The first question people always ask is about what we eat. What we is important, but I think the real question should be how much do you eat. Portion control is something everyone struggles with, even if you don’t realize it. The rest of the world labels Americans as hungry because we’re always eating…and overeating. That portion on your plate at your favorite restaurant is more than likely two servings of food, but most people eat the whole plate without even thinking of that. We are constantly asked about what we eat when we are out and our response is always “check the nutritional information.” Tell you what to eat won’t help because you won’t understand why we choose to eat certain things over another. Also, what works for me may not work for Willie and vice vera. It’s a personal decision that you must make on your own, so why not make an informed decision instead of an emotional one. Here is how we look at the nutritional information:
- If I’m buying something from the grocery store (where I always shop the perimeter because that is usually where the fresh foods are), I always check the ingredients list first. We try to eat as cleanly as I possibly can so we don’t eat a lot of processed foods. I know Willie still eats his chips and things, but I personally don’t do much of that stuff. I try to keep my food as natural and simple as I can and won’t eat something I can’t pronounce or spell on a spelling test! FYI: I’m a horrible speller.
- I’m always checking calories IN PROPORTION to portion size. If the count is too high I generally move on. Do you really want to eat 300 calories of pasta or rice and you haven’t even made it to the protein and veggie yet? It’s also important to know how many calories are from fat. If it’s more than half or more you should probably stay away from it UNLESS it’s a good fat (more on that later).
- Portion size is something people struggle with most often. Most people don’t know what proper portion size is which mean most people are probably eating more calories than they anticipated. At home, Willie and I control this by weighing out almost everything we cook. We have a food scale and we use it frequently throughout the day. I remember when we first got the scale and measured out 4 oz of chicken and we were surprised at how much a portion size was versus how much we had been eating. There’s only one definite way to know how much you’re eating and that’s weighing it out.
- Sodium is a huge concern and something I have always been on the lookout for from the beginning of our journey. Processed and packaged foods are always high in sodium because it helps improve longevity on the self. I did have to accept that we couldn’t eat clean or fresh all the time so we do have processed foods by way of Healthy Choice Steamers for lunch. I eat those for lunch because the sodium content is something I can live with in most meals along with the calorie and fat ratios. It’s a personal decision that you must make on your own. I’m just telling you that we’ve eating those things almost every day for two years and we still managed to lose weight. That is just us though! Back to the point, on a regular normal diet a person should only consume 2,000 – 2,500mg of sodium/day. Most things in a box will blow this for you especially if you’re not paying attention to portion size. Remember sodium is everywhere: sodas, bread, snacks, milk, etc. This is something to be mindful of especially when you’re eating out. If you’re going to a restaurant to eat, accept the fact that you’re going to blow your sodium intake that day. That’s why eating out all and trying to lose weight don’t mix. You’ll be retaining so much water your entire journey. Remember losing weight is about BALANCE nutrition.
- Fat content is important because it helps your body absorb the nutrients and vitamins we need to survive. Watch your fat including your saturated and trans fat. It is very important to eliminate all trans fat from your diet. This is the time to educate yourself on “good fats” and “bad fats.” I learned the good ole fashion way: research. Take the time to learn about the fats that are good for your body and the ones that will destroy them. That fried shrimp platter = bad fat but that avocado = good fat! No one should have more than 65g of fat/per day. You know what food has 65 grams in just ONE serving? Cheesecake! We decided at the beginning we will never have cheesecake again!
- Sugar may taste good but it’s not your friend. I recommend every one pass on the donuts, cakes, cookies and your favorite baked goods in favor of a banana or apple. We do need sugar to help fuel our body because it’s a form of carbohydrate, but stay away from added sugars. To find out if there is added sugar, simply read the ingredients list. Don’t get added sugar confused with natural sugars found in fruits and veggies. Remember everything in moderation.
- Protein is needed to develop our strong bodies so they can continue to grow, plus it helps give us energy throughout the day. When most people hear protein they think beef or chicken, but animal based sources are not the only way to pack protein into your diet. Willie is a more animal based protein person than I am, so there are nights when I am cooking two sets of dinners. There are plenty of plant based proteins such as broccoli, lentils, beans (pinto, black, garbanzo – yes, HUMMUS), quinoa (Willie makes this stuff sooo good), nuts and much more. Find the combination of things that you will enjoy!
- Carbohydrates are our bodies main fuel source. I wish I could speak more on carbs but I don’t know much. Everyone always asks me if I eat carbs and I sure do but they come in the form of veggies and things like that. I gave up refined carbs awhile ago. What’s a refined carb? Things like bread, crackers, chips, pretzels. It would be lie if I told you I don’t eat them at all because I do. But I’m satisfied with just a taste so yes occasionally you will see me take a bite out of Willie’s sandwich or open a bag of chips so I can just eat one or two. Yes, it sounds crazy but that is how I am. I don’t usually worry about my carb intake because I constantly being active (sometimes too active) and I know I need it.
From the Mayo Clinic:
Get 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have 4 calories a gram. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, this amounts to 900 to 1,300 calories a day, or about 225 to 325 grams. Emphasize natural, nutrient-dense carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Limit less healthy sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts and refined grain products.
- Fiber can be a great thing. Foods high in fiber keep you full and away from snacking. Fiber is definitely not considered empty calories! I do recommend that you don’t get too much fiber for bathroom reasons but besides that fiber is a good thing! Fiber is great for controlling your cholesterol levels and helps with your blood sugar spikes (glycemic load) when eating meals.
- 10. All the other stuff on the label, like vitamin content and basic diet information. Most nutritional labels tell you their nutrition percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet. Some labels even give you the breakdown of how much fat, sodium and other information you’re supposed to have on a 2,000 calorie diet. It’s always nice to know that information and if the foods you are eating are packed with vitamins to make you stronger.
The information is all there for you to read. You just need to be informed when you’re reading it because otherwise it means nothing. I wrote this to tell you that we are concerned with far more than the calories we consume each day. It’s a whole system that you should be aware of to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get informed by asking questions or just doing a google serach. You can find out any information you need. If you need some help with this particular subject please comment on the post and we’ll respond. Knowledge is power and this is the first step to understanding why you should live a healthier lifestyle.
Below are some helpful links that helped me along the way:
Coming soon I’ll talk about how we handle eating out and dealing with nutritional information.
*The nutritional label listed here is for Healthy Choice Asian Steamer Kung Pao Chicken because it’s my favorite!