Kilojoules in Food

All foods are made up of kilojoules, and each day, we need to consume a certain number of kilojoules to maintain our weight, or to gain or lose weight.

For adults, the recommended daily intake of kilojoules is 8 700kJ, but this differs from person to person, depending on a variety of factors. You can visit our Introduction to Kilojoules page to learn exactly how kilojoules work, and what these factors are.

Of course, they key to controlling your kilojoule intake is knowing how many kilojoules are in the foods and beverages you consume each day – which, thanks to, is easier than you might think!

The kilojoules in food charts will show you exactly how many kilojoules are in each food group. View the kilojoules in meat and protein, vegetables and fruit, carbohydrates, dairy products, and fats and oils.

Low kilojoule foods and high kilojoule foods

Naturally, not all foods and drinks are created equal, and each contains a different amount of kilojoules, depending on its ingredients and the way in which it is prepared.

Low kilojoule foods are recommended for people wishing to lose weight, and usually form the basis of a fat loss or weight loss diet. In most cases, low kilojoule foods are healthy foods, such as fruit, vegetables, salads, lean meat and low-fat dairy products. Because they are low in kilojoules and often high in vitamins and minerals, they are ideal for weight loss and for maintaining a healthy diet. Many of these foods contain natural sugars and fats, which are good for us and should be included in healthy diets.

High kilojoule foods, on the other hand, are usually not very healthy. Generally speaking, they are the foods we indulge in – cakes, pastries, takeaways and sweets – and which, due to their high kilojoule content and often unhealthy ingredients, are not good for our waistlines or our bodies. High kilojoule foods should be consumed in very small amounts, and should be avoided by anyone who is following a fat loss diet, or who wishes to maintain a healthy weight.

Low kilojoule diets

A low kilojoule diet is recommended for individuals looking to lose weight or reach specific fat loss goals. Typical foods included in low kilojoule diets are all the healthy foods listed above, as well as foods containing healthy fats, such as nuts, avocadoes, seeds and natural oils. These fattier foods should be consumed in smaller amounts, and their health benefits are discussed a little later on.

Foods that are excluded from low kilojoule diets are those that are loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar, such as fast food, fizzy drinks, cakes and pastries, sweets and chocolates, and any kind of junk food. Alcohol should be consumed on a very limited basis, if at all, and should not include high kilojoule drinks such as beer, ciders and large amounts of wine.

Calorie counts and kilojoule labels on food

Did you know that you can discover the kilojoule content of the food you eat simply by checking the labels on the packaging? In South Africa, all packaged edibles must contain information about their energy content.

If you are trying to lose weight and maintain a healthy diet, you should always read the kilojoule information on foods to ensure that they are healthy and low in kilojoules.

Food that is high in kilojoules is sometimes referred to as high calorie food, while low kilojoule food may be referred to as low calorie food. Strictly speaking, these are not the correct scientific terms. However, the amount of kilojoules in food is often converted into calories to show whether it is potentially fattening (high in calories), or whether it could help to promote weight loss (low in calories). You may sometimes see the calorie content of food and beverages on their packaging.

Find out more about kilojoules to calorie conversions on our Kilojoules page.

Foods for losing weight, improving health and dieting

As with everything in life, there is exception to rule that all foods high in kilojoules are unhealthy. This is because there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy fats and sugars.

Most low kilojoule foods contain healthy fats and sugars, which usually come from natural sources and help to fight disease, strengthen the immune system, boost brain functioning and lower cholesterol. They also provide long-lasting energy for our daily activities. Low kilojoule foods aid in fat loss, and in losing weight in general.

But some high kilojoule foods contain healthy fats and sugars that are essential for good health. Nuts, natural oils, seeds and oily fish are high in kilojoules, but are considered healthy foods because the types of oil they contain are so good for our bodies. These foods should be included in all healthy diets – in moderation – to boost health and wellbeing.

Use our food nutrition tables to discover the kilojoule content of your favourite foods, and for help in choosing the right foods for losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet.