Belfast Telegraph

Not everyone has the appetite for sticking to a healthy diet

By Sharon Owens

Did you know that some hospitals in the UK have fast food outlets in the foyer? A standard fast food meal, including a burger, French fries and a fizzy drink, could contain 1,000 calories. But presumably those people counting calories could ask for a burger, no fries and a diet drink?

Or they could have tea or coffee and a bag of fresh fruit pieces instead? Frankly, I don't see what the problem is.

There's a long-standing legend in my family circle that I 'eat like a horse' and never gain weight.

I don't know how this legend got started for I was a child who loved eating salad and vegetables.

But somehow the idea that I was a big eater became accepted fact and, being an easy-going soul, I never challenged it.

However, I was recently upgraded from 'eating like a horse' to a 'lucky cow' and suddenly I wanted to know my exact calorie intake.

So I bought a pocket-sized calorie counter book and kept a food diary.

The results were startling.

My daily calorie intake for the month of August 2010 averaged at 1,300 calories, which is probably why I have a normal Body Mass Index of 21.3.

For breakfast I have a small glass of fresh orange juice, three heaped tablespoons of fruit and nut muesli with semi-skimmed milk and about three cups of Redbush tea (400 calories).

For lunch I might have a can of tomato and basil soup and two small slices of hi-bran bread with a scrape of olive spread (300 calories). And for dinner I like a bean burger on a wholegrain bun with a large green salad and some fruit for dessert (400 calories).

As a treat I'll have either a Wispa chocolate bar, a small packet of Cool Doritos or a glass of rose wine (each has around 200 calories).

This all adds up to a grand total of 1,300 calories and that's not too bad for a tall person with a sedentary job.

I try to walk every day, even if it's only a 20-minute stroll to the post-box and back.

And I do all my own housework which adds up to an hour a day of vacuuming carpets, folding laundry and obsessively plumping sofa-cushions.

I eat out about once a month, but always choose something relatively healthy and I rarely have dessert.

I don't add sugar to tea and coffee and I hardly ever touch cakes and biscuits.

And I never, but never, eat takeaway meals. I don't eat deep-fried food because it brings me out in spots that take weeks to fade.

At home, I never fry anything; eggs are boiled, tomatoes are baked in the oven with one teaspoon of olive oil and bread is grilled or toasted.

As for chips, I make my own by tossing a freshly peeled and diced potato in one tablespoon of olive oil and one pinch of dried paprika and baking in the oven for 20 minutes.

If I'm having salad, I use fresh lemon juice as a dressing.

Did you know that most oils contain 135 calories per single tablespoon? I didn't know that - but I do now. So there you have it: I do not eat like a horse. It's official.

I'd advise anyone who is overweight to buy themselves a little book like mine and keep a food diary for one month.

Doing this has really opened my eyes to the hidden calories in some foods.

Tiny little cookies, for example, contain a staggeringly high amount of calories.

Peanut butter sandwiches are another surprise villain: two rounds of seeded wholegrain spread liberally with peanut butter can contain more than 400 calories. Two rounds of peanut butter sandwiches and a soft drink could add up to more than 1,000 calories.

That's almost your entire calorie allowance if you're on a diet.

I'd also advise dieters to cut down on caffeine and take a multi-vitamin.

Did you know that many overweight people are actually malnourished because they keep filling up on 'empty' calories?

Perhaps that's why overweight people crave food in the first place?

Our bodies need food, but if we keep giving them the wrong sort of food, our bodies are never satisfied, so they keep asking for more.

And if anyone else calls me a lucky cow, I'll be whipping out my calorie counter, totting up their average daily intake and giving them a lecture on empty calories.

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