Calories are a measure of energy, the fuel that feeds our bodies. Just as gas is the fuel you put into a car, food is the fuel put into your body so you can run, and dance, and talk, and breathe.
And just like a car, if you use the wrong kind of fuel to feed your body, it won’t run as well as if you give it what it really needs. We’re all different, so our nutritional needs vary, but the human body has some basic requirements for healthy fuel:
- Water: While it provides no calories, it’s essential for all body functions.
- Carbohydrates, protein, and fats: These foods all help the body go by producing energy. You should strive to eat the healthiest forms of these foods you can -- such as whole grain breads and pastas, lean protein sources like poultry, fish, and beans, and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts.
- Vitamins and minerals: These nutrients help keep your immune system functioning and allow your cells to do their jobs. Calcium, for example, is a mineral that builds strong bones. Good sources are low-fat dairy products and leafy greens. Most people get all the essential nutrients they need from a healthy and balanced diet. However, if you have certain health problems or diet restrictions, you may need to consider taking a supplement. Check with your doctor before starting a supplement.
After you put energy into your body, you also need to burn energy in the form of movement! Even sleeping burns at least a few calories, but to be healthy, you need at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
How many calories can you burn doing some of your favorite activities? It depends on how much you weigh, but here are some hourly averages:
- Walking (briskly): 297 calories
- Swimming: 603 calories
- Light cleaning: 240 calories
- Playing with kids: 216 calories
- Doing yoga: 360 calories
- Watching TV: 72 calories
See the difference? Even just cleaning the house or actively playing with your kids burns three times as many calories as an hour of watching TV. So stay active and help your body to be a calorie-burning machine!