6/15/15 - Weight Loss Challenge: Week 3 - Quality Calories

In the last two installments of this series we looked at how to lose weight: consume fewer calories than you burn. In the second installment, we looked at some easy ways to reduce your daily caloric intake. We also covered how quickly calories can add up without realizing it. This week we will look at how different foods can affect your body. Not all calories provide the same amount of nutrients and if you want your body to run at the optimum level, you must provide it with quality calories.

I highly recommend reading this article from the World Health Organization (WHO). Two of the key points to consider is the recommended daily amounts of sugar and salt. For someone consuming a 2000 cal diet, WHO recommends no more than 6 tsp of free sugar a day or 25 grams. By free sugars, we are referring to all sugars added during food preparation as well as natural sugars in honey, syrup and fruit juices. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends less than 1500 mg/day of sodium and provides additional information regarding the relationship between salt and sodium.

Now, how do we apply this. In the first post, we discovered that for a male of my age, weight and height, I can consume 2050 calories a day to maintain my current weight. To lose an average of 1 pound per week, I would need to consume about 1540 calories per day. But now, lets examine what kinds of calories I can consume. Technically, I could consume 11 cans of soda (140 calories each) and meet my daily caloric requirements. Based on what we have learned so far, I would lose one pound a week if I maintained this routine every day for a week. But as we all know, this is a very poor weight loss strategy. The body requires a wide variety of minerals and vitamins, in order to perform at its optimal level. If I maintained this diet, I would quickly find myself lethargic and sick. I would also be hungry every day. Although I am consuming the right amount of calories, I’m not consuming the right types of food. The result is sickness and an overall feeling of the technical term: poopy.

Lets look at another, more realistic example. Lets say for breakfast I run through McDonald's drive-thru and grab a Sausage McMuffin sandwich which has 370 calories and a cup of coffee with 1 tbsp sugar which contains 50 calories. For lunch I drink a coke (140 calories) and I eat a Hickory Ham and Cheddar Lean Pocket with whole grain crust (270 calories). I eat some popcorn (100 calories) as an afternoon snack and for dinner I eat 1.5 cups of Marie Callenders Frozen Lasagna (420 calories) and a side salad that contains a small amount of cheese, croutons and 1 tbsp of Italian dressing (150 calories). On the surface, I consumed 1500 calories of fairly “healthy” food, meeting my caloric needs. But lets take a deeper look at these “healthy” foods. The first thing to notice is the lack of volume of food. After just one day of this, or a similar plan would result in a near constant state of hunger. This is a common issue and often times results in giving up on losing weight, sometimes the hunger is just too much. The types of food I chose were right on target for calories, but they don't offer much else. I chose low quality calories and therefore was only able to eat a small quantity of each food I chose. My sugar and sodium intake was also far above the recommended amount. The mcmuffin contains 780mg sodium and 2g sugar. The lean pocket has 540mg sodium and 5g sugar and the lasagna has 1290mg sodium and 9g sugar. Add in the coke with 45mg sodium and 39g sugar and for the day my sodium intake was 2655 mg. This is about 1.5 times the recommended amount according to the American Heart Association. My total sugar intake was 55 grams which is 2x the recommended amount by the World Health organization.

Lets take a look at a third example. This is a very realistic option considering its actually very similar to what I eat every day. For breakfast I eat 4 scrambled eggs (288 calories) and drink a cup of coffee black (0 calories). Lunch consists of 6oz grilled chicken (280 calories), ¾ cup sweet pot with 2 tsp brown sugar and 1tsp butter (250 calories) and ¾ cup green peas (87 calories). I usually have 2 bananas each day, one for a morning snack and one for an afternoon snack (100 calories each). Dinner consists of 4oz broiled salmon (100 calories), 1 cup of rice (225 calories) and ¾ cup black eyed peas (150 calories). Total calories for this meal are also right around 1550. So whats the difference between this days food and the previous days food? Well, for starters, I consumed a much larger quantity of food with this plan over the previous plan. Therefore, I’m not feeling hungry, but rather consistently full and satisfied. I never feel like I'm sacrificing, which increases my chances of sticking with this lifestyle change. For this days food, the eggs I ate for breakfast contained 250 mg sodium, lunch contained 175mg sodium and dinner 150mg sodium. My total sodium intake for the day was 575 mg which is far below the recommended 1500mg. The only free sugars I consumed were in the brown sugar and butter which would be far below the 25mg recommended but could also easily be taken out of my diet without sacrificing much on taste and nothing on feeling full.

So, how do we apply all of this to our daily eating habits? What are some practical steps we can take to improve the quality of the calories we eat? First, read the labels. When buying anything that comes in a box, bag or can, each ingredient should be pronounceable and recognizable. As a general rule, if it can't be pronounced or doesn't look familiar, it's probably not a good source of quality calories. Ideally, processed foods should be removed entirely from a healthy diet, removing the need for critiquing every ingredient. Processed foods are notoriously high in sodium and sugar. So by transitioning the foods you eat daily to foods that you know all the ingredients, you will automatically reduce your salt and sugar intake. By staying away from processed foods and eating as many fresh meats, vegetables, fruits and grains as you can, you will not only be losing weight but will be giving your body all it needs to function at its optimum level. This will be very beneficial when we discuss next weeks topic: Get Moving!

Disclaimer: I am not a fitness trainer, nutritionist, scientist or weight loss guru. I have spent quite a bit of time over the last roughly 10 years researching weight loss for my own knowledge and to help my family stay healthy. All information provided has been helpful for me, but carries no guarantees. I am willing to discuss at length any topics mentioned and would love to be proven wrong in order to better myself and my knowledge.
0 Comments - Leave one yourself
center image