As a weight loss specialist, I spend a lot of time talking to people about their diets and I have found a common theme running among most people. They rarely eat actual meals throughout the day. And when they do finally have a meal, calorie intake goes out the window, not because full meals are destined to be super high in calories, but because a person’s eating habits before and/or after that meal are so poor that they are overly hungry and under satisfied when they sit down for an actual meal.
We have entered an era where people think they are eating less food when they are actually eating more. That is, if we talk about food in terms of calorie density as opposed to volume.
For some time, the media touted the magic discovery of eating smaller, more frequent meals through the day. This can work if someone scrupulously plans their day and has a good handle on what they are eating. What really happens for MOST people is that they end up eating a lot of calorie dense snack foods that don’t satiate them. Then by the time they get home from work, they are SO hungry that they end up eating a late dinner plus a whole lot more.
I’ve had clients who are overweight tell me that their problem is that they don’t eat enough. You may have read blogs or articles where well meaning (yet severely misguided) diet coaches claim that people need to eat more to lose weight.
For anyone who has a solid grasp of energy balance, and knows how it works, this can be a real head scratcher. Food is energy. When we eat food, we are taking in energy. (also referred to as calories) Our bodies then burn or store that energy throughout the day based upon our levels of daily activity (or lack thereof) and basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy (calories) your body needs to simply sustain itself when at complete rest.
If you consume more energy (calories) than your body needs to satisfy your BMR plus any additional activities you perform on any given day, you will have an excess of energy (calories) and your body will store that excess energy as fat. Also known as weight gain.
If you consume less energy (calories) than your body needs to satisfy your BMR plus any additional activities you perform on any given day, you will then be in an energy (caloric) deficit and your body will burn excess fat to use as energy. This gives us fat loss.
If you take in just enough calories to meet your bodies energy needs for your BMR plus any activity you perform, you will be in what’s known as a eucaloric state and you will neither lose nor gain fat. You’ll simply maintain the weight you’re at.
I’m hoping this makes sense so far. For some of you, this may seem like a “hit me over the head” simplification, but it’s an important scientific, actual process that many people seem to lose grasp of when thinking about, or talking about, weight fluctuation and manipulation.
People mistakenly think that it’s the TYPES of foods that they are eating that are causing them problems, as if certain foods impart magical results for weight loss and other foods impart demonic weight gain, by mere smell and touch.
I exaggerate a little, but I’m hoping we can come to an agreement that no certain food type is what makes us overweight. At least, not when we eat only what we need, in balance with our bodies energy needs, or when we eat slightly less than those needs, we can then see weight loss.
There is NO SINGLE food that will make you gain weight. The only reason you may gain weight from eating a particular food, is if you are eating so much of it, that it is what’s causing you to eat more calories than meets your personal energy needs on a daily basis.
But even then, it’s really just the excess calories, not the food itself, that is the REAL problem that needs fixing. You need to modify your portions. Not vilify a whole food group.
Some good examples of these higher calorie foods would be nuts, or creamy spreads, olive oil, ice cream, and chips. And yes, even bread and pasta. Foods that we have a tendency to eat with wild abandon when we really want to let loose. Despite popular belief, all of these foods can be part of a well balanced diet that keeps us in a eucaloric state. (maintaining our weight). You could even incorporate these into a balanced diet and LOSE weight, provided portions and calories (energy) keep you in a slight deficit.
So what does this have to do with eating meals?
I find that lots of clients eat a very poor breakfast, if any. Most people stick with soups or salads for lunch, if they have anything, and then the rest of the day, they are grazing.
Overall, people are taking in very little protein, and protein is the key macro nutrient that keeps you feeling full. If you group all the macro nutrients together (fat, carbohydrates, and protein), in a well balanced trio for each meal and snack, you’ll feel even more balanced, energized, and comfortably full.
Not to mention the psychological satisfaction we experience when we’ve actually taken the time to eat something that looks enticing, has textural variety when we chew and swallow, and feels substantial.
For many people food has become like an unhealthy relationship. Due to it’s lack of quality, we keep wanting more. When we don’t take the time to fix what’s missing, we never feel satisfied.
I understand that the work day can sometimes get away from us, and it can be hard to find time for a real meal, but this is where advance planning comes in and this is why it can help to pack foods ahead of time, at least once a week, so the rest of the time you can just grab and go. If you know in advance what recipes you’re cooking for the week, you can have food prepped and ingredients at the ready.
