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CalorieKing: The Little Book That Has Changed the Way People Eat

A talk with CalorieKing author Allan Borushek

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

Allan BorushekAllan Borushek

If you’ve spent much time around people living with diabetes, you know that each of them have tools they can’t do without. For many, one of those tools is a pocket-sized food bible of sorts, “The CalorieKing Calorie FAT & Carbohydrate Counter.”

This little book with extensive nutrition information for restaurants, generic and grocery store foods is a great example of meticulous research and painstaking study. It’s a reflection of Allan Borushek’s 40 years of experience in clinical nutrition and weight control.  It regularly makes the best-seller lists and its popularity has continued to grow over the 24 annual editions in the U.S. and 39 editions in Australia.

The book was the brain child of Allan, an Australian dietitian and founder and chairman of CalorieKing. He started out with his own private practice around 40 years ago and was a pioneer in Australia. After working in hospital clinics, he saw the need for more detailed educational material to distribute to patients.

“There was nothing for the public that contained the calories and other nutritional information on Vegemite and other Australian food brands, so that’s where we started,” Allan said.

Allan and his team began putting nutritional information out for several years in Australia, but eventually requests came from the U.S. for a similar concise and user-friendly calorie counter book as well as his companion Food & Exercise Journal.

“One lady had visited Australia and when she got back to the U.S., couldn’t find anything quite like what we had produced. We said, ‘Look, we might as well create one for the U.S. We produced a concise version and did a test market with Walgreens. And the test results came back with flying colors,” Allan said.

Moving beyond availability in Walgreens and other drug stores only, the book is now sold at just about every book retailer and also distributed often by corporations, like Sanofi. Since the books are updated on an ongoing basis, Allan said the information that you see is close to being as up-to-date as possible.

“Our books have a life cycle of 12 months,” Allan said. “From experience, as soon as we’ve sent the book to our printer, there is a lag time of about 3 months before it is on the book shelves. There are a lot of products, especially at fast food restaurants, who have changed their information in that span. Every month we’re reprinting, so we don’t need to do a whole year’s printing at one time. We update as we go along. For example, in the fast-foods section, you will see a date next to each of the restaurants so that readers can see exactly how current the information is.  Other similar calorie or carbohydrate counters usually only update the data every 2 or 3 years, at best; and the out-of-date carb figures can have clinical repercussions for those persons with diabetes who need to accurately match their insulin dosage to their carbohydrate intake.”

Allan said as diabetes rates have continued to grow in the U.S. and Australia, he found the need to put some specific information in the book about diabetes, insulin and other pertinent information.

“As a dietitian I was well aware of the need for that,” Allan said. “We used to have a mini carb counter in the back of the book, but eventually we put it in for all foods. With the diabetes epidemic, there has been an increased need to cater to people with diabetes.”

Popular with diabetes educators and other health professionals, Allan’s book has become quite popular within the diabetes community.

“When we exhibit at health conferences like the ADA or AADE, there is always a line to get a free handout of the latest edition. It’s a basic tool of the trade. It’s something you’ve got to have if you’re serious about weight control and diabetes,” Allan said.

Allan’s book is now under the CalorieKing umbrella, which has expanded into far more than just his pocket-sized book. There’s a complete online weight control and lifestyle management program, a giant food database of all the nutrition information in the book as well as figures for extra nutrients. In fact, it is the CalorieKing food database that is at the heart of Sanofi’s GoMeals® app, which we’ve talked about previously on Discuss Diabetes. And, I’ll share plenty more about CalorieKing’s efforts in our next post when we talk to CalorieKing CEO Keith McGuinness.

In my opinion, one of the most exciting parts of what Allan and CalorieKing have done is to embrace the new technologies available. The book is now available on Amazon Kindle with versions for Nook and iPad about to be released. Allan said that they are also working on enhanced versions embedded with educational tips, tutorials and videos.

Another exciting development is the work on a Hispanic-Latino version of the “Calorie FAT & Carbohydrate Counter.” Allan said he and his team have spent the past year researching the foods available in Hispanic grocery stores and restaurants. He said with the rise of diabetes in the Hispanic population, he saw a tremendous need for this new version due for release this spring.

I know I certainly keep my copy of the little book on my desk and often use it as a guide, like many of you do. But what I hope you take away from our interview with Allan, and our follow-up with Keith, is that there’s much more to CalorieKing than the book alone. Find out how the concept has grown and how it’s far more than just a database of nutritional information. Much like Allan, I think you will find that Keith is also doing some incredible work and providing a resource that enables people to change their eating habits and to become more aware of the food that is going into their body. Make sure to read our next post to get the full story.

Healthy eating,

Laura K.

Disclosure: Allan Borushek received no compensation for this post. CalorieKing provides the database service that powers GoMeals® through a partnership with Sanofi US. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

Note: CalorieKing is a registered trademark of CalorieKing Wellness Solutions, Inc.

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