Nutrition Basics - a Balanced Diet
Before you decide which menu items are the best for you, you have to understand some nutrition basics.
If you're concerned about what you eat, we recommend talking to your doctor or a nutritionist about your specific needs. In general, however, most nutritionists recommend that you split your calories in the following way:
- Carbohydrates: 30% to 40% of total energy intake
- Protein: 30% to 40% of total energy intake
- Fat: 20% to 30% of total energy intake
For example, you'll hear about 40-40-20 plans or 30-40-30 plans, for the percentage of carbohydrates-protein-fat respectively.
How do you figure out where your calories are coming from? It's pretty easy if you remember how energy is in each gram:
Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories
Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 17 kilojoules
Protein: 1 gram = 17 kilojoules
Fat: 1 gram = 38 kilojoules
The key fact to get from this is that fat has almost 2.5 times the calories or kilojoules than carbs and protein. This is why it's very easy to stack on the weight if you eat a high fat diet! If you consume the same quantity of fatty foods as carbs or proteins, you'll ingest almost 2.5 times the calories!
So, to figure out the percentages of each macronutrient, use these formulas:
Carbs: (Grams of Carbs x 4)/Total Calories
Protein: (Grams of Protein x 4)/Total Calories
Fat: (Grams of Fat x 9)/Total Calories
Carbs: (Grams of Carbs x 17)/Total kilojoules
Protein: (Grams of Protein x 17)/Total kilojoules
Fat: (Grams of Protein x 38)/Total kilojoules
When making your menu selections, strive for well-balanced meal that approaches 40-40-20. If you don't quite achieve your aim, don't despair. Getting the energy balance of a single meal right is not critical, though by striving to get the right balance for each meal, an occasional meal that is off-balance won't be difficult to catch up.
Another point to consider is the calories per meal, and total calories per day. Breaking your individual meals down into a calorie allotment will really put the menu items into perspective.
Finally, when you're about to order the fries and double cheese burger, ask yourself if it's worth it? Do you want to blow all of those calories and fat on a meal that you will chow down no time, or do you want to save them up to splurge on a great treat from a wonderful restaurant? It's your choice!
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