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Real Life Diet Questions Answered

Angela Dowden
Nutritionist

Posted 10 Jul 07

Should I be counting cals in the raw food or cooked?

This topic often comes up for discussion but no one seems to know the answer!

If my dinner comprises a baked potato, grilled chicken breast, green beans, and sweetcorn, do I count the calories from the raw food or the cooked food? I always count the raw calories since it's easier to weigh the food before I cook it, but the calories are often not the same in raw and cooked food.

For example, a jacket potato may weigh 300g raw, and 220g cooked. The calories are not the same for both.

I always add the calories from any fat I (rarely) use in cooking separately.

Our expert says...


As you know, the food database contains calorie counts for both raw and cooked foods - as defined in the description. The difference in the calorie content of the cooked product compared to raw is mainly due to water loss.

Certain cooking methods like baking, grilling and roasting will obviously cause a food to lose more water than say steaming or boiling. And when the food loses water it will become lighter in weight and more calorie dense.

To illustrate this point using a baked potato and the numbers below!
If you start with a raw potato weighing 200g, the actual potato will still contain the same amount of calories after baking, but will weigh less. So if using the raw figure in your diary you would enter 200g = 150kcals. But because baking has caused water loss, the weight of the potato is now only 110g. So if using the baked figure, you would enter 110g = 150 kcals.

1 oz (28g) of raw potato = 21 cals / 0.1g fat
1 oz (28g) baked potato, flesh & skin = 38 cals / 0.1g fat.

Generally the food descriptions will say whether the calorie content is for the raw or cooked product. In most cases, I agree with you, it's easier to weigh the raw item and use these figures.

Obviously if you then cook the item and add any extra ingredients such as sugar or oil, you need to measure and enter these ingredients separately e.g. if you fried your mushrooms in oil or stewed apples with added sugar (which is exactly what you are correctly doing).

Two tips!
1. The calorie figures for rice and pasta in the database are generally for the raw uncooked weight.
2. Clicking on the 'add weight' link that comes up under serving size of products will make a small box appear under the search panel so you can enter the exact weight.

In summary, it doesn't really matter which you record - as long as your product (raw or cooked) matches the correct description and calorie count.

Hope this helps!