Accurate Frozen Dinner Calorie Method
I don't really do this most of the time because usually the calorie estimates on the box are close enough, but there is a way to calculate about how many calories are really in your frozen dinner.
There will still be some variation but you can get a more accurate count this way.
Each frozen dinner is labeled with a grams number right next to the serving size. For example, Smart Ones Chicken in Spicy Peanut Sauce is labeled this way: Serving Size: 1 package (255 g)
So here's what you do. Take a plate and put it on your food scale. Zero it out and make sure the unit is in grams. It should read Zero grams. Empty the cooked dinner onto the plate and see how many grams it is.
Let's say that you measure 270 grams of actual food in the frozen dinner. Take that number and divide it by the number of grams for the serving size.
270/255 = 1.059
Take this number and multiply it by the number of calories per serving. In this case, the calories for 1 serving at 255 grams are listed as 250 calories on the box.
So here's the math:
250 x 1.059 = 264.75
Now you have a more accurate calorie count.
If you've entered the frozen dinner information as a custom food in your list, then you would enter this as 1.06 servings in your food log.
I'm not understanding this. If the cooked meal is more than what the frozen meal says the calories are, then you are 'deriving those calories' from more weight showing up on the scale when you weigh the meal, cooked. I'm thinking that the heavier weight is due to water that has melted into the cooked meal, the water having come from frosted food (water is zero calories). So, where are extra calories coming from? I don't think there are calories being added. Just water. This assumes that the calories listed on the box are correct - and you're right, they are usually close enough.... the nutritional values are calculated from the production process (the manufacturer has some stake in making sure that portion sizes are accurate - portions mean money to the manufacturer).
The water, I guess, would come from the freezing process.
I sometimes make frozen meals from homemade, and the texture does change when I look at the thawed or thawing product. Mainly because water has accumulated on the surface of the mashed potatoes, for example, and then the method of cooking determines what happens to that water (does it bake off in high heat or just get reabsorbed? depends...)
However, what I put in the foil pie pan doesn't change as far as calories go, that I am sure of!
That's my reasoning about frozen foods. I just go with what they say. Sure, there's variation, but, like money, the producer has a strong interest in keeping the portions uniform.
I posted this because some people are concerned about the calorie counts on packaged food being inaccurate. This still isn't a full proof method, but if someone is concerned about this, this is more accurate than going by the calorie count on the package.
There IS a significant difference sometimes in the amount of calories in the food versus the amount of calories listed on the package. If you're generally eating a low calorie diet anyway it might not matter, but some people count all their calories up and still don't lose weight because the discrepancy.
I've noticed many times if I weigh out an amount of food that it's often more than what is listed on the package as being in that package.
Try it for example with a bag of goldfish crackers. The bag says 187 grams of crackers are in the bag, but if you pour it out and weigh it on a food scale, there's a good chance there could be 195 or even 200 grams in the package.
This is for people who want a seriously accurate calorie count. Some people count calories per the package and are still struggling. This is a way to help them to be able to reach their goals.
It could be that water is part of the freezing process, but let's assume it is not. That leaves just the liquid that somehow 'leaks' from the food itself. It was part of the food, stays part of the food, albeit frozen stuff you see pooled around the frozen food when it melts. The only way that food would 'gain' calories is if calories were added, with some additive that is not listed on the list of ingredients. In a nutshell, that is my point - that nothing was added, and if it were added, it would most likely be water during the freezing process.
In your example, you take something that is reported to weigh 255 grams but when you weigh it, it weighs 270 grams. There are two things that could be happening - water somehow was added during the freezing process (no calories) or the manufacturer allows for some variation in the weight of the food. The manufacturer is extremely motivated to observe strict portion control - that's how they make their money, controlling portions when they turn out product from the raw materials they have. So... to make sure that is not water, just thaw and drain the frozen meal, if you can. then weigh it. Most likely, it will have some gravy or some liquid so that's difficult to do and still keep the integrity of the dish. Even better, when you drain the meal after thawing, cook the liquid and reduce it by half, on top of the stove. You will have a more intensely flavored sauce. You add it to your thawed meal and bake it in the oven. If you weighed the whole thing beforehand, you'd see that it is even lighter (less water, because it cooked off, but no more calories than you started with!)
