Day 29 of our Bitesize Nutrition challenge is about calories.

Energy produced from food / drink is measured in calories. The NHS guideline per day is 2,500kcal (10,500kJ) for men and 2,000kcal (8,400kJ) for women. It is a very general guideline that doesn’t take account of things like age, body type, health conditions, level of exercise.

The NHS has an online calorie checker which you can use to search for calories in lots of foods/drinks. It can help focus your mind on how energy dense food can be, allowing comparison of food items.

It’s important to keep body fat in a healthy range, increased body fat may increase the risk of:

  • Type-2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some cancers

Spot the emphasis – focusing on fat not weight. Health is not decided by a number on a set of bathroom scales. If you’re physically active you’ll probably already realise you weigh more than people might imagine, and that’s because muscle weighs more than fat. Calculations such as Body Mass Index (BMI) are very basic and lack detail. Focus should be on fat mass rather than weight.

Don’t count calories, count plant sources

Nutritionists don’t over emphasize calories – paying attention to just one number means little focus on nutritional values. One calorie of candyfloss is not the same as one calorie of apple – the apple has fibre and nutrients. Calorie counting also teaches reliance on counting numbers which builds a reliance on processed foods rather than teaching basics about simple wholesome individual ingredients.

Furthermore, we know weight gain is not as simple as calories in and out. Obesity is multi factorial including; genetics, stress, exercise, thyroid disease, gut bacteria, sleep, cooking methods etc..

Instead count plant sources aiming for 30 per week – vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, herbs, spices all count. If you increase the plant sources you’ll be fuller for longer and crave less high sugar processed foods.

Five tips to help reduce body fat:

  1. Balance your diet – include all food groups (carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibre) making sure you’ve got enough of each, particularly protein, good fats and fibre which help to keep you fuller for longer and craving less carbohydrates. Also start the day with breakfast – even if it’s just a yogurt, but it doesn’t need to be early – some interesting research on intermittent fasting (day 17) suggesting for fat reduction there are good results with time restricted eating perhaps having brunch rather than breakfast and lunch.
  2. Protein also preserves muscle preventing a fall in metabolism. Fibre slows down digestion and improves gut bacteria and is often too low due to skipping breakfast, eating out more and snacking in biscuits, cakes. But don’t eat too much, read our protein, fats and fibre guide for how much.
  3. Eat carbohydrates but focus on the complex wholegrains e.g. switching white bread for granary/seeded, white rice for brown basmati (or quinoa), and white pasta for wholemeal pasta. Check packet portion size suggestion, often we’re eating too many carbohydrates each day. You could also try the cook, cool and reheat method with carbohydrates for added benefit.
  4. Check hydration – the simple wee test, should be pale yellow colour. If it’s darker have a glass of water. Often a glass of water can reduce feelings of hunger. Avoid “empty calories” too – fizzy drinks, sugar in hot drinks, fruit juices (more than 150mls per day).
  5. Exercise more – focusing on muscle toning / gain. The more muscle you have the more calories you’re utilising.

If you’d like to find out more tips to improve your health, check out our webinars and our Bitesize Nutrition podcasts particularly the episode with Dr Adam Collins on weight management, gender and exercise. If you’re new to podcasts you can listen free without registration on your phone or PC by clicking on the podcast link in this paragraph. You can also listen to Bitesize Nutrition podcast on iTunes & Spotify.

Don’t forget to let us know what you think using #nutritionchallenge30

A reminder:

  • The information in this article is for educational purposes and should not replace medical advice.
  • The information is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.
  • If you have a diagnosed medical condition, you should consult a doctor before making any major changes to your diet, and;
  • Some supplements may interact with medications and you should check with your GP before commencing any supplement programme.
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Day 30 – When’s the best time to eat?
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Day 28 – What’s the best diet?

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