We know that calories count when it comes to energy balance, but does that mean calorie counting is essential for weight loss?
Traditionally, this is the way that most of us have been taught to manage our weight. I bet that almost everyone who reads this has done calorie counting at some time in their lives. Whether it’s checking out packets, using a manual calorie counting guide. Or through technology such as My Fitness Pal or Fat Secret. So why don’t we promote calorie counting for everybody?
Over recent times, we are starting to move our focus when it comes to calorie counting. Calorie counting is tough and does not necessarily mean that you are eating the right foods in the right amounts. For example, you could choose to make up your calorie intake from prata only and that would leave you wide open to a range of nutritional problems!
What is the evidence?
Emerging evidence shows that food quality is an important factor when it comes to having a balanced diet. Just last year, the US released its latest evidence based dietary guidelines. They encourage us all to have more good quality foods in the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, good quality proteins. And less poor quality foods which are high in sugar, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.
One study in 2011 found that weight gain was associated with highly processed foods such as potato chips, sugar sweetened beverages and processed meats. Whereas weight loss was associated with more whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Researchers did not discount the importance of calories in this study. Instead they recommended that choosing high-quality foods (and decreasing consumption of lower-quality foods) is an important factor in helping individuals consume fewer calories without calorie counting.
One of the other difficulties with calorie counting is having access to the right information. Yes, food labels are a good resource. But without these, it can be difficult to estimate weights and calories in certain foods. For example when we dine outside of home. For these reasons and the sheer fact that you have to do maths every time you choose to eat it can begin to take some of the pleasure and enjoyment out of eating.
So what other approaches are there when it comes to managing weight and eating well?
There are many different approaches to healthy eating and weight management. We have selected a couple of our favourites to share with you. They are evidence based, effective and easy to remember!
If you have been using GlycoLeap for a while, you will have come across the ‘My Healthy Plate’ tool.
It is based on the latest evidence for healthy eating habits. It aims to provide an easy-to-understand representation of a balanced and healthy meal. With this approach, there is no need to count calories or memorise numbers, simply remember the portions of your plate.
Our other favourite way to have good quality foods in the right amount is using your hands as a guide. They are a tool which are always available!
Imagine you have your meal in front of you, aim for:
2 cupped hands of colourful vegetables
A palm sized portion of good quality protein
A fist sized portion of whole grains
This is a simple way to remember the amount of each food group to have on your plate without having to count calories. By keeping your portions to these amounts, you are automatically keeping the calories down, whilst giving the quality of your diet a boost!
So there you have it, do we need to count calories to have a balanced diet and maintain our weight? I guess the answer is that calorie counting is one option, but there are a number of other tools you can use. The truth is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to weight management and achieving a balanced diet, so the important thing is to find the approach which works for you.