Weight weight (don't tell me)

Source: ChooseMyPlate.gov

Source: ChooseMyPlate.gov

"Even if you could do it accurately—and you really can’t—counting calories is unhelpful for weight loss and disease prevention."

That's the lead in a Time Magazine article about counting calories, which explains that all calories are not equal, and also tells us that the calorie count on packaged food may be up to 20% higher than listed - and still in compliance with FDA regulations.

So, as a smart consumer of data, what should you look for when consuming your next meal?

  • Start with considering which data you're using to measure your food. Calories? Grams of sugar? Sodium content? Popcorn might be a healthy snack for some people - but not for someone with high blood pressure who's trying to monitor their salt.
  • Pay attention to claims on food packaging. For example, many breakfast cereals advertise that they're made with whole grains. But how much better are whole grains compared to refined grains? Are whole grains the top ingredient, or further down the list? Should you even be eating whole grains - or would you be better off with a veggie omelet?
  • How many calories are you drinking throughout the day through soda, sports drinks, coffee drinks and other beverages? Do you pay attention to these calories as much as you watch what's on your plate?
  • What tools are you using to measure your progress? An analog scale? Digital scale that measures your body mass index (BMI)? Do you count your steps on a Fitbit or other fitness tracker?
  • Who is the best source of accurate advice when it comes to your diet? Consumer magazines? The government? Your physician? Is the advice you're getting cherry picked?

Questions about food data? Let us know in the comments. And don't forget to sign up for email updates from John. We look forward to hearing from you.