Do you KNOW what you’re eating?
While I don’t like to get hung up on numbers, it does help people learn to make more conscious food decisions when they can actually see tangible evidence that the “granola” bar they ate contained mostly fat (and sugar!), and in fact was just a glorified chocolate bar.This little formula below can help you figure out if what you’re about to stuff in your mouth is actually that good for you (don’t be fooled by labels containing words like Natural, Whole, or even Organic – these words don’t necessarily mean healthy and you might be sabotaging your efforts to reach your goals!). Someone might say to you, “Oh you should be eating X amount of calories, and X grams of carbs, protein, and fat per day.” Well to someone who isn’t a registered dietitian, or, you know, experienced at memorizing food labels, this can be pretty overwhelming. But how much of these things should we be eating in a day? I personally believe every body functions differently, and there is no one set of magic numbers. On average, you want your diet to consist of approximately 50-60% carbohydrates, 15-20% Fat, and 15-20% Protein (The Dietary Guidelines for Americans). But like I said, these numbers are different for everyone. I know people who thrive on 30% fat, or even 75% carbs. It also depends on your goals. For general weight loss, I advise people to raise their protein, and lower their fat intake. There are a few reasons for this, but one major one is that protein helps to regulate your blood glucose. What the heck does that mean? To put simply, this means that the “carbs” your body gets from food is utilized in a slower, and more controlled manner – less spiking of your blood sugar levels. It’s like slow release energy – and you stay fuller, for longer! It is important to try and get protein and fat with all of your meals – just be mindful of your proportions! Carbs are your body’s main source of fuel, so enough with the low carb nonsense already! Just make smart carb decisions (whole grains, lots of veggies, etc). Ever wonder why your low-carb friend is such a biotch? Because the only source of fuel your brain uses is carbs! Nobody wants to be around a low-carb dieter (plus, when they go into ketosis, their breath smells naaasty. So now you’re practically PMSing and you have crazy bad breath. Sexy). Now I’m just going to warn you, there’s a bit of math involved here. Relax. Don’t freak out on me yet – it’s basic math, and I think the majority of us own a calculator (or at least have the app on our iPhone). So here’s the facts: 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories 1 gram of fat = 9 calories 1 gram of protein = 4 calories 1 lb of fat = 3,500 calories So pull out your favorite packaged snack food, and let’s get cracking here: Let’s say you eat a 2/3 cup of pistachios every day. Nuts are good fats, right? And 2/3’s really isn’t that much (especially when left alone, and no one is looking you eat about 2 cups). No big deal right? Well let’s take a closer look, shall we? 2/3 cup of pistachios: 310 calories, 24 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of protein To figure out what percentage of those calories comes from fat: 24 (grams of fat per 2/3 cup) x 9 (calories per gram of fat – see above) = 216 Now we take that 216 and divide by 310 (total number of calories from 2/3 cup of pistachios) = 0.7 Move the decimal, and we’ve figured out: 70% of the calories comes from fat. Yikes. Remember what I mentioned above? How you want your fat intake to be at about 15-20% (on the lower side if you’re trying to lose weight). This definitely is above that range… Let’s move on to protein: 11 (g of Protein) x 4 (cals per gram of protein) = 44 44 divided by 310 = 0.14 = 14% of the calories come from protein Not bad, but could be a bit higher. Carbohydrates: 13 (g of carbs in the nuts) x 4 (cals per gram of carbs) = 52 52 divided by 310 = 0.17 = 17% of the calories come from carbohydrates. Easy Peasy! But do you see why this would help someone make better food choices? The carbohydrates percentage is way too low, and the fat is way too high. Now try this simple formula on your favorite foods! Before we move totally away from math and word problems (bear with me!), I wanted to show you a bit more, looking at the dreaded cola. Let’s say you drink 2 colas a day (which you don’t really, right?). But let’s just say you do. Each cola is approximately 12 ounces (150 calories, 41 grams of carbs). If you drink those 2 colas every day: You’ve consumed 109,500 extra calories in one year And by replacing your cola with water you could, theoretically, lose 31 lbs of fat (109,500 ÷ 3500 (calories in 1 lb of fat)). I think I’ve made my point :)Teralee Trommeshauer lives in Castlegar, BC, and is a health, food, and fitness enthusiast currently working on her Holistic Nutrition and FItness Education certifications. This column originally appeared in her blog.