Don't Count On Calories

Obsessing over calories and grams of fat is OK, but it's better to focus on food quality

By popular demand, I am now providing nutrition facts for all my recipes.

Though such information is useful, it may surprise you to know that I generally don’t believe in counting calories.

While some people feel a need to know how many calories they are eating, and some require it because of eating disorders or health problems, I believe it is a lot easier to simply adopt a fully healthy and balanced eating plan as well as an active lifestyle.

Generally speaking, calorie restriction diets don’t work. We mistakenly believe that weight problems are the consequence of overeating. Amira ElganBy all means, eating too much of anything translates into excess calories that our bodies convert into body fat.

The root of our weight problem, however, is not overeating or consuming too many calories. That's a symptom of the core problem, which is the poor quality of the food we eat.

Junk food is loaded with calories, but "empty" calories. Even as we gain weight, our bodies perceive nutrition starvation, which triggers intense craving.

We displace nutrient-dense foods that nature has provided and that our bodies need -- such as vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds -- with nutrient-poor foods our bodies don't recognize as food -- such as processed fast foods and sugary soft drinks. No matter how much junk food we eat, we cannot reach proper satiety because we’re not providing the nutrition the body needs — the result is perpetual hunger which, of course, triggers overeating.

A balanced, high-quality diet makes it possible to never worry about how many calories you’re eating. And that's just one of the many benefits of a good diet. If you eliminate unhealthful foods and nutritional deficiencies, you can expect the following benefits:

  • Satisfied appetite, needing to eat less food less often

  • Reduced or eliminated cravings

  • Better mental and physiological states of health

  • Better sleep

  • Hormonal balance

  • Higher energy and improved libido

  • Longer life

  • More physical comfort

  • Better appearance

  • Sharp reduction in colds and other chronic illnesses

It is well known that certain foods can slow the effects of time, while others can accelerate them. The right foods keep the body metabolism running optimally. Foods can stimulate or disrupt your entire biological state. The right nutrition keeps you feeling satisfied, preventing craving and binging. Eating only high-quality foods in proper balance makes life far more enjoyable because you don’t have to live with persistent hunger, discomfort or food-related disease.

The combination of healthy food choices coupled with regular daily exercise is the key to a healthy and enjoyable life. So when you give up junk food and nutritional deficiencies in your diet, you can also give up the cravings and the need for counting calories.

I'd love to hear from you. Click here to send e-mail!

Good Things In Store

Cascadian Farms, an organic food manufacturer, makes great whole grain cereals, which are healthier alternatives to say, the popular Honey Nut Cheerios.

Honey Nut O’s is the healthier sweetened version containing organic sugar but no preservatives, pesticides or as much sugar. Of course, the healthiest version is PurelyO’s because it has no added sugar. These can be found at Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats Market and many other health food and regular grocery stores.

Reader Comment

Hi Amira,

My wife and I are both vegetarians. We find your newsletter interesting and informative.

Just read the piece "Food For Thought" concerning the plight of Morgan Spurlock who lived on junk food for 30 days.

In 2002, I moved from New York to Florida. I drove nonstop for 21+ hours twice and the first couple of weeks in Florida, I "cheated" and ate meat for the first time in many years. I lived on McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was a complete about face for me. Since 1984, I've been a runner averaging 40 miles a week and doing 3 marathons. In great shape and cocky, I thought I would never have a health problem.

After those 2 weeks of "cheating," I went out jogging and developed shortness of breath. It happened again the next day. I went to the ER and they thought it was my heart. After explaining to them about being a runner and vegetarian for many years, it couldn't be my heart. Further tests discovered a pulmonary embolism and DVT-blood clots!!

Complete blood tests revealed no genetic problems and were completely negative. The MD thinks the nonstop driving for 21+ hours a few times and deviating from my normal lifestyle contributed to the clots. I mentioned that during the move, I ate at McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken for the first time in many, many years. But he didn't feel that was a factor. I DEFINITELY FEEL IT WAS!

Introducing fatty foods and junk into one's body after not eating it for a long time does have a negative impact, in my opinion. Needless to say, I haven't had any problems since and am back to walking, jogging and a vegetarian lifestyle. The doctor wanted me to take Coumadin (an anticoagulant drug used in "rat poison") for the rest of my life. I discontinued it in January of this year to have back surgery for a herniated disk and haven't taken it since.

I've been taking some herbs for better blood circulation like gingko biloba, ginger, horse chestnut and bromelain. Also, I read about a fermented soybean product from Japan called Natto and take Nattokinase which is the enzyme from Natto. It also works to keep the arteries and veins clear. And these supplements do it naturally without the side effects of poison like Coumadin.

