Why You Don’t Need to Count Calories

Why You Don’t Need to Count Calories

Counting calories is hard.

Even if you’re using a calorie counting app, it takes a ton of discipline to do it right. Which is why most people fall off after a few weeks or even a few days.

If you’re trying to manage your calorie intake, it may be helpful to know - counting calories can be totally unnecessary.

The real key to meal planning is simply understanding calories.

Once you have a grasp of nutrition basics, you’ll have no problem beautiful-minding all sorts of nutritious meals, tailored to your fitness goals - whether that is to lose or gain weight, build muscle mass or the ability to maintain a balanced diet.

We’re going to cover these 5 basic elements to eating a healthy diet - without counting calories

  1. What are calories?
  2. Your Tolerance to Carbohydrates
  3. Food Servings
  4. Food Groups
  5. Food Pyramid

1 | What are Calories?

Calories are your body’s source of energy. There are three main types of energy, called Macronutrients: Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates.

Infographic showing foods under Macronutrient/calorie categories


Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy - the fuel for your body to work on a basic level, and everything in between, including your brain function. This is why a lack of good nutrition will leave you with a bit a of brain fog.

The rule of thumb is to indulge in Complex carbs like whole grains and vegetables, and avoid Simple carbs like junk food, snacks and packaged foods.

1 g of Carbohydrates = 4 Calories


Fats are your secondary source of energy, if you run out of energy from carbs. Fats are responsible for a host of duties in your body including managing your cholesterol and absorbing essential fatty acids, vitamins  and minerals.

The rule of thumb is to indulge in Unsaturated fats like fish, and olive oil, limit saturated fats in meats and dairy, and avoid trans fats in packaged and frozen foods and margarine.

1 g of Fats = 9 Calories


Protein contains amino acids, the building blocks of your body. Protein is needed for every function in your body, down to the cellular level. Most importantly for your health and fitness, protein is needed to repair and rebuild muscles. Protein would only be used as energy if you were in starvation mode.

You don’t need to worry about getting too much protein in your diet since your body excretes any excess. However, try to limit protein from animal sources since they are higher in saturated fats. For extra protein, add a protein supplement or a variety of nuts, seeds, legumes and beans into your diet.

1 g of Protein = 4 Calories

2 | Your Carbohydrate Tolerance

Your tolerance to carbs determines how your body will metabolize the energy.

If you have a high tolerance to carbs, you will burn energy very quickly and have a hard time gaining and maintaining weight. If you have a low tolerance to carbs, you may not metabolize blood sugar fast enough to avoid it being stored in fast cells, making it easier to weight gain.

The speed of your metabolism is directly correlated to your Carb Tolerance - a high carb tolerance means a high metabolism and a low carb tolerance means a low metabolism.

Instead of trying to “increase your metabolism”, work with the metabolism you have. Eating the right foods for your body will have a huge impact on the efficiency of your metabolism.

This is why you should determine your body type before starting a Meal Plan or Workout Plan. Based on your physical characteristics you can decide which category you fall into - and read more on fitness and nutrition tips geared to your body.

Determine Your Carb Tolerance

Each body type has a ratio of calorie needs, based on Carb Tolerance. By figuring out how your body tolerates carbs, you can adjust your diet accordingly. Once you’re eating the right amount of carbs, you’re body will respond with a more efficient metabolism.

Low Carb Tolerance & Metabolism

Infographic showing traits of an Endomorph Body Type

  • If you have an Endomorph Body Type you don’t tolerate carbs well.
  • Eat less carbs and more fats in your diet.

Balanced Carb Tolerance & Metabolism

Infographic showing traits of a Mesomorph Body Type

  • If you have an Mesomorph Body Type you tolerate carbs moderately well.
  • Eat a balanced diet

High Carb Tolerance & Metabolism

Infographic showing traits of an Ectomorph Body Type

  • If you have an Ectomorph Body Type you tolerate carbs very well. Almost too well - your metabolism burns so fast you have a very hard time gaining weight.
  • Eat more carbs and less fats in your diet.

3 | Food Servings

The 1 Handful Method

Before we get into what to eat, we’re going to talk about how much to eat. The important part of understanding food portions is knowing what constitutes a serving.

For instance, you’ve heard you should only have one serving of starchy carbs in your meal - well, how much is that? It’s simple.

1 Handful = 1 Serving

Your hand is the perfect size to scale out the servings you need of each food. This golden rule can be applied to any food in any food group. It even applies to liquids, although we don’t recommend using your hands as a measure!

