Nobody ever wants to go on a “diet.” However, if you’re anything like me, and in this instance I am going to guess that many of you are, you want to “dial-in” your nutrition in order to reach some personal wellness goals. Whether your goal may be to “lose weight” or improve your overall body composition, or “bulk up” to show so off those muscles you work so hard on, getting started can be the hardest part. Well, if this is the case for you, I am here to help!
The first step in where to start with your nutrition is to understand what you are currently eating and how much you are eating. Most adults, especially adults who are already working to take care of themselves on the fitness side, typically already have a decent sense of what is “good” and what is “not good” to put into their body. Where we often see people slipping up is them not taking the time to really understand what makes up the different foods they consume, and understanding how many calories and nutrients are actually in the foods that they are eating.
A good place to start in this discovery phase is by simply looking at the nutrition labels on the foods you are buying. First, take a look at the ingredient list, here is where you will find how many ingredients are in that particular item. A good rule of thumb here is to try to buy foods with less ingredients, and even better, foods with no ingredients, i.e. whole foods such as fruits & vegetables, and proteins such as chicken, steak and fish. “Whole foods” are typically more nutrient rich and keep us energized and full longer.
The next place to look on the nutrition label is calories and serving size. Serving size is a HUGE determining factor on how a food can fit into your nutrition. A “reduced fat” chip is great and all until you see that the typical serving size of say 120 calories is only 1oz or about 18 chips. I don’t know about you, but 18 chips doesn’t sound like very many chips to really fill me up and provide me the fuel I need to energize me through my long days. So what tends to happen next is that we will either ignore that serving size (*Guilty*) until we are “satisfied,” at which point we are now probably consuming way too many of our daily calories on that one item, only to be hungry again shortly after.
On the other side we can look at portion controlled items such as a “travel size” or “snack pack.” While a “travel size” or “Individual size” may seem like a reasonable amount for one person in one sitting, they often times have more than one serving for the whole item. Look at a bottled serving size the next time you’re at a store. Those bottles, especially the ones higher in sugar such as soda, juice or sports drinks, typically have 2+ serving sizes per container. Another portion size item to be aware of are “snack packs.” While a 100 calorie “snack pack” can be great with helping you control portion size, be wise in what “snack pack” you are choosing. As you start to understand what macronutrients will benefit you the most and how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming, you may begin to notice the lack of actual nutrients you get from these “snack pack” options and how they never seem to “fill you up” or keep you full for very long.
Key Take Away – If you’re not already doing it, start reading those nutrition labels. Look for items with few ingredients and for items with decent calorie to serving size rations. Also, if you’re really serious about finding out how much you are actually eating, invest a little bit into a food scale so you can get a more accurate estimate of your servings and total calorie consumption. Here is my favorite go to scale, which comes with a handy food weighing guide. Click here for link to scale.
The information provided here is based on personal experiences and is provided for educational and informational purposes only. While we draw on our prior professional expertise and background in many areas, you acknowledge that we are supporting you in our roles exclusively as fitness and nutrition coaches only. Before starting any new diet and exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise and/or diet changes with them before beginning. We are NOT doctors, nutritionists or registered dietitians. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.