A Calorie Is Not Just a Calorie: Why You Should Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
We’re here with an important newsflash: a calorie is not just a calorie, folks!
If you have long adhered to this maxim, it’s time to think again. Only then can you truly update your diet to eat healthfully for life.
Of course, one of the first steps on the path to a fitter body and a happier you is watching your calorie intake. If you have started monitoring your intake of calories in the form of food and your output of calories in the form of exercise, then congrats: you deserve a pat on the back. This is a fabulous first step. But it doesn’t end there.
Understanding Nutrient Density
You’ve most likely heard the term “nutrient density,” but perhaps you didn’t understand what it meant at the time. Clemson University explains that nutrient density “is a measure of the nutrients provided per calorie of food, or the ratio of nutrients to calories (energy).”
The article goes on to add “Foods that supply generous amounts of one or more nutrients compared to the number of calories they supply are called nutrient dense. Eggs, for example, have a high nutrient density, because they provide protein and many vitamins and minerals in proportion to their calories.” In other words, any single calorie can be full of nutrition elements your body needs to function – to burn energy, to repair tissue, to regulate bodily processes – or it can be devoid of nutritional value.
Unfortunately, a calorie affects your waistline the same either way. If you’re eating a lot of foods that don’t fill you up and give you energy, you’re wasting those calories. Worse, you’re probably eating more calories to make up for the lack of nutrient value in the previous ones. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer and other chronic health conditions.
Improving Diet Choices
Your best bet is to shoot for nutrient-dense foods wherever possible. Whole foods tend to be better than processed foods. Always go for something fresh over something packaged. Cook your own meals at home in the evenings when you can.
When you do eat sweets, make sure they’re not weighed down with a bunch of empty calories. Where possible, eat sweets that contain whole food ingredients, and avoid choices that are loaded with processed sugar. When doing your own baking, try a sugar substitute such as Lakanto. Made of monk fruit, it sweetens naturally, without adding empty calories. Prefer your sweets already prepped? Try their sugar-free chocolate bars.
But most of all, just remember that some calories are worth a lot more than others. It’s okay to have a treat sometimes. In fact, many dietitians believe that treating yourself is crucial to sticking to a healthy eating plan. When you do, though, view the treat as an exception. Healthy eating is all about doing the right thing most of the time, and most of the time, your calories need to be nutrient dense.
High-quality calories are the secret to a healthy body and a healthy life. Get more of them today.