Written by Nourhan, Registered Associate community nutritionist.
How many calorie tracking applications have you tried before?
One of the most common questions that I get while working with individuals and families is usually around how do I track my calories and if there is a better calorie tracking application than My fitness pal? Well, I get why calorie tracking applications are very popular; they can help us know how many calories we are having per day and giving us a rough indication about how many calories we need to cut down to lose weight.
However, have you thought about what calorie counting applications do not tell us?
Let’s have a closer look at what information those applications forget to tell you:
· The quality of your diet.
· If you meet your 5 a day!
· If you get enough vitamins and minerals that your body need over a day!
· If you get enough fibre!
· Are you feeling satisfied and happy about what you are eating?
And that is just to mention a few. Let me share this one scenario with you:
Someone was enjoying a family birthday party or a friend’s outing then they found that they have already met their daily targeted calories so in order to compensate for that, they will not be having their dinner for the night.
Have you experienced such a scenario before? It is a common event of life that we all experience occasionally. Responding to such a scenario by cutting down a main meal in your day just to compensate for those extra calories you had, would have caused you to miss the important intake of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function healthily. What the application didn’t really tell you in the above scenario is what a balanced diet will look like and that it is ok to go over your recommended calories for some days without compensating that from other important nutrients.
There are loads of elements that tracking calories applications can miss, and that missing elements are a huge part of why tracking your calories without having an insightful understanding of your diet and what your body need would fail most of the time. Also, that is why you couldn’t keep tracking your calories for a long time and found yourself gaining back the weight you have lost then get lost in the dieting cycle again and again!
If you are wondering if calories alone don’t matter so what actually matters! I am here to share with you 5 main tips that really matter for a healthy and sustainable weight loss:
1- Start small and easy
Aim to set realistic and achievable goals to start with and take them step by step. The last thing you want to do is to set some overly aggressive weight-loss goals that are very complicated to achieve as that wouldn’t work in favour of your health and would reduce your efforts and motivation. Remember, there is no such thing as easy and quick fix to lose weight, it is more a journey of developing healthier eating habits, an enjoyable routine of physical activity, stress relief techniques and good sleep hygiene.
2- Level up your meal’s quality
Aim to eat enough protein and fibre. They are very important components of your diet and particularly when you are trying to lose weight. A combination of fibre and protein can help maintaining your blood sugars level, providing you with steady energy and can keep you feeling full for longer. Having that in mind, they are also great sources of vital vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B and E to name a few.
· Good sources of protein are meat, fish, eggs, milk & yogurt, cheese, beans, pulses, tofu and meat alternatives.
· Good sources of high-fibre foods are barley, brown rice or bread, potatoes with their skin, quinoa, pulses, beans and some vegetables.
3- Add extra colours and textures to your plates
Similar to protein, fruit and vegetables are a very important part of your diet as they are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Including fruit and vegetables in your meals and snacks will not just add tasty flavours but also will leave you feeling full for longer and are great for a healthy digestive system and a healthy metabolism.
4- Use your plate as a guide for your macros
Aim to fill up ½ of your plate with vegetables, ¼ of your plate with high-fibre food sources and the other ¼ of your plate with a source of protein. Make sure to include healthy fats in your diet. Choose vegetable oil, olive oil, rapeseed oil to cook with to enhance your diet with the benefits of Monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats. This will ensure you get the essential nutrients that your body needs to optimise your energy levels, keep you feeling full for longer whilst losing weight at the same time.
5- Stay active and hydrated
Block off time on your daily calendar for some fun and enjoyable physical exercise to keep your body active and healthy. I bet that you have been told before to focus on cardio exercise to burn more fats and lose weight, that is true but not the only side of the equation. Introducing some muscle-strengthening exercise to your workout routine would bring the advantage of building and maintaining good muscle density which is a very important key for weight management. Aim to start with easy and low-intensity exercise and then level it up at your pace, you ideally want to introduce a combination of both cardiovascular and resistance training exercises.
Last but not least, do not forget to have your water bottle with you at work and the gym and aim to drink around 8 glasses of water every day. Water with fruit slices and herbs and unsweetened herbal teas are also a good way to keep your body hydrated.
Take home message
Having a calorie deficit is important to lose weight. However, getting the right balance in your meals and snacks is the key to losing weight in a healthy way without gaining it back within months or years, is very important for optimising your energy levels and wellbeing and feeling confident about understanding your diet.
Nourhan specialises in family nutrition and weight management. She is passionate about bringing her experience working in the food industry together with her nutrition knowledge to support individuals to meet their weight and health goals. Book a free 15 min call to see how Nourhan can help you.