Month: 4 / Week: 1
Traditionally speaking, when we talk about balance in nutrition, we’re referring to energy balance = calories in vs. calories out.
We’ve all heard it before. If you eat more than you burn, you gain weight. If you eat less than you need, you lose weight. And many people still live by this rule. But, as with most nutrition advice you hear, there’s more to the story. This is a very simplistic way of looking at it. And while you may see results temporarily, your overall health and weight depends on more than just the number of calories you consume or burn.
So let’s get this traditional way of thinking out of our minds. We’ve learned a lot since this “rule” was created. Say it with me:
A calorie is not a calorie.”
The calories in vs. calories out equation does still matter. You do need to consider the quantity of calories you consume versus those that you burn. But there is another piece to this riddle that often gets overlooked: quality.
The quality of the foods you consume (calories in) and the quality of the things you do to burn energy (calories out).
Think of the calories you take in like the gas you put into your car. Whether you put 15 gallons of regular fuel or 15 gallons of soap, you’re going to get a different result. Same quantity. Different features. The soap won’t get you very far.
The quality of foods you consume makes a bigger difference to your health and your waistline. This month’s habit is “nourish” for good reason. The point is to practice the habit of nourishing your body with the foods it needs most.
How do we make our calories count?
- Choose single ingredient foods as much as possible. What is it? Just like it sounds. Those foods with one ingredient. Pretty simple. These foods are packed with nutrition and can be combined to make a variety of dishes. This includes all fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and seafood, eggs, beans, whole grains, nuts and oils. Making these foods the bulk of your diet will surely put you on the way to nourishing your body.
- Limit snacks and treats. Notice I didn’t say “avoid altogether”. If you choose to avoid snacks and treats, by all means go for it. But for most of us, it’s okay to have some chocolate or potato chips now and then. Just try to keep these to a minimum… less than 100-200 calories a day
- Don’t drink your calories. Stick to water, seltzer, tea and coffee. Flavor your water, seltzer or tea with fruits and herbs. Drink your coffee black or add a splash of milk or cream. Keep it under 30 calories. I know some of you are thinking “but I always have a smoothie for breakfast”. And that’s fine. But, remember it is a meal or a snack. Not a beverage. This is the single easiest way to cut unnecessary (and often poor quality) calories from your diet.
We also need to remember that there’s more to food than fat, carbs, and protein. These are the big buzzwords we all hear about. Like calories, these “macro” nutrients are important but once again there is more to the story. How many calories you get from fat, carbs or protein depends on the diet you’re on and the goals you have. There is no one way of dividing these nutrients that works for everyone. I’m not here to tell you how many fat, carbs and protein you need in a day. Because really, we are all different.
So instead, if we shift our focus to seek out foods naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants… we’ll be on our way to a more balanced diet, regardless of our macros.
One nutrient isn’t more important than another. What is important is the package it comes in.
Take an apple vs. a glass of apple juice. Same calories. Similar macros.
But, the apple has fiber, and more vitamins and minerals. This fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugar in your body, leaving you full longer and causing a lower spike in blood sugar. Both of which lead to greater success with weight loss and weight maintenance.
The quality of the methods you use to burn calories is equally important to the types of calories you take in.
You may have already heard about the quality of calories in. But what’s overlooked more often is the quality of calories out.
Let’s go back to the simple equation: to lose weight, energy balance must be negative (calories in less than calories out). The most common ways to do this: eating less, exercise, diet supplements. Unfortunately, many people turn to eating less and “diet” pills. Let’s consider each one and see what you’d rather do.
- Pro: short term weight loss
- Con: moodiness, lack of proper nutrients, slowed metabolism long term
- Pro: may aid in weight loss but typically won’t do it without changes in diet and exercise (so really, what’s the point?)
- Con: most are not regulated and can potentially be very harmful; often the risk and side effects outweigh the reward. (seriously, what’s the point?)
- Pro: lose weight short term and helps maintain a healthy weight long-term, stress management, reduces your risk of many conditions and diseases, improves self confidence, increases energy, enhances metabolism, improved sleep quality, better social life (when doing group exercises), increased strength, boosts mood, reduces inflammation, and many many more…
- Con: your friends and family might envy your awesomeness.
Hmm.. tough decision 😉Challenge: Hopefully you’re still tracking your intake and exercise from last month. If not, revisit that challenge now.
This week, focus on the quality of the foods you eat and not just the quantity. Here are some things to consider at the end of each day. Ideally, you’ll answer yes to each of these.
- Do you have at least 1 whole vegetable and/or fruit with every meal?
- Are you getting at least 25 grams of fiber?
- Are your calories spread out throughout the day?
- Did you exercise or move your body enough to balance what you consumed?