What comes to mind when you think about eating healthy? Fruits and vegetables? Lean proteins? Vitamins? Fiber? These are all important components of a healthy diet, but we often get stuck on counting calories and miss the big picture. Counting calories can be a successful strategy to help with weight loss, but a healthy diet is much more than that!
Why do you want to be healthy? Everyone has different answers to that question, but most involve wanting to feel better, look better, have more energy and prevent chronic illnesses. Can a 1500 calorie diet provide you with that? Maybe.
Healthy eating involves eating a variety of different fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. The more variety your meal plan contains the more likely you are getting all of your vitamins and minerals for the day. If you are focusing on just counting calories then you might be missing key nutrients in your diet. A 1500 calorie diet containing multiple protein bars or processed foods may lack the necessary fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and trace minerals that your body requires.
Even if your protein bar or meal replacement diet is fortified with all the necessary vitamins and minerals, research has shown they do not function the same way in your body as they would from whole foods. Real food is key for a healthy diet.
Counting calories can often leave you feeling bored with your meal plan. You end up eating the same foods because you know how many calories are in them. While this may help in initial weight loss, you are less likely to stick with this sort of meal plan long term. Most people do not want to eat the same thing everyday. Variety is the spice of life, right?
I like to encourage my clients to focus on eating a variety of different whole foods as opposed to counting calories. Aim to include at least 3 different food groups at each meal, and 2 at each snack. This will increase your chances of meeting all your nutritional requirements for the day.
If you enjoy counting calories and feel it provides you with the structure you need, then check out myplate.gov. This website gives you an idea of how many foods from each food group to include in your daily diet based on how many calories you require. It also provides sample menu ideas and budget shopping tips.
No matter what your health goals are, solely counting calories tends not to be the answer. Try to remember to look at the whole picture. Am I eating at least 3 servings of veggies daily? Do I have enough carbs in my meal to help me power through my next exercise routine? If you need help balancing your meal plan with your personal health goals, a dietitian can be great source to start with