How do I calculate/count the calories in a recipe?
Counting calories in your own homemade recipes can be as challenging as counting calories in ‘regular’ foods. It is a time consuming process, but you can save the results of your calorie calculations and build up a database that you can refer to for years to come. Before software programs, you would have to write out all of the ingredients, with the portions/amounts called for in a recipe, add all of the values by hand and then divide by the number of servings. You would have had to use a large reference book to find out the calorie count of all of your ingredients. Luckily, there are faster, simpler and more reliable methods now.
The best method is to type all of your ingredients, as specifically as possible, with amounts, into an online recipe analysis program, such as Calorie Count, Nutrition Data or Sparks People. Be sure to enter in all ingredients correctly. Usually, the program will tell you if it does not recognize an ingredient (it may be entered incorrectly or the ingredient may not be in the analysis database, which is a limitation of using these programs). Another common mistake is not entering the correct serving size (number of servings yielded). For example, if you are entering a lasagna recipe and forget to change the entry from ‘one’ serving to 16, it will calculate the caloric content in the entire batch! Also, there is a big difference between 12 and 16 servings. The more accurate you are in determining proper portion size for your recipe, the more closely the results will be to the true caloric content of your recipe. These programs also work for simple meals such as a grilled cheese sandwich or smoothie.
- Drummond, K.E. & Brefer, L.M.: Nutrition for Foodservice & Culinary Professionals, 7th ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, New York, 2010.
- The Mayo Clinic. "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight Loss Basics".