Let's move away from the frozen dinners for a moment because apparently you're getting really confused about water somehow magically being added to a dish just by freezing it. I don't know where you think this water comes from if it wasn't there already.
This method works for just about any other packaged food. The serving size is given in grams. For example it could say 1/4 cup is 28 grams. So if you meausure by eye 1/4 cup, then you're going to think you're getting the amount of calories that are present in 28 grams, but in reality you could have just measured out 31 grams.
28 grams of almonds is 162 calories. 31 grams of almonds is 179 calories. Maybe not a huge difference but if someone keeps making mistakes like that all day, they will add up fast, and then they could be confused as to why they're not losing any weight.
My point is that the gram measure is always more accurate than the volume measure. If you're plating up your food and measuring everything by volume, whether it's cereal, nuts, vegetables, etc. and not weighing it by grams, then your calorie count on paper is going to be different from what you actually ate. 1 cup or one package of something is always going to be a less accurate measure than if you had weighed the food.
I agree that gram measure is going to be accurate. Because you're doing it yourself. What I am questioning is whether a manufacturer isn't scrupulous about measuring out what product is produced... it's in the manufacturer's interest to make it as accurate as possible, because of the cost of ingredients.
I remember my Weight Watchers leader's comment that if a database says x calories and the box says y calories, go by the y calories. The manufacturer has more rules to go by and standards to meet and economic incentives to get the ingredients exact.
But if it helps a dieter to measure and recalculate, then by all means, measure and recalculate!
I don't know why Kathy but sometimes the measure is really wrong. For example I got those packages of purple potatoes in the produce section. It said that one serving was a certain amount of potatoes and then it had a gram measure. The number of potatoes it took to get to that gram measurement was always less than the number of potatoes stated. Also people can be inaccurate when they measure something by eye in a cup. I figure it's pretty common for people to play games where they think "well if I add a little more it won't go over this line", etc. whereas it's harder to cheat yourself or mismeasure if you weigh it.
Most of the time the gram measurement as weighed by the scale versus the "one whole package" serving size is pretty similar, but it can be off by enough to cause a difference in calories that's significant.
This thread is mostly for people who really are trying to count their calories but just aren't seeing any progress. Sometimes all you need is a more accurate method of counting.
I also think I figured out what that water is that you're talking about. When water freezes, it expands, and if at some point it melts again, it's going to leave a pool of liquid on top of the food. It wasn't added to or taken away from the food (there's no additional liquid created by the freezing process) but came from the food itself and is part of what is intended in the gram measurement even though it doesn't have any calories in its own right.
I want to say that food manufacturers are allowed up to a 20% error rate in terms of their nutritional information, which makes being accurate very difficult and yet another reason to eat more "real" food and less out of a box.
I noticed something weird yesterday evening. I had a baked potato with dinner. For planning purposes, I entered it raw as weighed in grams, then once I cooked it, I weighed it in grams again...and there was a 10 calorie difference. Not a huge deal, but how did 10 calories get added just by cooking?
I guess it all just goes to show it's not an exact science by any means. I often wonder just how accurate it really is, and hope that the overages and shortages just even each other out.
If food manufacturers are allowed up to 20% difference in their calorie counts, then it makes more sense to look carefully at the weight of a serving. I don't think that economically speaking, the manufacturers would want to let more food go into a package than what they say, but maybe they get it all worked out in the accounting books. I'm guessing that frozen meals and bagged veggies (examples) are mainly frozen and packaged with machines doing the work, and the machines get calibrated.
A bag of potatoes is another story. What they call a serving may be hard to randomly pull out of a bag of different sized items... same with fruit or bagged onions.
If you weigh a raw potato and then bake it in the microwave and it ends up being heavier, I have no idea how that could happen. I imagine your scale must be accurate and you zero in before weighing each time so it's a mystery where those 10 calories came from!
Also, IIRC, the 20% error does not have to do with the weight (more food or less food per package), it has to do with the calorie / nutrition counts of the serving size. Take a look at this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/he...calo.html?_r=0. So no matter how accurately we weigh and calculate, we might still be off a good bit!
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