Curry Calorie Count. Part One

Every so often I get asked why I don’t put on weight eating all the curries that I make.

And this is from people who think that I only make a curry at the weekend from the range of great curry recipes from the Curry Focus website.

I actually eat curry a lot more than that. I often make an extra batch of curry and rice at weekends and freeze them into meal-sized portions that I can take to work for my lunch (my workplace has a kitchen with a microwave so heating up the curry is easy).

This gives me a hot lunch that is a lot tastier than one of those overpriced sandwiches that I can buy from the local sandwich bar.

So the real question is this – how many calories are there in a curry?

And extra questions that come to mind are:

a) From a calorie perspective, how does a curry compare to a non-curry meal?
b) Do you gain weight or lose weight by eating curries?
c) Can you have a curry if you’re on a diet?

Like a lot of simple looking questions, the answers are a bit complicated.

There are basically four different ways of getting a curry – you can make it at home yourself, eat it in a curry house (or restaurant), have a takeaway to eat at home or buy a readymade (frozen) curry from a supermarket (or shop).

But before we start talking about calories, what is a calorie? I’ve researched this on the Internet and it’s all to do with the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a gram of water by one degree Celsius. Nowadays the more modern measurement is the joule.

But we’re not interested in raising the temperature of water, are we?

We want to know how many calories are in food. And this is where the terminology gets even more confusing because what is referred to as a food calorie is really 1,000 gram calories. If you look at the nutrition information on food labels, you’ll see the energy described as kcal (kcal stands for kilocalorie, which is 1,000 calories) or kilojoules (the abbreviation for kilojoule is kJ – there’s that k once more and again it stands for 1,000). You’ll probably find kilojoules used a lot more than kilocalories because kilojoules is the more modern, and accepted, way of measuring the energy content of food.

Now here’s the real conversion that you need. One kilocalorie equals 4.184 kilojoules (if you prefer a nice round number, you could say that one kilocalorie equals 4 kilojoules).

We’ve gone a little bit off-topic here but we’re nearly finished this technical stuff.

Now I’m not going to tell you how many kilocalories you need to maintain your current body weight or to reach your ideal weight (whatever that means). If you want to find this out then look at one of the hundreds of weight loss and diet websites out there.

But depending upon your height, sex, age and activity level (whether you just sit around all day, exercise hard most days or something in between) you’re usually going to need somewhere between 1,200 and 3,000 kilocalories (or 5,024 and 12,560 kilojoules) every day.

To find out the kilocalories or kilojoules in the food that you’re eating, all you have to do is add up the kilocalories or kilojoules of each ingredient of the meal.

That sounds easy but it is sometimes difficult.

To start with, it’s very hard to find the energy content of a curry when you’re eating a takeaway or restaurant curry. Not unless you’re a scientist and/or have a laboratory that can analyse the food for you. You can always ask for the energy content (kilocalories or kilojoules) but most times you’ll just receive a blank look. Some restaurants do sometimes know the energy content in their dishes but this is usually based upon an average serving of their food – if you get a chef who is a bit heavy-handed with the cooking oil, or who gives you more than the average sized portion, then the numbers aren’t going to be correct.

But we can work out the energy content of a curry if we make the curry ourselves, or if we buy a readymade, frozen, curry from a supermarket. The packaging of a supermarket-bought curry will tell you the energy numbers that you need to know.

The labels on the packaging usually give you two different sets of energy numbers with one set being for a serving size and the second set being for 100g (about 3.5 oz), so you can compare how different products compare with each other by looking at the 100g numbers. The labels give you information about protein, fat, carbohydrate and sodium, as well as the energy content.

Of course, not all curry ingredients come in containers with the energy numbers. For example, supermarket meat is sold in plastic wrapped packages but you usually only get the weight, price and “best before date” details on the label – nothing about the energy content. Also, fresh fruit and vegetables seldom come pre-packaged with any nutrition information.

Luckily you can find out the energy content for most curry ingredients by researching on the Internet. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find out information about some ingredients, but the information is there to be found.

This concludes the first part of the Curry Calorie Count article – in the next part of the article we look at some actual kilocalorie and kilojoule details.

Curry Calorie Count. Part One
Curry Calorie Count. Part Two
Curry Calorie Count. Part Three