On Business Lunch, Estimating Calories, and the Ultimate Calculator

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Today was a business lunch. The place we had intended to go for their excellent chicken caesar salad (sans dressing) was closed. Indian buffet was the customer’s choice… so I did what I could! No rice, no naan (which was sad), and no yogurt. Just tandoori grilled chicken, in quantity.

I’m not saying the rice and naan weren’t tempting. They were. AND, there’s something I wanted more than that – I wanted to be able to come back here, blog about making choices, and get one step closer to finding out what kind of results this paleo thing provides. There’s always an option if I look hard enough. The choice is simply to stick to my intentions, or not.

For the calorie/protein measurement on that meal – and others when I eat out – I’m basing quantities on a generous eyeballing: big portions, lots of chicken, and I’m presuming it was cooked in stupidly high fat stuff. In actuality, the protein was probably higher and calories lower, but I believe in counting to the generous (higher) end. There’s a good reason for that, for me: I’m not perfect.

No matter what I do, if I’m interacting in the real world in a functional and socially acceptable manner – which even I choose to do some of the time – then I don’t necessarily get the ingredient list and whip out a postage scale to use on everything I eat. I can manage my input and maintain a fully measured intake by using pre-packaged foods and sticking to the items with nutritional info listed, or weighing and pre-cooking everything at home. Those are valid strategies. However, I am still in situations where I would rather choose to eat than to whip out my tupperware or wait out the lunch and say “oh, I’ll eat when I’m back at the office”.

Sometimes, you just gotta do lunch.

Fortunately, I can use helpful tools like Calorie Count to check up on things afterwards, and use the nutritional info on most chain restaurants websites to recreate my meal for logging. And again, I’m definitely going to overestimate my calories. Something tells me that I’ll absentmindedly grab a handful of raisins or almonds sometime during the day. Or I’ll forget the bit of jerky I ate at 3pm when I wasn’t near my notebook. Or whatever. I’ll forget, I’ll miss something. That’s okay. If I’m overestimating on any “fudge factor” areas, I’ll fill in for those calories that slip through the gaps in my count.

Meanwhile, the most important calorie count of all is happening outside of my mind’s ability to be forgetful, or my imagination’s ability to underestimate my food intake. My body is keeping a running tally of (Calorie Intake – Calorie Output), and the difference is my weight gain or loss. It’s the simple, undeniable, and irrefutable arbiter of how much I have been eating. There’s no point arguing with my metabolism; I’m pretty sure it kept score correctly.

If my body tells me I’ve overcounted (by losing weight), then I’m pleasantly surprised. This beats the alternative of undercounting, gaining weight, and being discouraged. Moral of the story: If you’re going to start might help you to count MORE calories than you think you’re eating… because inevitably you’ll forget some, estimate badly, and have calories sneak in on you.


egg whites (120c/24g)
cheese (200c/20g)
sausage (110c/14g)
fruit cup (50c)
sesame bark (320c/8g)
7oz filet (450c/45g)
asparagus + broccoli (150c)
almonds (180c/6g)
fruit cup (50c)
Spinach, curry powder, chicken (155c/26g)

This last was my attempt to make a homemade Saag Chicken using some spinach cooking it soft, bringing the turmeric/etc, and adding chicken. It was not a complete success. That said, I’ll see what else I can do on this front.


tandoori chicken (12 pcs) (900c/90g)
jerky (120c/20g)
sesame bark (320c/8g)
spinach, curry powder, chicken (310c, 52g)
– much better tonight. Either I was really hungry, or using MUCH more curry powder made a difference. It was good, though.
fruit cup (50c)
1700 cal, 170g

10 thoughts on “On Business Lunch, Estimating Calories, and the Ultimate Calculator”

  1. Indian becomes very very very different once you start Paleo, for sure. I miss Vindaloo.

    On the other hand, you may suddenly realize that you’re off pre-packaged food almost entirely. I know I’ve cut out almost all of it, myself. Or at the very least any sort of junk food – most pre-packaged stuff is either Grain or Potato based, and therefore off-limits. On the plus side, it also means that I have COMPLETELY cut soybean and corn oils, along with high-fructose corn syrup and all the rest of the processed crap.

