Healthy diet programs focus on food selection as much as calories. Some dieters get too fixated on reducing calories or on proportions of macronutrients to the exclusion of paying attention to what they are eating. In terms of long-term weight loss and health, food choices will matter at least as much as calorie intake or macronutrient percentages.
Healthy Diet Programs and Macronutrients
Healthy diet programs should focus more on reducing calories than percentages of various macronutrients. Macronutrients are the nutrients that your body requires in large amounts for normal growth and development — namely, carbs, fats and proteins.
Research show that for weight loss, reducing calories makes more of a difference than macronutrient ratios. Studies show that regardless of the macronutrient ratio, all calorie-restrictive diets are equally successful in promoting similar amounts of weight loss over the course of two years.
Healthy Diet Programs Require More than Just Counting Calories
Healthy diet programs require more than just counting calories. A calorie measures the amount of energy a particular food or beverage contains. As it turns out, not all calories are created equal.
The food source of the calories seems to matter as well. That’s because food and its macronutrient composition can influence how hungry or full you feel, your metabolic rate, brain activity, and hormonal response.
So, while 100 calories of broccoli and 100 calories of doughnuts contain the same amount of energy, they affect your body and food choices much differently.
Four cups of broccoli have 100 calories and pack eight grams of fiber. One-half of a medium-sized glazed doughnut provides 100 calories, but the calories come from refined carbs and fats.
Now imagine eating four cups of broccoli in one sitting. Not only would it take a lot of time and effort to chew, but its high fiber content would leave you feeling much fuller than eating one-half of a doughnut, in which case you will most likely eat the other half.
As a result, a calorie is not just a calorie. You should also focus on diet quality to increase dietary adherence and fat loss. Calories from different sources may theoretically supply your body with the same amount of energy, but they differ in how they affect your health and ability to stay on track with your diet.
Healthy Diet Programs Focus on Diet Quality
Healthy diet programs focus on the quality of the foods you eat just as much as the number of calories consumed.
We all know that to lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn. The foods you eat can impact your fat loss efforts. Consume foods that are nutrient-dense and high in protein but limit foods that contain a combination of carbs and fats, as this combo makes them addictive.
Here are some good tips:
• Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods
Foods that are nutrient-dense contain high levels of nutrients but are relatively low in calories.
Nutrient-dense foods pack fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds like phytochemicals. These include foods like dairy, beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats and fish. Many of these foods are also rich in fiber and contain a high percentage of water. Water and fiber help increase feelings of fullness, which can help you eat fewer total calories throughout the day.
• Consume High-Protein Foods
Protein promotes feelings of fullness, spares muscle loss and requires expending more calories to digest than carbs or fats.
Look for lean animal-based sources like meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. You can also get your protein from plant-based sources like soy, grains and certain vegetables, including green peas.
• Limit Fat and High-Carb Foods
Just as some foods can benefit your weight loss goals, others can sabotage them.
Foods that contain both fats and carbs stimulate the reward center in your brain and increase your cravings, which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Doughnuts, pizza, cookies, crackers, potato chips and other highly processed snacks contain this addictive combination of fats and carbs.
Diets commonly fail because people can’t stick with them for long periods. Therefore, it’s important to follow a reduced-calorie diet that fits your preferences, lifestyle and goals.
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