional weight gain or begin to reducing weight.
Even with these variables, there is still value in tracking food intake as a strategy to weight management.
Here are some reason for the value of tracking food intake.
• Tracking food intake has been found to be one of the top tools in weight management
• Some variances will overestimate and others will underestimate resulting in an averaging of calorie intake.
• Tracking food intake will reveal patterns; like high calorie snacks, skipped meals, or low consumption of fruits and vegetables or specific diet compositions like sugar and fiber.
• Even if a data base has errors, the information supplied is a base line that can be compared with future tracking results. For example if the results from a data base show a food intake of 1200 calories daily average over a week and then goes up to 1400 calories daily average over a week, using the same data base, there is a high probability this is not a error.
• Tracking food intake is effective way to avoid calorie creep … if each and every food is recorded. For example, if butter or jelly is added to toast or margarine to vegetables it needs to be accounted for. It is often the little extras that result in calories creeping into our diet.
Sources: http://www.eolss.net/Sample-Chapters/C10/E5-10-02-00.pdf, http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-nutritionists-measure-calories.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/05/3500-calories-one-pound-fat-calorie-burn_n_2806578.html, http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/thermodynamics_of_cooking.html, http://science.jrank.org/pages/2507/Energy-Transfer-laws-thermodynamics-energy-transfer-in-food-webs.html, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolism/WT00006, http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/expert.q.a/06/05/building.muscle.nutrition.jampolis/,
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