Does Counting Calories Matter if You Are Eating Healthy?
Eating healthy doesn't necessarily mean you can avoid keeping track of the calories you consume. Not all healthy foods are low in calories, and even the number of calories in low-calorie foods can add up, causing you to exceed your recommended daily intake. However, paying attention to energy density, portion size and the proper proportions for each type of food can help you avoid having to actually count calories.
Calories In versus Calories Out
Losing weight or maintaining weight depends on the balance of calories coming in versus those being used. If you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight. However, if you consume more calories than you burn, regardless of how healthy the food is that you eat, you will gain weight. Also, as you lose weight, you need fewer calories to maintain your body weight, so you may need to exercise more or eat less to continue losing weight.
Some healthy foods, including nuts and avocados, provide a lot of calories for just a small portion, meaning they are energy-dense. Choosing mainly healthy foods that are low in energy density can allow you to eat a greater volume of food, filling you up while still allowing you to consume fewer calories. Low-energy density foods include broth-based soups, non-starchy vegetables, fruits and whole-grains. If you eat mainly foods that are low in energy density, you are less likely to consume too many calories and may be able to maintain your weight without counting calories.
Check the recommended serving sizes on packaged foods. Controlling your portions helps you maintain the proper caloric intake. People often consume more than they should without realizing it. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, this should include 6 ounces of grains, 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy, 5.5 ounces of protein foods, 6 teaspoons of oils and no more than 258 empty calories, according to the USDA's MyPlate. Empty calories are calories from foods high in sugars and solid fats and low in vitamins and minerals, including those from desserts and snack foods like chips. Consuming the recommended number of servings can help you maintain your weight without having to count calories.
Focusing on getting the foods you need first can help you stay within your recommended caloric intake because these foods are likely to fill you up and leave little room for extras. An easy way to get about the right proportions of foods is to follow USDA's MyPlate guidelines, which recommends dividing your plate into quarters and filling one of these quarters with non-starchy vegetables, one with fruits, one with grains or starchy foods and one with protein foods. Add a serving of dairy or a non-dairy alternative to complete your meal.
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