Healthy Living Day 3: Create Your Calorie List

This is Day 3 of the 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge where hundreds of participants around the world work together to improve on their diet and fitness in January 2015. The challenge is now over, but you can do the tasks in your own time. Visit the overview page for all tasks and posts.

Healthy Living Challenge

Hi everyone!! 😀 It’s now Day 3 of our 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge. Are you ready?? Let’s get started!!

Over 230 Participants — Are You Observing from the Sidelines?

Despite the fact that we’ve over 230 registered participants right now, did you know we have over 3,000 people — non-participants — passively observing the challenge from the sidelines (i.e. reading the tasks daily be it on PE or their email but not signed up for the challenge)?? Now, 3,000 — that’s a lot of people, considering it’s 13 times the number of official participants currently!


Now, the fact is that everyone probably has his/her own reasons for not joining in. Perhaps healthy living isn’t your priority at the moment. Perhaps you’re afraid you can’t commit. Maybe you joined one of the healthy living challenges on PE before and you “failed” mid-way, so you’re afraid to join again in case you fail again. Maybe you gave up on living a healthy life because you’ve fallen off the wagon long ago. Or maybe you are skeptical about the idea of a healthy living challenge so you prefer to just watch and live vicariously.

Whatever your reason is, I only have one question for you, which is… Are you ready to join us in living a healthy life this 2015?

The fact is that every time I conduct a challenge, it is always my wish that everyone on PE can join in and participate in it together, as one big happy family. One big global family that transcends geographical boundaries, physical spaces, and time zones, to pursue common goals in life together.

You see, no matter who you are, where you are from, how old you are, or what you do, I always believe that we are never alone. We are always united by our goals and problems, and PE is simply this platform that connects us and enables us to sail through our goals together, despite obstacles we may face along the way.

Whoever you are observing this challenge passively, be it a long-time reader or a new visitor, I extend my hand today and invite you to join us in this healthy living challenge for 2015. Even though it is already Day 3 in Asia Pacific and end of Day 2 for those of you in other regions, it’s not too late to join us. You see, because when you watch silently from your aclove, you don’t give us the opportunity to know you and support you in your health/fitness goals. You aren’t giving us a chance, full stop.

However, when you join this challenge and post your progress, you allow us to connect with you, from one fellow human to another. You allow us to be in your life. Most importantly, you allow yourself to start working on your healthy living and fitness goals, all while being in the company of a proper support network and like-minded group.

No one’s saying you need to post your results every day. No one is saying you need to achieve your health/fitness goals to a tee. No one is even saying that you need to use your real name. Do what you can, post what you can, and most importantly, work on your health and fitness goals with zest! If you’ve privacy concerns, simply choose an alias. No personal information needed, just your commitment to the challenge itself. I’ll see you at the signup form, and subsequently the daily blog comment threads! 😀


My Day 2 in Pictures

Day 2 was another amazing day of delicious and healthy food! 😀 Here’s a recap of my Day 2 in pictures:

Rice salad

Brunch: Brown and white rice salad with a load of veggie goodness, from wolfberry, to zucchini, to mushroom, to black & white sesame!


Afternoon snack — a banana

Jog: 2.58km, 159 calories burned

At night, went for my 1st run in 2015 (my plan is to exercise 3 times a week). I use a (free) app called Map My Run to track my run. My total jog: 2.58km in 23 min. 159 calories burned!

Grilled mushroom overload burger

My dinner: the same grilled mushroom burger I had yesterday. It’s my favorite and I’ll probably be eating this several times during the challenge!


Went to the supermarket with Ken to shop for fruits, in line with today’s task. Strawberries, cherries, bananas, and grapes. Our house is now stocked up with fruits to last us for a week!


Supper: 30 grapes + 1 glass of hot Milo + 1 slice of bread with peanut butter (not in picture)

As I’ve shared in Day 0, my 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge goals are to (1) exercise at least three times a week, (2) Cut out deep fried / oily food from my diet, and (3) Eat salads more regularly, ideally once a day if I can. Have met all three on Day 2, and my next exercise will be on Day 4 / Sunday!


