Counting calories to achieve weight loss can be confusing. Should you be placing more emphasis on the number of calories eaten or the quality of your calories? The short answer is both numbers matter in achieving optimal health and fitness.
While one hundred calories of fruit is the same number as one hundred calories of candy, the effect on the body is dramatically different. One hundred calories of nutrient dense vegetables, fruit, or lean protein leave you feeling fuller and don’t lead to a sugar crash. One hundred calories of candy, on the other hand, will leave you just as hungry—maybe even hungrier—than you were before you indulged. A recent study by Harvard went even further to actually confirm that the quality of your calories matters more than the number of calories.
Instead of overcomplicating the science and numbers of calories, following three simple rules for counting calories will help you achieve a healthier lifestyle faster:
- Count all calories. The bite-sized Snickers that you sneak at the office counts. Even though it’s small and seems relatively innocent, to have a truly accurate picture of the number and quality of calories you’re eating every day you have to include even the bite-sized snacks. Even if you are allowing yourself a cheat day, cheat meal, or following the 80/20 diet, knowing your numbers over the course of a week is more important than on any one day.
- Prioritize healthy calories. If you’ve maxed out on your calorie allotment for the day, but you feel hungry and unsatisfied, opt for vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber foods to fill you up without causing the inevitable sugar crash. When you’re deciding what to eat, whether it’s for a snack or a meal, first consider how the foods will make you feel. A 100 calorie snack of sugar will not keep you nearly as full as 100 calories of a banana.
- Think long-term for long-term success. You can’t lose weight by eating fewer calories than you can burn in one day. Instead, think long-term when you’re planning your calorie count and making healthy decisions. If you have a slip or allow yourself an indulgence, don’t let it be a total setback.
- Read labels. Your favorite pre-packaged, heavily processed snack food might be low in calories, but what is it high in? If it’s high in sugar, artificial sweeteners, or additives you can’t pronounce, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Twenty minutes after you polish off that low-calorie snack, you’ll be just as unsatisfied and hungry as you were before you ate. Choose your snacks and meals from the outer aisles of the grocery store. When in doubt, opt for the food that does not come in the package!
How do you decide what calories to eat? Do you have a tip or trick that can make it easier for other FitClub members? Share it in the comments below!