    1. Hey Doc! Answer: It’s really no difference between yogurt and cheese. Either you’re strict paleo – and don’t allow dairy at all, including butter – or you’re on a post-paleo variant (Sisson’s Primal Blueprint being the most well known) that allows dairy as an occasional or low-volume inclusion.

      The anecdotal argument is that dairy is a post-paleolithic innovation that came from agriculture and domestication of animals.

      The medical argument seems to be that dairy increases acid in the bloodstream (though not all dairy is equal in that effect, and other paleo foods are far worse) which can induce low bone density and induce calcium leaching from the skeletal system.

      There are also concerns with dairy not being digested well by some strains of human, and concerns about autism/allergy issues… and none of those are very well documented.

      Ultimately, I’m okay with dairy from the macronutrient balance perspective, but am restricting dairy on the way to nearly eliminating it for the purposes of a fair trial of “paleo”. (The biggest issue comes mostly with butter – because there’s butter on just about everything commercially prepared.)

      1. JT, to that point (on butter), keep in mind that most indian chicken dishes are marinated in yogurt so that the active cultures break down the muscle fibers (hence very soft and tasty meat!). I believe that holds true for tandoori chicken as well (at least in some restaurants). Sorry my man, I don’t want to make this harder than it probably is, but I thought you’d want to know!

        Also, I am a little confused on dairy causing the blood to be more acidic, thus causing osteoporosis. I thought dairy had calcium which is good for osteoporosis? Besides water, lactose and protein components, there really isn’t anything in milk that would make it increase acidity in the blood….I would definitely like to know more about this…

        1. Milk actually contributes little to net acid load, but cheeses (and grains) do so heavily. Increased acid load = increased need for buffering with calcium = reduction in bone calcium. Milk does contain calcium which is a good thing; the paleo argument is that without the items which greatly increase acid (grains, cheeses), the need for exogenous calcium is greatly reduced.

          To answer your question why milk would produce a net acid load, I’m stumped as well.

          Here is a good website that lists foods according to renal acid load. If you try and think of it via acid/base balance you’ll go crazy, b/c as an example most of the sources of protein increase acid load, yet proteins in the body are most commonly associated with negatively charged ions (albumin being chief among them). If anything, increased negative ions should buffer out H+ (acid), and yet a protein load increases acid load. Compounding the confusion is that a negatively charged protein is free to react with calcium (Ca2+), so I could see leaching via that mechanism. It’s all very confusing. http://www.thepaleodiet.com/nutritional_tools/acid.shtml

          1. I’m watching out for the yoghurt and ghee, Sruj. There’s little I can do about the chicken being braised/soaked/treated with yoghurt as a marinade, but it beats eating the sauce which I’m sure is full of yoghurt/ghee/cream. It was the best alternative at hand.

            I think now there have been 3 MDs weighing in on this thread with questions and answers. Which is awesome. Thanks!

          2. Leon, thanks for the insight, I was absolutely driving myself crazy with acid/base balance! I am thinking that proteins that are high in aspartic acid or glutamic acid (the net acidic amino acids)are probably the culprits in increasing net acid loads.

            JT, I give you props, I am not sure I could do this diet! And I agree, there is far worse in Indian food than the yogurt! But it tastes so good! Good luck!

  2. Shrujal,

    your assumption about those specific amino acids could well be correct. Bottom line- I don’t think anyone knows for sure. The principles of paleo seem sound to me both from a biological and an evolutionary standpoint. I have personal experience with it and anecdotal evidence from others that it works.

    “Works” in the sense that I feel better, my weight and body fat% stabilized, my athletic performance improved, and my objective numbers (LDL, HDL) got better.

    It will be interesting to see how JT does. Everyone is different. I’m still waiting to see him double his caloric intake personally, which I’ve been recommending to him 🙂

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