Fit for Life: Calories. It All Adds Up

Saturday, February 22, 2014
Matt Espeut, GoLocalWorcester Health + Lifestyle Contributor

“I went out for dinner last night, and wasn't that bad with my eating.” I hear this all the time and I am sure many other trainers have heard some variation of this story. I wrote an article a few weeks ago about the cost of being healthy and how you can be on a budget, and still do it. But let's face it - most training clients are not on a very tight budget. And one would think things are easier when you can afford trainers, cooks, massages, high quality food etc., but the problematic flip side to this is that this type of person eats out more frequently, attends more social gatherings, and business events, all which center around social eating.

Estimating calories when eating out

So I am going to give you a few examples of where your calories are and why you won't make any improvements eating out. First, you sit down you order a drink. Let's say a glass of wine. Ok so let's start adding. That's 80 calories of sugar on an empty stomach. Great way to get the insulin in your system out of control. Because you do not want to get tipsy you reach for the bread , but you are health conscious so you opt out of the butter for the healthier olive oil, which still carries 120 calories per tablespoon, easily absorbed into the bread. Add 40 calories just for the bread. So with a conservative figure 1 glass of wine 1 piece of bread w/ oil = 240 calories before you touch a morsel of “real food”. And I say conservative because after the first drink, inhibitions get weak, and spiked blood sugar causes excessive hunger, so one piece of bread or drink is unusual.

When multiple couples dine, usually appetizers are ordered family style. Unless everyone is health conscious, there is a good chance a pizza or fried calamari will be ordered. But you order a salad – “with dressing on the side, please”. Guess what? Figure another 120 calories worth of oil/dressing, some blue cheese crumbles and the salad, plus just one bite of something, a taste even, and that brings the appetizer round to a modest 200 + 240 pre app = 440 calories going into the dinner round.

Now we are primed and ready to eat, but trying to be fit requires sacrifices, so you shoot for the healthy omega 3's and order the salmon with quinoa and vegetables. As healthy as it is, we still need to add 157 calories per 4 ounce piece of fish which is about 1/2 order in most places, and quinoa carries 170 calories per 1/2 cup, and cooks are more concerned about taste than calories so the olive oil runs rapidly in the kitchen adding hundreds of calories to a meal. So let's figure 450 calories on dinner + the previous 440 and now we have 990 calories if we pass on dessert, and many people eat out more than once a week. That is 1/2 of a lot of people's daily requirements on one meal.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not a big calorie counter/pincher, and I advise people to up the quality of their food first, and in most cases they lose weight, feel less bloated/inflamed, eating quality food. I won't start counting calories until results hit a plateau, but I always recommend grazing and spreading them out among 5-6 feedings, not 1 or 2. When you consume this many calories in one sitting, you will gain weight. Guaranteed. And I just detailed someone ordering with some concept of healthy food. THIS IS A MODEST ESTIMATE of a meal in a restaurant. I want to make it clear that I am not bashing restaurants, or trying to deter you from eating out and being social, because there are many good ones here. I am just trying to create awareness as to where your calories are hiding, and remind you to pay attention to small details to live healthier. So go out and enjoy food, just don't kid yourself about the amount of calories you are eating, and stop scratching your head and guessing why you are not reaching your goals.


Matt Espeut has worked as a personal trainer for almost 20 years with clients ranging in age from 14 to 86. His focus is on overall health, strength, and functional conditioning. Holistic health and nutrition is the cornerstone of all his programs. Matt works in private and small group training available at your home or office location or at gym facilities. Matt offers his services to everyone wanting to be more fit and healthy, overweight young people, youth/collegiate athletes, and seniors. Matt has worked and continues to train at several facilities in the Providence area including Gold's Gym and CORE Studio, and he believes continued education is a must in his field. Email Matt:, check out his website at or on Facebook at Matt Espeut or on Twitter @MattEspeut.

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