We live in a chaotic world, convinced that we’re too busy to make a sandwich let alone thaw and bake chicken. This makes the convenience of vending machines and drive-thrus all too alluring. And eating something must be better than eating nothing at all, right? Making good food choices is hard.
According the annual Gallup Health Poll, nearly 6 in 10 Americans would like to lose weight. The weight loss industry takes in $40 billion a year. But yet we spend over $130 billion on fast food each year.
Individuals often choose exercising over dieting when trying to lose weight. However, exercising is just one piece of the equation. The best way to lose weight and decrease you body’s set point is to decrease the number of calories you take in and to increase the number of calories burned. Nutrition is the first piece that trips most individuals up and it can be ohhh so frustrating. I cannot tell you how many of my friends, clients, acquaintances, etc. claim to eat very little and not lose weight. One reason for this is the quality of foods you may be eating and not so much the quantity of it.
Infomercials, magazines, and social media bombard us with fad diets—most emphasizing reduced calorie consumption. The quantity of calories you take in is critical for fat loss or weight management (i.e., altering your set point), but the quality and source of those calories is just as important. All calories are not created equal. The food that you eat is fuel for your body, giving you the calories needed to support basic body functions, workouts, and overall good health. Don’t starve yourself!
To achieve your goals, you want a diet rich in good calories and low in empty calories. Empty calories are foods high in calories but low in nutritional value. They are calories largely based in fats and sugars, devoid of vitamins, minerals, and important macronutrients. Empty calories simply have none of the elements necessary for optimal living and functioning. As a result, they leave you feeling sluggish and tired—making it harder to achieve your goals.
Eating the right foods will result in improved energy and optimal muscle gains. Good calories and good sources of macronutrients contain the necessary carbohydrates, good fats, and proteins. Essential macronutrients also include fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
How do you find foods containing these essential macronutrients?
It is actually quite simple: Eat a well-balanced diet filled with as many real foods as possible. Real foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible. Real foods typically do not contain added ingredients nor preservatives, such as sugar, salt, or fat.
A few tips to help you spot and avoid empty calories:
- All ‘junk food’ is empty calories. Eliminate it.
- Look out for beer and alcohol. These are sources of sugar and stored fats with nothing else to offer.
- Avoid deep-fried foods. Eat a baked potato instead of fries or a baked chicken breast instead of fried chicken.
- Avoid candy and ALL sugary drinks (e.g., soda, fruit drinks). These all contain loads of calories from sugar, but not much else.
- Eat whole grains instead of refined grains. Whole grains are packed with beneficial fiber and antioxidants. Replace white bread with whole wheat bread. Have a bowl of unsweetened oatmeal instead of corn flakes.
- Snack on fruits! Dip them in low-fat yogurt for additional calcium and protein.
You cannot eat Special K for every meal and expect to lose weight. A – You would consume too many carbohydrates. B -You would be consuming too few total calories but too many empty calories. C – You would be missing vital minerals and nutrients.
So set yourself up for success. I can sum it up into four tips.
- Eat REAL food.
- Eat ENOUGH food.
- Eat lots of VEGETABLES!
- Increase your activity level.
NOTE: If you have seen the commercial 100 times and it is sold in a center isle, the chances are it is empty. For example, Special K crackers and chips, rice cakes, Skinny Cow snacks, etc. Their marketing experts are prey and your love of food and feeding the very behaviors you are trying to eliminate as you work towards your goals. Don’t let them be your predator – take back the control!