Day 2’s task is to eat (at least) five servings of fruits and vegetables, and I reckon I ate six! Target met!

  • Rice salad (1 serving)
  • Banana (1 serving)
  • Mushroom patty (2 servings)
  • Grapes (2 servings)
  • Total: 6 servings!

Check out other participants’ amazing food logs and progress updates in Day 2’s comments section!

With that, let’s move to Day 3’s task, which is…

Day 3: Create Your Calorie List

We eat every day. However, do you know the calories and nutritional information of the food you eat?

Calorie list

If you don’t, you’re not alone. Personally, I used to be totally ignorant about calories and food nutrition when I was a teen. To me, food was just food. If I was hungry, I would just eat whatever was available, usually something that I liked. If I was trying to lose weight, I would simply make myself eat lesser. That was it.

However, I gradually realized that things aren’t that simple. Let’s talk calories. I realized that one small slice of cake, despite not being very filling, can have as much as 500 calories. That’s one-whooping-quarter for a person with a 2,000-calorie expenditure, and one-third of if your daily energy expenditure which is only 1,500! (We’ll be talking about daily energy expenditure in Day 4.) I realized a simple chocolate drink from Starbucks can have over 400 calories. And I realized that pastries, cakes, sodas, and fried food, despite being calorie heavy, have little to no nutritional content.


While I had always thought that the objective of each meal was just to feed yourself with food, there is much more than meets the eye. For example,

  • I can have a McDonald’s Value Meal or a rice salad for lunch, and both will make me feel full. However, the McDonald’s meal will give me extremely little nutrition and load me up with carbohydrates refined sugars (leading to a blood sugar spike, which will likely cause diabetes in the long run), while the rice salad will not only give me sufficient calories, but will also load me up with good nutrients, make me feel full longer, and give me more energy.
  • I can consume french fries for 500 calories (512 to be precise for a pack of McDonald’s large fries) or I can have a healthy vegetable sandwich (without trans fat, preservatives, etc.) with a fruit for 500 calories. Yet, the former will make me feel bloated, give me zits, and again give me a blood sugar spike, while the latter will give me ample nutrients and great energy for a good half of the day.

Clearly, some food are more nutritious than others. And some foods (think french fries, cakes, many pastries, pasta / white rice, waffles, pancakes, ice cream, sodas, and sugared drinks), despite having a truckload of calories, have almost zero nutritional content.

Starbucks food and drinks

Examples of high-calorie yet low nutritional food and drinks that have — unfortunately — become a staple of modern society’s diet (Pictures from Starbucks)

Unfortunately, many of us consume food without knowing its nutritional content! Because of that, we make poor food choices that don’t benefit our health, in turn leading to weight gain (or weight loss for some of us), loss of energy, and long-term health problems.

This is why today’s task is to create your calorie list — a list of food items you commonly eat, along with their respective calorie and nutritional information. While it may be a little bit technical (especially if you’ve never done anything like this before), the knowledge you gain will go a long way toward conscious eating and living a healthy life.

Let’s get started! 🙂

Step 1: Create a list of food items you commonly eat (10 min)


This should include

  1. Foods you plan to eat on an ongoing basis
  2. Foods you never want to eat but end up eating anyway

Be specific. If you eat fruits, don’t just list “Fruits” since there are many kinds of fruits and each have different nutritional value! A good, specific list will be like the one below:

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Green peas
  • Brown rice
  • Instant noodles
  • Pasta (Penne)
  • Chocolate brownie
  • Dressing (Thousand Island)

Step 2: Record their nutritional information (15 min)

Create 2 new columns beside the food items to record (a) Calorie content (1 calorie = 4.18 KJ) and (b) Fat content (g). Then, record the calorie content and fat content based on the typical serving size. The reason why I’m suggesting to record these two pieces of information is because

  1. Calorie is the overall measurement of energy. Whether you achieve your ideal weight or maintain your weight comes from whether you’re consuming the right calories relative to your daily energy intake. (We’ll be talking about energy intake tomorrow in Day 4.)
  2. Calorie is merely one part of living a healthy life — it’s important to track fat content as well. Unfortunately, we live in a society today that’s filled with high-fat food items, thanks to the prevalence of fast food and convenience food! High fat diets are slow contributors to many heart diseases and illnesses and it’s important to be conscious of the fat levels in our diets. People who consume little calories may look thin, but if they consume mainly high-fat food, then they are no healthier and are equally susceptible to poor health and heart problems.

