Dear Leah Renee,
I’ve heard people saying lately that counting calories should not be a concern. I always thought the way to lose weight IS to count calories. What gives? ~Deb, MA
“Count ingredients and chemicals, not calories.”
Calories in, calories out, right? Not so much. I personally used to say this all the time. It didn’t matter where it came from, as long as you weren’t consuming more than you’re burning. Well, it turns out I was wrong, as is this way of thinking. If that were true, you’d be the picture of health consuming 4 Cokes a day and a bucket of peanut M&M’s (I like to keep it classy). Your body and skin will certainly not look the same consuming a days worth of calories that way versus having a bowl of oatmeal with berries for breakfast, an organic chicken wrap at lunch, and grilled fish tacos at dinner. Calories = Energy. The energy you get from food varies greatly depending on where that food came from and how it was prepared.
Sometimes it’s not as obvious that you’re eating junk though. We all know that Coke and M&M’s aren’t slimming foods. You may be thinking to yourself duh, I wouldn’t eat that! Unfortunately many products on the market that are considered food have just as many harmful ingredients, but just packaged up and marketed a different way. They may have a label like “no sugar” or “high fiber” or “guilt free”. “Guilt free” reminds me of someone saying “no offense”. You know whatever they’re going to say after that starts with a “but” and then something offensive. Guilt free is a loaded claim. It’s totally not guilt free. It’s just trying to make you feel better.
Eating fibrous foods will satisfy your need for fiber, and eating protein rich foods (such as fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes, and meat) will give you the proper protein requirement. What you don’t need to do is buy a carbohydrate rich food in a box with a label that reads “added protein and fiber”. That’s not natural or the way that food was intended, and the energy is going to be different. If eggs had a label that read “enriched with carbohydrates” the egg business would go bad in a hot minute. Appreciate foods for what they offer, naturally.
When we hear people say you don’t need to count calories, it’s because they are referring to eating a diet that consists of natural, whole foods. Foods that come from a tree, grow from the ground, and have not been altered (much if at all) by a human being. Our body recognizes what’s natural, and processes it well (with the exception of course if someone has celiac disease or a food allergy). Unless portion control of these wholesome, natural foods is out of control (did you really put down 5 heads of broccoli and 10 sweet potatoes?) then it is very likely you will feel good, look good, and not have so many cravings.
But, let’s face it, we live in the 21st century. We are presented with products and packaged foods all the time (and we’re so busy!), not all of which are terrible for you, and in moderation. That’s part of the problem–there’s so much to choose from, and how do you know the good from the bad? I’ll provide some examples on what to look for at the grocery store the next time to steer clear of the nasties (because let’s be honest, you may as well just grab those M&M’s).
Here are some ingredient comparisons, the nasties are in bold.
Doritos Nacho Cheese Chips:
Corn, Vegetable Oil (Sunflower, Canola, and/or Corn Oil), Maltodextrin (Made From Corn), Salt, Whey, Monosodium Glutamate, Buttermilk, Romano Cheese (Cow’s Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Onion Powder, Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Dextrose, Tomato Powder, Spices, Sodium Caseinate, Lactose, Lactic Acid, Artificial Color (Including Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1), Citric Acid, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Red and Green Bell Pepper Powder, Skim Milk, Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate. CONTAINS MILK INGREDIENTS. **This Frito-Lay product does not contain wheat, rye, barley or oat ingredients (we include oats in this list as a precaution as oats are often commingled with gluten-containing grains).
Garden of Eatin’ Nacho Cheese Chips:
Organic Yellow Corn, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil and/or Safflower Oil and/or Sunflower Oil, Organic Cheddar Cheese Seasoning (Cultured Organic Milk, Salt, Lactic Acid, Enzymes, Disodium Phosphate, Annatto, Salt, Organic Whey, Organic Tomato Powder, Organic Onion Powder, Citric Acid, Organic Mustard Powder, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Cayenne Pepper.
How about peanut butter sandwich crackers?
Ritz Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers:
Enriched Flour [Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Peanut Butter (Roasted Peanuts, Hydrogenated Rapeseed, Cottonseed and Soybean Oils, Salt), Soybean Oil, Sugar, Dextrose, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Leavening (Calcium Phosphate and/or Baking Soda), Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier).
Late July Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers:
Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Peanut Butter, (Dry Roasted Organic Peanuts, Organic Palm Oil, Organic Sugar, Salt), Organic Oleic Safflower Oil and/or Organic Oleic Sunflower Oil, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Palm Oil, Sea Salt, Leavening (Baking Soda, Ammonium Bicarbonate, Cream of Tartar), Soy Lecithin (An Emulsifier), Enzymes.
And one more, yogurt:
Dannon Light & Fit Plain Yogurt:
Nonfat Yogurt (Cultured Grade A Non Fat Milk, Modified Food Starch, Fructose, Kosher Gelatin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3), Water, Fructose, Contains Less Than 1% of Modified Corn Starch, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Citric Acid, Aspartame, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Sorbate (to Maintain Freshness), Caramel Color, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Annatto Extract (For Color). Contains Active Yogurt Cultures Including L. Acidophilus. Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine.
Horizon Organics Non-Fat Plain Yogurt:
Organic Grade A pasteurized nonfat milk, fructan (Nutraflora®, a natural dietary fiber),pectin, and live yogurt cultures: S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, L. casei, Bifidobacterium longum.
The best choices we can make overall is to eat foods that are not from a box. When they are, the less the ingredients the better! And organic when possible. Yogurt (as seen above) should really just have milk and active cultures in it. Not fake sugars, coloring, and aspartame. Peanut butter snacks should be free of hydrogenated oils, and chips should not contain monosodium glutamate (aka MSG). Counting chemicals over calories becomes should be the overriding decision before calories. Just because it’s low in calories does not make it low in chemicals.
Did you used to eat certain foods before and have switched because of the ingredients? Do you have some healthy favorites to share? Please let me know in the comments below!