Calories are important for understanding portion control, but they’re not the only factor in the weight loss equation. The type of calories you eat, the timing of the calories, and their quality, can significantly alter the effect of the calories on the body.
Quality calories are nutrient dense. Calories that don’t contain any nutrients—also known as “empty” calories—are like the ones found in hot chips and cake. Basically, if you’re looking for a sustainable way to lose weight while still getting the nutrients your body needs, then the source of your calories matter. Just counting calories – the basis of many weight loss diets– can cause people to feel deprived, making it all too easy to go back to their old ways.
An effective and healthier approach to weight loss is eating a variety of wholefoods from all food groups rather than controlling calorie intake. The Total Wellbeing Diet’s higher protein, low GI eating plan is built on a unique system of food groups. Food groups are designed to control your calories without calorie counting. They also ensure you get the right balance of nutrients to meet your health needs.
Here are some guidelines to follow when straight calorie counting is impractical.
1. Eat foods that are filling and low in calories.
That means, as often as possible, your meals and snacks should include whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and oatmeal, as well as legumes, such as lentils and other beans. And don’t forget to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
2. When you eat meat, cut out fat and cut down portion sizes. Choose lean cuts of meat and modest amounts — about 3½ or 4 ounces per serving (which is roughly the size of your palm).
3. Avoid fried foods. Frying foods adds fat and calories. For stovetop cooking, it’s better either to stir-fry foods in a nonstick pan lightly coated with a cooking-oil spray or to braise them in broth or wine. Baking, broiling, and roasting are also great options — they add no extra fat to your meals.
4. Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy foods. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of protein and calcium, but the whole-milk versions of these dairy products are very high in fat.
5. Avoid fast foods. Hamburgers, chicken nuggets, French fries, and other fast-food staples tend to promote weight gain for two reasons. First, they are high in fat, calories, or both. Second, the “value meals” available at many fast-food chains are often excessively large and tempt you to overeat.
6. Avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks. Chips and other deep-fried snacks are high in fat and therefore calories. But even snacks labeled “low-fat” are often high in calories because they contain large amounts of sugars and other carbohydrates.
7. Watch what you drink. Regular sodas, fruit juices, and, especially, alcoholic beverages are high in calories.