Do You Need”Diet” or “Low Calorie” Foods?

Chances are if you’re doing some grocery shopping you may see some of your favorite pre-packaged foods in a “diet” or “low calorie” option. You might see “no added sugar”, “reduced fat”, and so on and so forth. They’re all geared around the same goal, helping you eat the foods you crave with less guilt. Here’s the problem though…is that effective? Eating low calorie, reduced fat, no added sugar foods might be a start but if you eat a whole tub of reduced fat ice cream in one sitting then the end result will still be the same. Here’s what you should do.

1. Figure Out Your Calorie Needs

This is probably the easiest way to start. Google “calorie calculator” and you’ll find a few websites that will give you a rough estimate of the amount of calories you should be eating per day. They aren’t 100% spot on, but it’s better than nothing. Here are a few you can try:

Mayo Clinic
My Fitness Pal

People obsess over the amount of calories in a meal but have no idea how many calories they actually need. They look at one of my meals on Instagram and scoff at the 350-550 calorie count because they’re used to seeing ads for meals under 200 calories.

2. Turn Those Calories into Grams

Protein, carbohydrates, and fat are all measured in grams. So, understanding that you need 2500 calories a day (to maintain your weight) is a good start, but now how do we get to those 2500 calories in the most effective way possible? Find a ratio or percentage. So let’s say your ratio looks like this 50:30:20. 50% of your calories are going to come from carbs, 30% are going to come from protein, and 20% from fat. So your daily plan will look like this:

2500 x .5 = 1250 calories from carbs/4 (amount of calories per gram from carbs) = 312.5 grams of carbs per day.
2500 x .3 = 750 calories from protein/4 = 187.5 grams of protein per day
2500 x .2 = 500 calories from fat/9 = 55.5 grams of fat per day

3. Divide Those Grams by the Amount of Meals You Plan to Eat

I generally recommend 5 meals per day spaced out by 3 hours at a time. So we’re going to take our grams of carbs, protein, and fat and divide them by 5 to give us the amount of carbs, protein and fat we’re going to eat per meal.

312.5/5 = 62.5 grams of carbs per meal
187.5/5 = 37.5 grams of protein per meal
55.5/5 = 11.1 grams of fat per meal

Now when you look at the nutrition label of what you’re about to eat you’ll be able to determine whether that fits in the macronutrient breakdown you’ve written. I’m always in favor of the healthier alternative products anyway so I tend to reach for reduced fat, no sugar added, etc., but if I missed a meal then I’m going to either improvise or buy a meal that comes as close to meeting my needs as possible. I won’t just reach for what advertises itself as the lowest calorie option possible.

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