Why Counting Calories Isn’t Doing You (or Your Waistline) Any Good

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If you want to lose weight, look good, and feel good, it’s time to stop counting your calories. It might be one of the most popular ways to diet and, sure, it can work for short-term weight loss, but what many women don’t realize is that focusing on calories (as opposed to nutritional value) can actually be doing you some serious harm.

For example, an apple contains around 70 calories, while a mini KitKat has 52. Happy days – that means you can pick the chocolate bar over a piece of fruit, right? Well, no, actually. Although that KitKat has fewer calories, it’s packed full of bad fats and sugar that your body can’t process. That’s also what will make you fat and do your insides no good, unlike the natural sugars, fiber, and clean calories in an apple that your body can easily process.

To help you make the all-important change of focusing on nutritional value – and not the amount of calories in what you eat – Goodness taps Health and Nutrition Coach Heidi Jones, Ambassador and Founder of the Lululemon Running Club, to get her top health hacks. Read on to find out more.

Over fad diets? Who isn’t! The secret to never going on a fad diet again and avoiding the weight-loss-weight-gain-weight-loss cycle is to switch your mindset from counting calories to counting nutrients. The latter is much more enjoyable than counting calories as you get to focus on the quality of the food that you’re putting into your body and how your body feels once it is digested.

By choosing to focus your attention on eating nutrient-rich foods, you will start to feel lighter, more energetic, and healthier. You’ll find that you recover quicker from workouts, have a stronger immune system, and – most importantly – feel happier. No more of the “food guilt” that often goes hand in hand with calorie-restrictive diets. Foods that are rich in nutrients are also beauty foods, so you’ll notice that your skin is clearer, your hair is shinier, and your fingernails are stronger. There’s also the added bonus of a leaner figure.

edward guk burger
Photo: Courtesy of Edward Guk

What Are Nutrient-Rich Foods?

Nutrient-rich foods are whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3, fiber, and protein – essentially, all the nutrients that we know are vital for health – with the least amount of calories. For example, one cup of spinach has only 41 calories and all these nutrients. One cup of Swiss chard has a lot of nutrients, but only 35 calories. One cup of broccoli is also rich in nutrients and contains 44 calories, while two cups of romaine lettuce clock in at only 16 calories.

To make counting nutrients a part of your healthy lifestyle means learning more about the health-promoting nutrients in foods. This way, you are able to create a nutrient-rich diet from your knowledge of the foods that you’re eating. Did you know kale is one of the world’s highest antioxidant foods? Or that collard greens have more calcium than milk?

Healthy Diet Calorie
Photo: Courtesy of @TheDetoxKitchen

Crowding Out

To start implementing this in your daily diet, use the “crowd out” method. This is a step-by-step approach that encourages you to gradually add more nutrient-rich foods to your plate over a period of time. You’ll soon start to feel and see the positive impact of these new additions on your body and overall health and replace all nutrient-poor foods with more wholesome options.

Foods to include (source locally and organically grown, where possible):
– Vegetables
– Fruits
– Nuts and seeds
– Beans and legumes
– Whole grains (quinoa and buckwheat are two of the most nutritious)
– Meats (opt for pasture-raised and grass-fed)
– Fish (line-caught and wild, if possible)
– Free-range eggs
– Herbs and spices
– Some dairy (including grass-fed cheese, milk, and yogurt)
– Dark chocolate 

Foods to start “crowding” out:
– Processed foods (the best way to do this is by cooking fresh meals at home)
– Refined white sugar (sweeten with natural sources, like honey and maple syrup)
– Trans fats (opt for home-baked versions of foods like pancakes and cakes)
– Caffeinated beverages (limit these to one a day and opt for fruit-infused waters, herbal teas, and matcha lattes)

Super Swaps

Bio-individuality is especially important when making dietary changes. This means accepting that each person’s body is different and learning about what your body needs through nutrition to achieve enhanced health. The first step is to keep a food journal as this will help you learn how your body responds to the foods you eat.

Do you feel light and energized after breakfast, but sluggish and bloated after lunch? These insights can help you learn what foods make you feel your best. You will also be able to learn more about your cravings, emotional eating habits, and food intolerances. Good nutrition is also recommended for a healthy immune system, strong bones, and improving heart health.

To get started, try some of the food swaps listed below:
– Bircher muesli instead of boxed breakfast cereal
– Zoodles instead of white pasta
– Home-baked, sweet-potato wedges instead of potato chips
– A big green salad with goat’s cheese instead of a cheese sandwich
– 85 percent dark chocolate instead of a milk-chocolate bar
– Herbal tea instead of coffee
– Natural yogurt with berries and honey instead of low-fat strawberry yogurt
– Smoothies instead of milkshakes

Always check with your doctor before making major lifestyle and dietary changes.