After reading about Morgan Spurlock's experiment, I decided to email you to explain my experience when I temporarily got away from my active, vegetarian lifestyle. Diet does make a difference-BIG TIME!!

D. F., Florida

Words of Wisdom

“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results”.

Herman Melville

Food For Thought

Curry powder, which is one of the ingredients in this week’s recipe below, is a blend of up to 20 spices, the kinds and amounts of which vary depending on the region in India that it comes from. Curry is generally made with a mixture of turmeric, chili powder, cumin, ginger, coriander, fennel, whole cloves, mustard seeds, cardamom and whole black peppercorns. In the U.S., commercial curry comes in standard and Madras styles, the latter is hotter and both are widely available at any health food store or supermarket.

Of course, for best flavor and aroma, make your own batch of fresh curry. Here's how:

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 dried red chile, seeded and chopped
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon turmeric

Toast all the spice seeds together for 2 to 3 minutes over low heat shaking the pan constantly to keep them from burning. Transfer to a clean coffee grinder or spice mill along with the dried chili and ground to a fine powder. Add ginger, chili powder and turmeric mixing well. Store in airtight container and keep in a cool dry place.

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Spicy Tofu with Cauliflower and Chickpeas (vegan)
Serves 4

If you're in the mood for Indian food or spicy curry flavors, this complete-protein dish will do the trick. It has captures the delicious Indian savory flavors and aromas combined with Mexican chipotle. And although is low in fat and calories, it is rich in flavor and nutrients.

About the ingredients

Chipotle is a smoked-dried and very hot chile (jalapeño) pepper that is generally added to soups, stews and sauces for flavor and spiciness. The chipotle chile, which is dried by smoking, has a deep dark red color and looks wrinkled. Dried chipotle is often not easy to find. But canned chipotle “en adobo,” a tomato-based sauce flavored with spices and vinegar, is sold at most supermarkets and all Mexican grocery stores. Canned chipotles will last a several weeks to several months. Once the can is open, transfer the remaining peppers and sauce to a glass container and keep covered airtight and refrigerate for later use. Dried chipotles will last for several months but must be stored in a cool and dry place.

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
1 tablespoon canola, sunflower or safflower oil (such as Rapunzel)
1 tablespoon trans fat free margarine (such as Earth Balance)
4 fresh garlic cloves
1 medium onion peeled, cut in 4 pieces
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon peeled fresh ginger, grated
3 cups fresh cauliflower florets
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or canned chickpeas)
14 ounces fresh firm tofu, cubed (¼ inch cubes)
6 whole peeled tomatoes (or canned whole peeled tomatoes)
½ small chipotle pepper (dried or canned)
Sea salt
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

1. Process garlic and onions in the food processor or blender until finely chopped (or chop by hand with knife). In large pot, heat oil and margarine over low heat and add garlic and onions stirring and sautéing over medium heat for 5 minutes.

2. In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine curry powder, cumin and red pepper flakes mixing well. Add ginger to cooked onion mixture stirring well. Add curry powder spice blend to onion mixture stirring thoroughly. Add cauliflower, mix well, cover with lid and cook for 3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, process chipotle pepper and tomatoes in food processor or blender and set aside. Add chickpeas and tofu cooking and stirring for 2 minutes. Stir in tomato mixture, toss well and cook covered with lid for 5 minutes. Add salt if desired, top each serving with cilantro and serve.

Nutrition Facts:

Amount Per Serving






Calories From Fat (39%)




% Daily Value

Total Fat 11.90g



Saturated Fat 1.83g



Monounsaturated Fat 3.76g



Polyunsaturated Fat 5.36g



Trans Fatty Acids 0.00g



Cholesterol 0.00mg



Sodium 53.95mg



Potassium 665.81mg



Carbohydrates 26.30g



Dietary Fiber 8.61g



Sugar 6.07g



Sugar Alcohols 0.00g



Net Carbohydrates 17.68g



Protein 17.33g




% Daily Value

Vitamin A 672.03IU



Vitamin C 33.91mg



Calcium 515.15mg



Iron 4.64mg



Vitamin E 0.03IU



Thiamin 0.24mg



Riboflavin 0.16mg



Niacin 1.24mg



Vitamin B6 0.36mg



Folate 157.40µg



Pantothenic Acid 0.65mg



Phosphorus 268.33mg



Magnesium 86.98mg



Zinc 2.25mg



Copper 0.53mg



Manganese 1.63mg



Selenium 14.46µg



Percent daily value based on a 2000 calorie diet.


If you like Vegetarian Organic Life, why not share the newsletter with a friend? Just forward the newsletter and suggest that they subscribe. 

Comments? Please send e-mail to Amira at [email protected]

Like paper? Try the printer-friendly version.

This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

Copyright© 2003-2004 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.