What’s Really Included in a Food’s Calorie Count?

Counting your calories with a tracking app seems pretty simple — unless you decide to get serious about it and measure your portion sizes. Then you’ll realize that an orange weighs less without the peel, that taking the skin off your baked chicken is saving you some calories, and that there’s an entry for bone-in chicken thighs. So, how many calories do you actually end up eating? Often there will be separate entries for food items with and without their skins, peels, and other commonly-discarded items. However, if you only see a single entry, here’s your rule of thumb: Portions are provided for edible material only — an apple without the core or stem, a chicken leg without the bone, or a banana without the peel. Additionally, the nutritional information for oranges is just for the flesh, not the skin and peel. On the other hand, if you’re looking at a packaged food item, you may be faced with a label that doesn’t include everything. For example, if you buy a seasoned rice mixture, the instructions may recommend adding butter while you’re cooking it. You will then have to add that butter into your calorie count. To get more details on the foods you’re counting, you might want to consult the USDA’s Food Data Central and click on the “measures” or “ingredients” for a food to get the real low-down.