Are All Calories Really Created Equal?

Who hasn’t heard that 100 calories are 100 calories?  Or that you simply need to control the number of calories you consume, and you will lose weight?  This is the information we have been given for many years and it’s ingrained in our brains when it comes to nutrition and health.  Unfortunately, this information isn’t entirely correct.  Thinking like this, has led people astray and most likely contributed to the rising obesity rates.   The key is to consume the correct amount of the healthy foods that you will stick with for the years to come.


There are three sources of calories in our diet: protein, carbohydrates and fat.  Protein and carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories.  At first glance, one would think that a diet low in fat would be the best choice.  Over the years we have seen that this isn’t the case.  In fact, what seems to work the best is a diet with limited calories from highly processed, simple carbohydrates and high in healthy fats, lean protein and minimally processed carbohydrates that are high in fiber.



Let’s talk protein.  Protein from healthy sources such as plants, lean meats and lean dairy is vital for weight loss, maintenance and overall health.  The body expends a larger amount of energy to digest, absorb and metabolize protein than it does for fats or carbohydrates.  The average person (who’s not lifting weights or body building), needs a diet consisting of 0.8 – 1 g per Kg (of your body weight) of protein daily.  The best way to do this is to consume an even amount at each meal and add in protein with any snacks.  This may seem like a lot and can be challenging when the typical American diet largely consists of simple and processed carbohydrates and little protein. 


Here are some great sources of protein:


·      Quinoa – It became popular over the past decade for a good reason.  It’s the only plant based, complete protein and it’s super versatile!  Add it to soups and stews or have it as a side dish.  Can be easily reheated for lunch the next day.


·      Yogurt – This can be tricky.  There are many yogurts out there that claim to be healthy but upon investigation, are loaded with sugar.  Choose unsweetened kinds and add in berries.  For those of you who are slightly more adventurous, go with fat free, plain greek yogurt…lots of protein and minimal sugar!

·      Ground Turkey – From meatballs to chili…there are endless recipes (perfect for cool fall weather) that include this protein rich food.

·      Cottage Cheese – Great as a snack or quick meal.  Can be sweet with added fruit or savory when eaten with veggies.

·      Eggs – These littles wonders are packed with protein and healthy fat.  Scramble them up with some salsa for any meal or boil them and take them along for a protein rich snack.

·      Chicken – There are so many ways to enjoy this lean source of protein.  Grill it, bake it, throw it in the crockpot, stir fry or many others.  Always remember to cook extra to have for lunch the next day on a salad or as is.


What about fat?  Fat is vital to health and a major source of energy.  Fat has been given a bad name over the past few decades.  We gradually saw all of our foods being replaced with “healthy” low fat options.  Often times, the fat that was removed was vital, healthy fat and replaced with processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners.  Take peanut butter for instance.  Buy peanut butter that has one ingredient...PEANUTS!  The low fat kind, typically adds a long list of unhealthy ingredients.  This is where the Mediterranean Diet gained popularity.  Foods like olive oil, fatty fish (salmon and sardines), avocado, most nuts and seeds, are all great sources of healthy fats.


Lastly, the ever debated carbohydrate.  To eat or not to eat, that is the question.  Who hasn’t heard that carbs are bad and if you want to lose weight, you should avoid them?  Well that is partially true and partially false.  There are a whole host of carbohydrates that should be avoided like the plague…or at least very limited.  On this list are most cereals, candy, white bread, prepackaged deserts, crackers, soda, juice and even a lot of granola bars just to name a few.  On the other hand, there are many very healthy and vital carbohydrates.  Our brain uses carbs exclusively for energy.  They key is finding the right carbohydrates that are minimally processed, high in fiber and make our bodies work to digest them.


Add these carbohydrates to your diet:


·      Beans – Try black bean brownies (yes, they’re delicious), 3 bean cold salad or 3 bean hot soup.  So many options and super easy to incorporate into many recipes.

·      Lentils – I consider these a super food.  They are loaded with both fiber and protein.  They come in a variety of colors and taste like what you cook them with.  For pasta lovers, try lentil pasta as a great alternative to regular pasta.

·      Sweet potatoes – So naturally sweet (hence the name).  Delicious as is, with no need for added sweeteners.

·      Vegetables – Many, including asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower also have a good amount of protein per serving.  Try tossing them with a bit of olive oil and sea salt and roasting them in the oven.

·      Fruit – Go for whole fruit and eat the apple peel.  Raspberries are an excellent choice with 8 gm of fiber per cup.



*Of note, many healthy foods have a good amount of protein and fiber.


As with any change, it’s only successful if you make the necessary lifestyles adjustments that will make it stick.  Losing weight is the easy part…maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle can be challenging.  At Enhance Health, you will find the necessary resources that will help you reach your goal of life long health.