Here’s an example of my calorie list during the 2011 Healthy Living Challenge when I was trying out a high raw, vegan diet:

Example of a calorie list

Example of a calorie list for someone on a raw vegan diet

Now, certain established food chains (like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway) and processed food sold in supermarkets will come with nutritional information. If so, that’s great — record that in your table.

However, if you’re eating at restaurants or hawker centers, then you may be at a loss! Well, don’t fret! There are plenty of calorie counters online you can look up. Here are three:

  1. Calorie Count — An all-round counter with information (including carb, protein, fat, cholesterol, sodium, and dietary content) on possibly every food on earth. Over 250,000 foods in its database! I’ve used this counter for years and it works well.
  2. The Calorie Counter — Another calorie counter, in case you want an alternative!
  3. Nutrition @ SG — Live in Singapore and wondering what’s the calories in chicken rice? This site has the answers. (Warning: the answer may not be appetizing; Singapore hawker food tend to be high in calories and fat!)

Step 3: Track your calorie and fat intake today (10 min)

Now, as you progress through the day, record everything you eat and the portion sizes. Go about your day normally without restricting your food intake just because you’re tracking calories. The intent of this exercise today is be aware of the amount of calories you’re taking in with your usual eating habits.

Some things can be hard to track. For example, maybe your burger has a slice of lettuce and tomato. Maybe you have a salad that have 10 different ingredients. How are you supposed to track these things?

My answer? Focus on big rocks. If you have a chicken burger with chips, the significant items will definitely be the patty, the burger buns, and the chips. If you have a rice salad like I did in Day 2 with a variety of ingredients in very small quantities, then I’d focus on the main bits (the brown rice and white rice) along with the dressing, especially since the calories for vegetables are very low in general.

Example of a calorie list (actual daily intake)

Example of my calorie tracking for one of the days in the 2011 Healthy Living Challenge. I subsequently realized that I was consuming way too much fat than I wanted to, and it was only through tracking my calorie/fat intake that I realized that!

After you’re done for the day, the big question comes to this: Are you overeating or under-eating every day? We’ll find out soon enough! Tomorrow / Day 4, we will be calculating our TDEE / Total Daily Energy Expenditure, which will help us identify our daily energy needs and the number of calories we need to eat daily to meet these needs.

Next, Follow Your Plan for Day 3 (Take Pictures Too!)

What tasks have you set for Day 3 of your 14-Day Healthy Living Plan? Do them today!

Take pictures of your healthy meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and mid-day snacks if any — and share them in the comments section. 😀 After all, a picture tells a thousand words, and when you share photos of your healthy meals, it inspires others to eat healthily and gives them ideas on what healthy food they can have too!

Post your initial comment sharing your results for today’s challenge task, then add on throughout the day as you have your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or if you’re doing any workouts. Attach photos of your meals by clicking the image icon on the bottom left of every comment box. As you add on to your comment thread, be sure to click on the reply button directly below your original comment so that you reply to your own thread (as opposed to starting a new thread).

Share Your Results (and Photos!)

Share in the comments section!

  1. Your total calorie and fat intake for today
  2. Your progress with your healthy living plan today
  3. Pictures of your meals
  4. Pictures of your workout (if any)

Do check out the other participants’ comments too and share a word of encouragement or two. We’re all in this together, so let’s support each other as a group! 🙂

After you’re done, proceed to Day 4: Calculate Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure!

Image: Women runningCalorie list

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