Making Sense of Calorie Guides and The Chicken Drumstick Paradox

Today my good friend Ricky Martin raised an issue with me about calorie counters and calorie information websites etc. He asked, quite simply, “Why is it so cuffing hard to get clear answers about the nutritional values of different foods?”.

He had been looking at the very good CalorieKing website, which allows you to look up nutritional information on a huge range of foods. Today he was planning a chicken dinner, but was struggling to work out how many calories his meal was going to be. Here are the results for 100g of roasted chicken drumstick with skin and raw chicken drumstick, with skin:

Compare Food Nutrition Facts Chicken Drumstick

 


According to that, 100g of raw chicken drumstick contains 161 Calories / 673kJ but 100g of roasted chicken drumstick contains 261 Calories / 903kJ. That can’t be right. When you roast it it loses loads of fat so its energy density should decrease.

The differences cannot be attributed to variations between individual chickens (some are leaner than others) because the figures are averages. But CalorieKing is saying a roasted drumstick contains 50% more energy per gram than a raw one.

The energy in the raw chicken = the energy in the roasted chicken + the energy in the fat that comes off when cooking.

One difference could be that the raw chicken will lose moisture content, but can this really be enough to amount to a 50% reduction in weight, and therefore, calories?

Impossible to Log Calorie Intake

Ricky said: “I’m trying to log my energy intake. When the data for a single meal varies by nearly a day’s allowance, the whole thing makes no sense”.

I suggested that he should just weight his meals, assuming that he generally eats the same meals throughout the week, and if weight loss is not happening then reduce total portion size of all meals.

For example, if you are trying to lose weight and failing with a 400g breakfast and a 600g lunch, reduce the portion sizes by 50g and see how that turns out after a week.

What figures do other sites give?

To compare further, I looked at some other popular calorie counting sites. Many sites use the same database of food nutrition information, but there are several different systems in place.

Here are some stats for roasted chicken drumsticks:

  • Nutracheck.co.uk gives 116 Calories per 100g “Chicken Drumsticks, Roasted, Meat & Skin, Weighed With Bone”
  • caloriecount.com gives 215 Calories per 100g of “roasted, meat and skin, chicken drumstick”.

Now, this is interesting, because according to Nutracheck, the figure for roasted drumsticks is the same as Calorie King’s figures for raw drumsticks. Calorie Count agrees with Calorie King’s roasted figure. But, there is one noticeable difference: Nutracheck says “Weighed With Bone” – this suggests that the figures for cooked drumsticks may only be including the meat and skin, and not the bone (or the water).

Nutracheck chicken

So, this might actually be the answer. But, how many people will get this wrong and miscalculate how much they are eating because the calorie counters are not being consistent in the way that they report the content of the food. Failing to mention that the bone has been removed is a pretty huge oversight!

So, while calorie counters are an excellent way to measure how much food you are consuming and therefore, provide an easy way to adjust your dietary intake if you are trying to lose fat or gain more muscle, remember to double check what you are actually calculating! Raw chicken will often include the bones and unless you plan to eat them, you need to factor this in to your calculations.

More like this in the Diet and Nutrition section

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