When reading food labels, calorie content is usually the first thing that we look at. Yes, calories in food are important if we’re trying to lose weight. The weight loss equation is simple (or is it?) –
energy in < energy out
Technically speaking, ANY diet that creates an energy deficit will result in weight loss**. You can eat Maccas all day errrrday AND still lose weight if you are burning more than you consume. *I AM NOT SAYING YOU SHOULD DO THAT! LOL!*
**This is a very generalised statement which does not consider long term sustainability, health effects, metabolism and hormone levels. ALL of which WILL affect your weight… eventually**
BUT! (there’s always a BUT :P)
There are also other important things that we should look at, ie: NUTRIENT content and the overall QUALITY of the diet.
High in Nutrients
We should aim to eat foods that are high in NUTRIENTS. Whole fresh foods: fruits, vegetables, lean meat, legumes, whole grains, dairy, nuts and seeds are all rich in many different nutrients that are SUPER good for you. Nuts and seeds may be HIGH in energy (calories) but they provide the body with healthy fats and a unique mix of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
I love munching on fruits and vegetables. They are rich in fiber and water content, making you feel fuller for longer. This means that you are less likely to reach for sugar loaded snacks.
What you eat also affects your hormones. And that could affect how your body stores fat, mood and the development of chronic diseases. It is NOT as simple as simply looking at “calories”.
High in Energy
It is difficult to grasp WHAT exactly is “energy rich”. A simple concept would be to look at the caloric density. This takes into account the weight of the food. When comparing between foods, those that are higher in energy per 100g are considered more energy dense.
This image PERFECTLY depicts HIGH energy nutrient POOR foods vs LOW energy nutrient RICH foods.
Let’s say the total energy you need in a day is 1600Kcal. You can eat either the left or the right AND still lose weight. But of course, the right would provide SO MUCH MORE nutrients and you can eat A LOT more in terms of amount. On the left, you’re basically consuming empty calories and would probably need another meal to feel full! Also, what you eat can affect your hormones and how you feel.
We’ve all heard of the term “empty calories”. What does this actually mean?
Empty calories refer to a food offering ENERGY with LITTLE to ZERO nutrient value.
Examples: fried foods (chips, fries), sugary drinks and foods (chocs, lollies, jelly), alcohol, high fat foods (cakes, muffins, baked goods, biscuits, ice cream, processed meats) etc.
Not only are these foods nutrient poor, they are also usually highly processed. This could lead to inflammation and are usually associated with chronic diseases (heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, obesity).
We all need ENERGY and NUTRIENTS to survive. Energy fuels the body and nutrients provide the body with the materials needed to maintain and regulate body processes.
We are all at different stages of life (childhood, youth, adults, elderly, sick, pregnant, athlete etc), plus the fact that we are all genetically unique, we have very different nutrient requirements.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines 2013
There is NO one-size fits all. To ensure that we are meeting the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for nutrients, aim to eat a wide variety of foods from the 5 food groups:
-Fruits: Vit C, potassium, vit A, fibre, folate, antioxidants etc
-Vegetables: Fibre, Vit A, C, potassium, iron, magnesium etc
-Grains: Carbs, protein, vit B1, iron, folate, fibre, iodine etc
-Lean meats and alternatives, legumes, nuts and seeds: Protein, iron, zinc, phosphate, copper, vitB12, vit E, omega 3 etc
-Dairy products: Milk, yoghurt, cheese: Protein, calcium, magnesium, vitB12, vit D, niacin, ribo, fats, potassium etc
Just remember, WHOLE FOODS over PROCESSED FOODS. And of course, a little treat here and there WILL NOT HURT! As long as you’re eating well MOST of the time.
The NEXT time you decide to try a new “diet”, think of these points:
-Am I cutting out FOOD GROUPS?
-Am I getting ALL of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals to function OPTIMALLY?
-Do I feel better?
-Will it provide enough ENERGY, PROTEIN and FATS?
-Will it be sustainable? What is the point if it isn’t?
-Will I be HAPPY?
I hope you’re a little more informed and EMPOWERED to make YOUR own decisions about WHAT to EAT!
Love Ya’ll! <3