  • 1 Handful of potatoes, rice or other starchy carbs
  • 1 Slice of bread
  • 1 piece of fruit
  • 1 Palmful of oil
  • 1 Handful of greens or veggies
  • 1 Egg

4 | The Food Groups

There are 5 major food groups for a healthy diet: Grains, Proteins, Veggies & Fruits, Dairy and Fats.

Food can contain any combination of Macronutrients and cross over between groups, but for the most part, foods fall into one main Calorie category - this makes it easy to divide your plate into your ratio.



4 - 6
Breads like whole grain, white, rye, pita, naan
1 Slice, ½ Bagel, 1 Pita, 1 Naan
Breakfast cereals like whole wheat, whole grain whole oats, porridge, muesli
1 Handful
Whole grains like rice, barley, corn, polenta, buckwheat, spelt, millet, sorghum, triticale, rye, quinoa, semolina
1 Handful
Other grains like pasta, rice cakes, couscous, bulgur, popcorn, flour
1 Handful


5 - 6
Dark green veggies like broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbages, cauliflower, kale, Lettuce, silverbeet, spinach, snow peas
1 Handful
Root/tubular/bulb vegetables like potato, cassava, sweet potato, taro, carrots, beetroot, onions, shallots, garlic, bamboo shoots, swede, turnip
1 Handful
Other vegetables like tomato, celery, sprouts, zucchini, squash, avocado, capsicum, eggplant, mushrooms, cucumber, okra, pumpkin, green peas, green beans
1 Handful
Legumes/beans like red kidney beans, soybeans, lima beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, tofu
1 Handful


NOTE: Your vegetable to fruit daily ratio should be 1 fruit serving per 3 vegetable servings.

Small fruits: Apricots, kiwis, plums, tangerines
1 Handful or 2 pieces
Medium fruits: Apples, oranges, pears, bananas
1 Handful or 1 piece
Large Fruits: Grapefruit, Mangoes, Pineapple, melons
1 Handful or ½ piece
Grapes cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, currants, or dried fruit
1 Handful



1 - 3 a Day, to 7 a Week
Lean meats like beef, lamb, veal, pork and poultry like chicken, turkey, duck
1 Handful
Seafood like white fish, pink fish, prawns and shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams
1 Handful
1 Egg
Legumes and beans like kidney beans, soybeans, lima beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, split peas, peanuts, lentils, tofu.
1 Handful
Nuts and seeds like almonds, pine nuts, walnut, macadamia, hazelnut, cashew, nut butters and spreads, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
1 Handful or 1 tablespoon of nut butter

2 - 3
Milks, including all reduced fat or full cream milks, powdered milk, evaporated milk, soy beverages
1 Cup
Yogurts, including reduced fat or full cream, plain or flavoured, soy yogurts
1 Handful or 1 Small Container
Cheeses including all hard or soft cheeses, reduced or full fat, like cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta,  Edam, Gouda, cheese curds and soy cheeses
1 Handful or 1 Slice


Unsaturated Fats

2 - 3
1 Handful or ½ Piece
Fatty Fish, like salmon, tilapia and tuna
1 Handful
Vegetable, nut and seed oils like olive, canola, peanut, sunflower, sesame
1 Palmful or 1 Tablespoon
Nuts, seeds, peanut butter and other nut butters
1 Handful or 1 Tablespoon of nut butter


5 | Eat By The Pyramid

To put the food groups in a visual perspective, they fit nicely within a pyramid. The tip of the pyramid shows what you should eat the least - and not surprisingly, it’s junk food.

The bulk of your diet comes from complex carbs - whole grains, veggies and fruits. Followed by proteins and fats. Animal proteins should be limited to 7 servings a week because you want to keep your saturated fat intake low.

If you’re working out, try a protein supplement to keep your protein intake higher without the unhealthy fats.

Infographic of a food pyramid


Eat Healthy Without Counting Calories

Understanding why you need certain foods and what they do for your body, means you don't have to to count every calorie to maintain a healthy diet.

Learning how to fuel your body for an efficient metabolism will help you reach your goals faster than ever.

Stick to these simple steps and you'll restocking to a healthy diet in no time:

  1. Understanding Calories
  2. Determine Your Body Type and Tolerance to Carbohydrates
  3. Understanding Food Servings and the 1 Handful Rule
  4. Knowing your Food Groups
  5. Eat by the Food Pyramid