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How can I estimate the calories in food by weight and type. For example, if I have X ounces of meat, approximately how calories is that? Or, if I have X ounces of a starch (like a tuber) how many calories is that?

I am looking for approximate formulas, not exact amounts.

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In order to know how many calories some food sample contains, you need to know exactly how much of that sample is protein, fat, and carbohydrate. This PDF from UCLA gives a breakdown of the calories per gram of those components:

  • Carbohydrate = 4 calories per gram
  • Protein = 4 calories per gram
  • Alcohol = 7 calories per gram
  • Fat = 9 calories per gram


Once you know what these are, the math is fairly straightforward; just multiply each and then add. If there are 5 grams of carbs, then totals calories from carbs equals 5 x 4 = 20; if 6 grams of protein, then 4 x 6 = 24; and so on.

Starch is a carbohydrate. But for your other example of "meat", you'd need to know the breakdown of that particular meat, so you couldn't just say X amount of meat has y amount of protein, z amount of carbohydrate, and z amount of fat. Each meat is different. That said, the breakdown of each kind of meat (i.e. chicken, lean beef, pork, etc.) is probably close enough that you could get a ballpark figure for whatever kind of meat you're interested in.

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  • Very useful info, thanks very much. Is there some reason you did not upvote my question? – Tyler Durden Aug 16 '17 at 19:27
  • @TylerDurden, if you accept my answer, your rep gets increased, so I didn't see the point. However, if it makes you feel better... – BillDOe Aug 17 '17 at 19:23

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