Popular nutrition, most specifically sports nutrition, teaches us that to stay healthy we should count our caloric intake. In other words, calories in should equal calories out and it doesn’t matter where they come from. If you want to lose weight, eat less calories and vice versa. This never made sense to me. I never fully understood the concept and I’ll be honest…since I’ve turned to holistic nutrition and the study of the way macro and micro nutrients from food have specific and necessary uses in the body, I’ve practically scrapped the concept of calorie counting altogether.
Here’s my thinking. You are what you eat, right? Right. Well, if that’s true then the quality of your food certainly matters. Why? If you eat 1500 empty (a.k.a. nutrient-void) calories from fast food, for example, you (1) won’t feel satiated, (2) don’t have adequate nutrients in your body to give you energy, burn fat, or build muscle, bones, and cells, and (3) will eat more to make up the difference. And if you’re only eating 2000 calories a day, think about how nutrient-dense your other 500 calories need to be in order to live in a fully functioning and thriving body.
Since beginning to work with clients I’ve adopted a dialogue around improving the quality of food before anything else. A lot of people who ask for nutritional assistance are initially scared they’ll have to give up their favourite foods. This may be true in more extreme cases, but sometimes all it takes is improving the quality of the ingredients in the foods you eat, shifting the portion sizes of the components on your plate, and making sure your macronutrients are balanced to see quick results. Besides, change comes in small steps and I wouldn’t expect you to drink a green juice straight out the gate, if at all!
For example, say your dinner once a week is a big plate of pasta with a small side salad. It might look something like this…
Pasta (larger portion):
2C white pasta
1C pre-made tomato sauce
1/2C powdered parmesan cheese
Salad (smaller portion):
1C iceberg lettuce
a few cucumber & tomato slices
1/4C pre-made Italian dressing
Improving the quality and shifting portion sizes would look something like this…
Pasta (smaller portion):
1C whole grain or brown rice pasta
1/2C pre-made or homemade tomato sauce with whole, recognizable ingredients (i.e. no additives, fillers, or shelf-stabilizers) + a handful of sauteed mushrooms and bell peppers
a couple sprinkles of real, shredded parmesan cheese
Salad (larger portion):
2C romaine lettuce
1/2C cucumber slices + 1/2C tomato slices + 1 chunk avocado
1/4C nuts or seeds
2-3T homemade dressing with olive oil, lemon juice + Italian spices
Basically, instead of focusing on calories, consider nutrients. In doing so, monitor their quality. The better the quality the less you have to eat to get the same benefits, which saves you money and peace of mind while helping you achieve a better quality of life.
Of course, if you make such changes and don’t see results, then it’s time to work a little deeper, preferably with a practitioner. This is something I work with my clients on and offer in m practice through my grocery store tutorials. Together we look at your current diet and weekly grocery list, prepare your next grocery list including upgrades and changes, and head to the grocery store to buy your groceries with intention and purpose.
There’s a lot more to it, but I hope this article sparks some conversation out where you are. And if you have any questions or would like to chat with me on this topic, don’t hesitate to reach out or leave a comment below.