In this article “diet” refers to the eating habits in general. Not specifically to losing weight.
Determining a proper diet can be one of the most confusing aspects of getting healthier.
This is because there are so many different options and so many people expressing what they feel is best.
Constantly surrounded by all these different meal plans and diet strategies, it can be easy to misunderstand or misinterpret what really works.
With all the information that can be found on the internet, television, and people we know personally sharing their opinions, it can be very difficult to know where to even start.
In my opinion, it is best to just simply start with the basics.
In my opinion our diet should be something that we can stick to all the time. It is not something that we adhere to for a few weeks or few months in order to meet some short-term goal.
The proper diet is that of one that you can stick to day in and day out.
As an example, if you set yourself a goal of losing 20lbs and you decide to try some crash diet to lose the weight, you will most likely have to follow a plan in which you have to be very strict with what you eat, as well as be in a caloric deficit much too low for you to sustain.
Yes, you may lose the weight you are wanting to, however, as soon as you go off all the restrictions you will inevitably gain the weight you lost back, if not more.
This is because the way in which you lost the weight cannot be sustained.
Below are three principles I feel are important when implementing a proper nutritional diet.
- Real Foods
First and foremost it is best to focus on real foods.
Food that are minimally processed and you are able to prepare yourself. If you go to the grocery store you are faced with an array of options. Most of which are processed garbage that are food products more than anything else.
I don’t know about you, but for me these things are not food.
Real foods are those which you can look at it and tell what it or its ingredients were in its prior state.
A great example of this everybody is familiar with is chicken. A chicken breast or leg looks like it came from an actual chicken, however if you looked at a chicken nugget and did not know what it was, you would never be able to guess that it has anything to do with a chicken.
I’m not saying that you have to avoid all processed foods and you can’t ever eat any of it, but what I am saying is you should try to limit the amount of processed foods that you eat.
Yes I occasionally drink pop, or soda for those outside of the Midwest, I do eat ice cream, and I have been known to have pizza (a favorite of mine J). But I do my best to keep my diet comprised mostly of real foods. (Tonight’s dinner is pork tacos and roasted potatoes, YUM!)
- How much to eat
Another big misconception is portion sizes and how much you should or should not be eating in order to meet your goals.
A lot of people feel that if they want to lose weight they have to drastically cut their caloric intake down.
Because of this, they cut their intake too much and do not see the lasting results that they are hoping for (see example above).
Most people need to consume on average 1800 to 2200 calories per day.
When you start tracking your caloric intake this number can seem either high or low depending on upon your current diet. For example if you currently eat pretty clean, that is eating real foods, then this number could seem kind of high.
However if you are somebody that consumes a lot of processed junk foods, fast foods, and/or eating out at restaurants all the time, then sticking to this kind of a caloric range could potentially be difficult.
The best way to know exactly how many calories you should eat is by figuring out what your maintenance level is an adjusting from there.
The term “maintenance calories” refers to the number of calories that you need to be eating on average each day in order to maintain your current weight.
There are different ways of determining how many calories you should eat.
- Online Calculators: There are all kinds of online calculators where you simply put in your height and weight and level of activity and it calculates a number for you.
- Multiplier: Or alternatively your weight and multiply it by 12 or 13. This too will give you a rough estimate of what you are maintenance calories are.
- Tracking: The most accurate way to determine your maintenance calories is to track what you eat for 1 to 2 weeks. During this time do not change your eating habits, just eat as you normally would, then you simply add up each day and divided by the total number of days that you tracked. This will give you an average daily intake and the most accurate number for your maintenance calories.
With this information you can then add or subtract calories based on your current goals.
- Put emphasis on protein
When it comes to the separate nutrients’ they are split up into macronutrients and micronutrients.
For the sake of time I will go into these in a separate article some other time since doing so now wouldn’t take this article much longer than it’s already going to be.
Looking at a basic diet plan we mostly only want to look at the macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
This is because most people consume less protein than what would be optimal.
For most people to continue to see positive results from their diet and their exercise plan they should be consuming anywhere from .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
My suggestion is if you are just starting to track your food intake to start with .8 pound of body weight.
Trust me this will be more than what you think.
At this stage I would not be too concerned about your overall carbohydrate and fat intake.
Just make sure you are getting enough protein and sticking within your caloric range.