Making the Right Food Choices to Establish Life-Long Health Habits
Have you visited your local bookstore lately? There are literally hundreds of publications with persuasive titles claiming that this diet is the be-all, end-all of eating healthy, losing or maintaining weight, and feeling great. Low carbs, high protein, low fat, or is it high carbs, low protein, no fat? No wonder we’re all frustrated and confused—we have so many choices and opinions on how to be the best we can be.
Learned professionals espouse what we’ve known all along; if you want to lose weight: eat less, move more. If you want to maintain weight, calories consumed must not exceed calories burned. Here’s the tricky part: how many calories does one need? That depends on so many variables; it’s often difficult to answer. But there are some rules that apply to all of us and one of those is that eating nutritious foods makes a huge difference in our overall health. Quick fixes and rapid weight loss schemes do not work in the long run.
Yo-yo and very low-cal diets play havoc on our metabolism. If one starves the body, it goes into survival mode, clings on to fat stores and uses lean muscle tissue to keep functioning. A person with more lean muscle tissue burns more calories sitting still than a person with extra fat. That’s a simplistic way of explaining how vital it is to eat healthy!
Franklin D. Roosevelt spearheaded a campaign in the 1940s and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came up with the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), based on what foods should be included in a healthy diet: dairy, meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains. In the 1970s, the FDA further noted that fats (and alcoholic beverages) should be consumed in moderation. Fast forward to the 1990s, when the FDA released the Food Pyramid—the food guide of what we should eat for a healthy diet.
Since then some ideas have changed. Is all fat bad? Of course, the answer is no, but some fats should be avoided for heart health. Below is a brief overview, according to the Mayo Clinic, of what is essential for healthy eating. Since most food labels cite grams, a simple formula is included that serves as a baseline determining what you need per day.
Formula is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
- Carbohydrates: Starches and sugars your body needs for fuel. Complex carbs pokies 88 such as beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Simple carbs should come from natural sources like fruits and milk, rather than from added refined sugars. Forty-five to 65 percent of daily calories should be from carbs.
1 gram carbohydrate = 4 calories
45%-65% of 2000 = 900-1,300 calories
900-1,300 calories divided by 4 = 225-325 grams
- Proteins: Beans, chicken, fish, meat, eggs, and nuts. Ten to 35 percent of total calories.
1 gram Protein = 4 calories, so that’s about 50-175 grams per day.
- Fats: Emphasis is on good fats such as olive or canola oils and from healthy sources from avocados or nuts. Twenty to 35 percent of total calories.
1 gram Fat = 9 calories
20%-35% of 2000 = 400-700 calories
400-700 calories divided by 9 = 44-78 grams
- Saturated Fat/Trans Fat: Saturated fat is found in red meat, chicken, butter, whole milk, and tropical oils. Seven percent (or 15 grams, based on a 2,000 calorie diet) is the recommended daily allowance; Trans fat is found in fried and processed foods. A maximum of one percent should come from these fats—that’s just 2 grams a day! Both of these count toward your total intake of fat, so choose wisely or avoid (especially the trans altogether, if possible).
- Fiber: Whole-grains, oats, fruits, vegetables, beans, and peas. Women need 21 to 25 grams per day and men should get 30 to 38.
Limit cholesterol to 300 milligrams per day. That means limiting high-cholesterol foods such as shellfish, eggs, and meat. In other words: eat these in moderation. Remember: only animal-based foods contain cholesterol. All plant-based foods are naturally free of cholesterol.
As you adapt to a food plan consisting of complex carbs, proteins, fiber, and healthy fats, you’ll unconsciously limit your intake of unhealthy processed, high-fat, or high sodium foods. Your taste buds will become retrained and your body will crave healthy sources of fuel, not high-fat and sugary substitutes.