What does 100 calories look like?

Health Adviser and Nutritionist at Bupa UK
20 April 2018

Whether you’re sleeping or swimming, reading or running, your body works hard every day to keep you alive. So it’s important to fuel it with the right type of energy (calories) from the food you eat. Not only can eating the right number of calories a day help you to maintain a healthy weight, but the type of food you choose to get those calories from also plays an important role in looking after your health.  While two foods might contain the same number of calories, they could also be very different nutritionally. For example, a biscuit might seem very appealing when hunger strikes at 11am, but an apple contains around the same number of calories. What’s more, an apple is also a source of vitamins and fibre, helping to keep you healthy.

Read on to find out more about calories, where they come from, how to read them on food labels and exactly what 100 calories of some common foods looks like.

What are calories?

A calorie is a unit of energy. The word calorie is short for kilocalorie (kcal), which is why you’ll see calories displayed as ‘kcal’ on food packaging. You might notice kilojoules (kJ) shown on packaging too. Kilojoules are simply the metric units of calories. 

1 calorie (kcal) = 4.2 kilojoules (kJ)

How many calories should you eat a day?

The number of calories your body needs every day can differ depending on things like your age, gender, size, the temperature and how active you are. But in general, the average man needs around 2,500 calories a day, while the average woman needs around 2,000 calories a day to maintain a steady weight. If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to create a calorie deficit in your body. You do this either by eating less, exercising more, or a combination of the two. If you want to gain weight, you’ll need to take in more calories than you’re using.

What foods are high in calories?

Fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein. But it’s important to remember there are different types of fat. Saturated fats can be harmful to your health and you should try to eat less of these. Saturated fats are found in red meat, full fat dairy products like butter and cheese, and cakes, biscuits and pastries.

Unsaturated fats on the other hand can help to keep your heart healthy. Good examples of unsaturated fats include oily fish like mackerel and salmon, unsalted nuts, seeds and avocado.

Although these good, unsaturated fats can be high in calories too, they’re also an important part of a balanced diet. So if you’re trying to keep an eye on how many calories you’re eating, don’t cut out fats altogether. Instead, choose healthy, unsaturated fats where possible and monitor your portion sizes of these.

Alcohol is also high in calories, with almost as many calories per gram as fat and very little nutritional value.

  • Fat: 9 calories per gram.
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram.
  • Carbohydrates: 3.75 calories per gram.
  • Alcohol: 7 calories per gram.

How to find calories on food labels

Calories and kilojoules are displayed on the back of food labels. They’re shown as kcal and kJ per 100g/ml or per portion of the product. If you’re looking at the nutritional value per portion of the product, take a look at the weight of the product too. For example, the nutritional label on your yoghurt might say there’s 100 calories per 120 gram portion and the tub is actually 150 grams in weight. So make sure to check and adjust the calories if you need to.

You can also use the traffic light labelling shown on the front of some food packaging to get a quick overview of whether a product is high in calories or not. Traffic light labels show the calories, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt content of the food and categorise these into either green, amber or red depending on their nutritional value. So opt for as many green labels as possible.

Heres what approximately* 100 calories of some common foods looks like:

(Roughly 300 grams)

Dark chocolate
(About two large squares)
Two squares of dark chocolate

(About 250g–300g raw)

Peanut butter
(Roughly one level tablespoon)
A tablespoon of peanut butter

(Two apples)
Two apples

Red wine
(One small 125ml glass)

A small glass of red wine

(Roughly 250 grams)

Unsalted cashew nuts
(About half a handful, or roughly 15 grams)
Unsallted cashew nuts

(One medium sized banana)
 One medium banana

Plain digestive biscuits
(One and a half biscuits)
One and a half plain biscuits

(Around four)
Four mandarins

Orange juice
(One 250ml glass)
A small bottle of orange juice

Table sugar
(Roughly five level teaspoons)
Five teaspoons of sugar

(About 250g raw)
A large plate of raw kale

(One large handful – or just over 30g)

Multigrain crisps
(About 20g – less than one packet)
Wholegrain crisps

Cherry tomatoes
(Roughly 500g)
A plate of cherry tomatoes

Chocolate fingers
(Two fingers)
Two chocolate fingers

*Portion sizes may vary slightly from those shown dependant on product and brand.

Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Emily Walters
Health Adviser and Nutritionist at Bupa UK

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