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New Year’s Food Resolutions

Perhaps one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight. Losing weight, like gaining or maintaining one’s weight, can be simplified into a simple ratio: calories-in versus calories-out. Calories are nothing more than a unit of energy. Rather than thinking of calories as what makes you gain weight, consider them from the perspective that they provide your body with the energy it needs to get on with your day. Calories-in is the calories you consume in your food, and calories-out are the calories you burn from exercise and your day-to-day activities. Although losing weight is perhaps one of the most popular resolutions, it is also one of the most failed resolutions, and I think this is greatly attributed to focusing on this simple ratio rather than overall improved health.

Yes, if you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Likewise, if you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. You can determine your ideal caloric intake goal on several websites, but generally, for adults, 2,000 calories per day is considered average. This number can go up or down based on individual factors such as activity level, metabolism, pre-existing conditions, gender, age, current weight, and body mass index (BMI). However, even though focusing on the calorie-in to calorie-out ratio is effective on the scale, for long-term health, focusing on mindful eating and quality calories will yield a greater return on your physical health, regardless of the scale.

Foods are divided into three macronutrient categories: carbohydrates at four calories per gram, protein at four calories per gram, and lipids (a.k.a. fat) at nine calories per gram). Also, foods contain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that serve essential functions in the body. Adequate hydration (drinking enough water) is an important factor because dehydration can inhibit the body from properly absorbing necessary nutrients from foods. Whole foods, as in unprocessed foods, are significantly more nutrient-dense than processed foods. Think of it this way: when you look at an ingredient list on a product, if the list is long and consists of multi-syllabic non-food names, that is something processed, and you should probably reconsider or proceed with caution, depending on the contents of the ingredient list and the nutritional label. Different diet plans vary the carbs to protein to fat ratio. This ratio should be determined mindfully depending on your body needs and your personal goals.

(As a quick aside, Maggie’s ketogenic diet to control her seizures as at a 4:1 ratio. This means that Maggie gets four grams of fat to 1 gram of combined protein and carbohydrates).

A few years back, the term “superfood” was popularized to describe foods that pack a nutritional powerhouse. It was suggested that healthy eating should revolve around superfoods. Several books discuss the benefits of superfoods and my personal favorite is SuperFoods Rx by Dr. Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews. They list 14 superfoods:

  1. Beans

  2. Blueberries

  3. Broccoli

  4. Oats

  5. Oranges

  6. Pumpkin

  7. Wild Salmon

  8. Soy

  9. Spinach

  10. Tea

  11. Tomatoes

  12. Turkey (skinless breast)

  13. Walnuts

  14. Yogurt

Although this list looks limiting, these foods are categories, not individual foods. For instance, blueberries include other berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and pomegranates, and so on. Broccoli includes other cruciferous vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, asparagus, etc. Oats include other whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice. I could go on, but a key point to remember is that this list also encompasses sidekick foods that share similar nutritional qualities. Many popular diets from the Mediterranean Diet to the Abs Diet essentially incorporate these same foods in their meal plans.

Portions are another important consideration. You could eat 4,000 calories of superfoods daily, but if your body only needs 2,000, you will inevitably gain weight. There are apps like MyFitnessPal to track your calorie consumption, but I don’t care for this. Even though I diligently track Maggie’s consumption because of her medically prescribed keto diet, I prefer to follow the 80/20 rule in my eating habits. We use smaller plates for our meals, and I eat when I feel about 80% full. If I eat until I feel full, then I’ll feel too full.

This year, if health or weight is on your New Year’s list, I highly recommend mindfulness in terms of your food choices, not only for greater success on your goal but because it will help you with greater long-term health benefits.


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