Today I am going to share with you a sample days worth of food, made of actual MEALS, and you’ll most likely be surprised at how much food you can eat for a really moderate amount of calories.
If you can just stay satisfied and balanced throughout the day, the likelihood that you will crash and burn at the end of it into a kamikaze nose dive through the snack abyss, greatly decreases.
And for all you people who love a bedtime snack and treats, I’ve even made some room for those.
Before you even read through this entire list of food, know that this whole day’s worth of meals and snacks only totals to 2, 059 calories. Most people are consuming way more calories than this on a daily basis, yet feeling like the they’ve hardly eaten a thing. This days worth of food also has 145.6 grams of protein. Many people have a hard time getting sufficient protein in their diet without using a supplement. As you’ll see here, some foods are naturally higher in protein and if you get an adequate amount in each meal and snack, it helps you accrue a hella lot by the end of the day.
Here is a day’s worth of meals and snacks.
Scrambled eggs with 1 slice raisin toast
(140 calories 14 grams protein)
8 tablespoons egg whites
(62 calories 12.5 grams protein)
1/4 cup 1% cup milk
(26 calories, 1.9 grams protein )
(I scramble all of this together with a spray of olive oil cooking spray)
1 slice Heidelberg Raisin Sunflower toasted bread
(100 calories 3 grams protein)
1 pat butter
(102 calories, .1 gram protein)
2 cups of coffee with 2 tablespoons creamer in each
(78 calories 1.8 grams protein
Total = 508 calories / 33.3 grams protein
4 oz Hannaford Natural Honey Turkey (140 calories, 26g protein)
1 slice Hannaford sharp cheddar cheese slices
(43 calories, 2.7 grams protein)
1 Josephs Flax, Oat bran, and Whole Wheat flour tortilla
(80 calories, 7 grams protein)
1/2 cup romaine Lettuce (3 calories, .2 grams protein)
3 Tomato slices (9 calories, .3 grams protein)
12 Baby carrots (30 calories, .9 grams protein)
2 tablespoons hummus ( 70 calories, 2 grams protein)
1 serving (1 oz) Doritos (150 calories, 2 grams protein)
Total = 525 calories / 41.1 grams protein
Greek yogurt with almonds and blueberries
3/4 serving almonds
(120 calories, 4.5 grams protein)
1/2 cup Chobani greek yogurt
(65 calories, 11 grams protein)
1/2 cup blueberries
( 42 calories, .5 grams protein)
Total = 227 calories / 16 grams protein
Ginger crusted salmon with melon salsa (Here’s the recipe)
Salmon 5.5 oz
(280 calories, 39.2g protein)
2 cups cantaloupe
(120 calories, 3g protein)
1 cup honeydew melon , 177 grams
(64 calories, 1gram protein)
2 tspn vegetable oil
3 cups broccoli
(75 calories, 9 grams protein)
Total = 619 calories, 52.2 grams protein
Skinny cow Double Caramel Swirl Bar
(180 calories, 3 grams protein)
145.6 grams protein
This is just a sample menu I threw together. You can increase or decrease the calorie amount based on your personal needs. You can swap out one food for another.
I’d like to also point out, that aside from the Skinny Cow Bar at bedtime, this menu does not consist of any no – fat, low fat, reduced calorie or 100 calorie products. Save your money and just track your portions. You will end up feeling more full and your taste buds will thank you!
The main point I want to make here, is that this is a LOT of VOLUME for a comparatively low amount of calories. If you are someone who has fallen into grazing and binging cycles, you may want to reconsider your approach for eating. Big meals don’t have to cause weight gain if they are planned out with a thoughtful, well informed approach. And you can feel full and satisfied, and still enjoy foods you may not think have a place in a well balanced diet.
When my clients start putting more balanced meals into their diet, a common initial response from them is “It feels like all I do is eat!” or “I can’t believe how full I feel.” Well, yes, even if you’re eating at a deficit for weight loss, if you are not accustomed to eating a nutrient dense diet that is high in protein, and also includes lot of healthy carbs and fats, you will feel more full initially. You may feel like you’re eating a lot, even though you’re taking in less total calories. This is where food logging and tracking can help. Not just to ensure you stay within your daily total for calories, but also so that you can be mentally reassured that the total amount of food you are eating is well within a healthy range.
This may take some time to wrap your head around if you’re not used to eating this way. You may even have some psychological fears of eating that you need to overcome. But these numbers don’t lie.
Stay sane and healthy!
Founder, real [FIT] life
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