Increasing the quality of calories

A new concept called ‘The Quality Calorie’ has launched, focusing on the nutritional quality of diets as well as the number of calories being consumed.

The British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF) concept encourages the importance of overall diet quality, ensuring that individuals are consuming the right kinds of calories – those that offer good nutritional value over those with little or none – as well as the number being consumed.

When making food choices it’s important to remember that it’s not just about the number of calories a food or a drink contains but the overall nutritional quality of the item. For example, eating 2 chocolate digestives or a lollipop contains a similar number of calories to a handful of nuts or an apple, respectively. Yet the biscuits and lollipop contain far more free sugar (and saturated fat in the biscuit’s case) than the nuts or apple, which are also a source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. By looking purely at the calorie content, one might be tempted to choose the biscuits or lollipop and avoid the more nutritionally rich foods.

In applying The Quality Calorie (QC) concept, it is hoped that the nutritional quality of diets will improve through increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and fibre alongside vitamins and minerals like folate, iron and vitamin C and lowering consumption of free sugar, salt and saturated fat etc.

As part of the concept, the BNF has created a useful resource that encourages individuals to make healthier food choices by suggesting simple food and drink swaps and helpful tips on how to ‘QC’ meals. For example swapping chocolate covered cereal and whole milk, for porridge made with semi-skimmed milk, sliced banana and cinnamon – this increases B vitamins, potassium and wholegrains while reducing the amount of free sugars.

It is important to remember the role portion size plays in weight management, this shouldn’t be forgotten when ‘QC’ing’ meals and should be done so in moderation.

myfood24 provides real-time feedback on over 100 nutrients and emphasises the importance of overall diet and nutritional quality, not just focusing on calories alone. It can play an important role in helping steer people towards healthier eating options. myfood24 can be used by individuals or by dietitians and other health professionals to provide a clear picture on nutritional intake and identify areas of diet where a small change could deliver a major improvement in health.

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