When it comes to high calorie foods, there are a few items that stand out from the rest. Understanding which foods contain the most calories can help people make informed choices about what they eat. In this article, we will explore some of the foods highest in calories and look at why they contain so many calories.
What Does High Calorie Mean?
First, let’s start by defining what is meant by “high calorie.” Calories are a measure of the energy content in food. The more calories a food contains, the more energy it provides to the body. The recommended daily calorie intake for adults ranges from 1,600-2,400 calories depending on age, gender, and activity level. A food that contains 400 or more calories per standard serving is generally considered high calorie.
Foods that are high in fat, sugar, or both tend to be very high in calories because fat and sugar are such concentrated sources of energy. Fat contains 9 calories per gram while carbohydrates like sugar contain just 4 calories per gram. This means foods like oils, baked goods, fried foods, and sweets pack in a lot of calories in small servings.
10 Foods Highest in Calories
Here are 10 foods that are among the highest in calories, based on calories per standard serving size:
|French fries||Medium serving (117g)||365|
|Chicken wings with sauce||6 wings (454g)||758|
|Cheesecake||1 slice (125g)||500|
|Lasagna||1 piece (294g)||847|
|Donut||1 medium donut (104g)||343|
|Mac and cheese||1 cup (259g)||758|
|Cheddar cheese||1 oz (28g)||115|
|Bacon||2 slices (30g)||54|
|Cashews||1 oz (28g)||163|
|Granola||1/2 cup (43g)||446|
As you can see, restaurant and pre-packaged foods like fries, wings, lasagna, and mac and cheese are some of the biggest calorie bombs. This is mainly due to being fried in oil or cooked with lots of fat, cheese, and heavy sauces. Desserts also rank high due to their massive amounts of added sugar. Nuts and cheese are other foods that pack a lot of calories in small servings thanks to their high fat content.
Why Do These Foods Have So Many Calories?
There are a few key reasons why the foods on this top 10 list contain so many calories:
They are high in fat
Fat is incredibly energy dense, providing 9 calories per gram. Foods that are high in fat like cheese, nuts, bacon, and fried foods contain a lot more calories than lower fat options. For example, cheddar cheese provides nearly 9 times more calories than the same serving of carrots. Frying foods adds a lot of fat during cooking, so fried foods are doubly high in calories.
They contain a lot of added sugar
Sugar is another very dense source of calories, providing 4 calories per gram. Foods with a lot of added sugars like cake, ice cream, and donuts pack in the calories through sheer sugar content. A 1/2 cup serving of chocolate frosting has 440 calories just from sugar alone. Compare that to the same serving of carrots which provides only 30 calories.
They combine fat and sugar
Many high calorie foods feature a deadly combination of fat and added sugars. This one-two punch magnifies the calorie counts to staggering levels. Foods like cheesecake, chocolate, and granola bars all contain both fat and added sugars. This makes them a double whammy when it comes to calories per serving size.
They are energy dense
Energy dense foods have a high number of calories packed into a small serving size. For example, a donut may not seem that big, but provides over 340 calories. Oils are another prime example, offering nearly 120 calories per tablespoon despite being a liquid fat. Energy dense foods can really add up calories without making you feel very full or satisfied after eating them.
Calories from alcohol
While not on the top 10 list, alcoholic drinks are another prime source of empty calories. A 12oz can of beer provides 150 calories, while a standard serving of wine or liquor contains 100-120 calories. Those liquid calories can quickly tally up when having multiple drinks. Plus, alcohol lowers inhibitions which can lead to consuming even more high calorie options like fries or wings.
Healthiest and Lowest Calorie Foods
To provide some balance, here are examples of some of the healthiest foods that are lowest in calories:
|Broccoli||1 cup, chopped (156g)||55|
|Carrots||1 cup, sliced (128g)||53|
|Cucumber||1 cup, sliced (152g)||16|
|Grapefruit||1 medium (131g)||52|
|Kale||1 cup, chopped (67g)||8|
|Cantaloupe||1 cup, diced (156g)||54|
|Apple||1 medium (182g)||95|
|Sweet potato||1 medium, baked (114g)||103|
|Edamame||1/2 cup shelled (72g)||94|
|Tofu||1/2 cup (126g)||88|
As you can see, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and plant proteins provide the most nutrition and satisfaction for the least amount of calories. Building meals around these low calorie, nutrient-dense foods is the best way to stay healthy while controlling calorie intake.
When it comes to high calorie foods, fried foods, desserts, fatty meats, cheese, nuts, and alcohol provide the most calories per standard serving. This is mainly due to being high in fat, sugar, or both. On the flip side, vegetables, fruits, legumes and plant proteins are some of the healthiest low-calorie options. Being mindful of servings when eating calorie-dense foods and focusing on nutritious, low calorie choices most of the time is the best strategy for staying satisfied while keeping calories under control. Use the tips in this article to make informed food choices to meet your health goals.