Note: For important milestones in the origin and history of calorie counting, see my blog post, Origins of Calorie Counting. This is an unadorned, plain list of all the related historical documents I’ve found that have a historical relation to introducing, explaining, promoting, or otherwise impacting the early development of the idea of calorie counting.


1886: Atkinson – The Food Question in America and Europe or The Public Victualing Department

Wilbur O. Atwater – The Century Magazine, 1887-1888 (7 article series)
1887: The Chemistry of Foods and Nutrition, I. The Composition of Our Bodies and Our Food
1887: How Food Nourishes the Body; The Chemistry of Foods and Nutrition II.
1887: The Potential Energy of Food; The Chemistry and Economy of Food III.
1887: The Digestibility of Food; The Chemistry of Foods and Nutrition IV.
1888: Pecuniary Economy of Food; The Chemistry of Foods and Nutrition V.
1888: Foods and Beverages; The Chemistry of Foods and Nutrition VI.
1888: What We Should Eat VII.

1889: Atwater – Food and Health

1894: Atwater – Foods: Nutritive Value and Cost

1895: Atwater – USDA Food and Diet

1895: Atwater – Methods and Results of Investigations on the Chemistry and Economy of Food – USDA Bulletin No. 21

1896: Atkinson – The Science of Nutrition, Treatise Upon the Science of Nutrition, Fourth Edition

1897: Atwater – A Digest of Metabolism Experiments in Which the Balance of Income and Outgo was Determined

1897: Atwater – How Food is Used in the Body, Experiments with Men in a Respiration Apparatus

1899: Atwater – Experiments on the Metabolism of Matter and Energy in the Human Body

1905: Atwater – A Respiration Calorimeter with Appliances for the Direct Determination of Oxygen

1905: Einhorn – Practical Problems of Diet and Nutrition

1906: Atwater – Principles of Nutrition and Nutritive Value of Food – USDA Bulletin No. 142

1906: Fisher, Irving – A new method for indicating food values

1907: Chittenden, Russell – The Nutrition of Man

1907: New York Times – We All Eat Too Much

1909: Sinclair, Upton and Williams, Michael – Good Health and How We Won It

1913: Conley – Nutrition and Diet

1915: Fisher, Irving and Fisk, Eugene – How to Live

1918: Peters, Lulu Hunt – Diet and Health with Key to the Calories

1919: Lusk, Graham – The Elements Of The Science Of Nutrition

3 thoughts on “Calorie Counting Timeline

  1. Hi Kenny! This is such helpful information. Thanks so much for this compilation. I’ve been doing some pretty intensive reading in histories of diet/nutrition and some of this is either brand new or rarely mentioned.

    1. Hey Adele! So nice to hear from you! Glad to hear the list is useful to someone besides me. 🙂

      Since you reminded me of this, I looked through my “archives” and found a couple of other articles you might find interesting (if you haven’t run across them already):

      Counting Calories
      By Chin Jou (2011)
      https://www.chemheritage.org/distillations/article/counting-calories
      Thin became “in” during the 1920s, and the calorie became a vital tool in the battle to lose weight. Yet before becoming a fashion necessity, the calorie had a decidedly less glamorous role in agriculture, laboratories, and factories.
      • Great summary of Atwater’s role in popularizing calories, and,
      • How Lulu Hunt Peters started the calorie counting idea we live with today

      From Robust Appetites to Calorie Counting: The Emergence of Dieting Among Smith College Students in the 1920s
      by Margaret A. Lowe (1995)
      https://books.google.com/books?id=ELIJD2ErMgwC&pg=PA172&lpg=PA172&dq=From+Robust+Appetites+to+Calorie+Counting&source=bl&ots=LmgF99WqyO&sig=IG1vmT3Ie7fUeUBllQX2F6rhqcc&hl=en&ei=DsDDTP2kFMT_lge8-5AD&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result#v=onepage&q&f=false
      • This is a great article and case study of how things changed quickly after the “birth” of calorie counting in 1918; how healthy went from weight gain to weight loss
      • Note: Most (but not all) pages of the article are available online at the link above

      1. Your list saved me hours of research! And thanks so much for these two articles. I had not stumbled across either of them before. I was able to get the full Lowe article from my library, so let me know if you would like that version for your archives.

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