I’m going to show you how to cut through dietary confusion and frustration to customize your diet to your liking.
After reading this you’ll possess the tools you need to instinctively make good dietary decisions. You’ll be more adaptable; no longer will you be tied or restricted to your diet. You'll be able to make healthy decisions on the fly with confidence.
The first step to achieving this is learning to read nutrition labels. The cool thing is after some practice you won’t need to read labels or put so much thought into nutrition.
Your life will be much simpler. Nutritional decisions will occupy less brain space.
Plus, not everything has a label. Not every restaurant provides their nutrition information. And for the ones that do, who knows how accurate it is?
Because of this, guesstimating nutritional info is a skill worth developing. You’ll intuitively know which foods will help you towards a lean, toned, strong body.
Too many calories = weight gain
There’s no way around this. There are many effective weight loss strategies. They ALL rely on cutting calories.
That said, the quality of calories does matter. As does the portion of those calories.
As far as fat loss is concerned a nutritional label boils down to:
- Portion Size
- How filling a portion size is
A fat loss friendly food has a good ratio of fullness/portion-to-calories. You should be able to eat a large, filling portion without a large caloric hit.
You’ll find that foods high in protein and fiber while low in fats possess very fat loss friendly calorie to fullness ratios. For more on this, check out this post I wrote explaining what the hell macros are and why they’re important.
Look at nutritional information as a whole rather than looking at one single aspect.
For example, let’s say you make dietary decisions solely based on a food’s sugar content.
Now, this can work fairly well because you’ll avoid sugary processed foods that provide lots of calories with zero fullness. However, sugar content alone is but one piece of the nutritional puzzle.
Take something like peanut butter. Based on sugar content alone, peanut butter seems awesome for fat loss. However, fatty foods like peanut butter provide many calories per gram of food.
This brings us to portion sizes.
A calorie count means nothing without the corresponding portion size. Looking at peanut butter’s 300 calories you may think, “Oh, this isn’t so bad! And it’s all healthy fats right?!”
A serving size of peanut butter is 2 tbsp. 2 tbsp is TINY.
With such small serving sizes and such a high caloric density, it becomes easy to unknowingly eat tons of calories from peanut butter.
I don’t know anyone who can eat less than a serving size of peanut butter without measuring it out first.
"But what quantifies as “tons of calories?"
To answer this question, you need to first calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This is the amount of calories you must consume to stay exactly the same weight. You can calculate your RMR here . This number is a huuuuge approximation. Don’t take this number as being precise.
Once you have a general idea of how many calories you can eat without weight gain, you have a better grasp of a food’s caloric impact.
Ok, back to peanut butter. Those 300 calories aren’t going to get you very far because 2 tbsp simply isn’t a lot of food.
So if you’re shooting for 1650 calories a day (which is reasonable if you’re RMR is 2000), you’ve used up 21 percent of your calories on 2 tbsp of food! Therefore, peanut butter isn’t an efficient food for managing hunger and calories.
Compare that with 300 calories of chicken and/or green beans, which will keep you satisfied much longer.
That said, most foods that allow you to eat large quantities without many calories (like fruits and veggies) don’t actually have nutrition facts on them.
It’s a shame because we only see the nutrition facts of processed foods that come in boxes and such, yet we have nothing to compare them to. When you compare the nutrition of a quarter pound of broccoli to a quarter pound of cheese, it becomes glaringly apparent why you need to eat more vegetables.
Because bullet points are awesome:
- Lots of calories (large percentage of your RMR) + small portion+little nutrition= Easy to overeat (ex. candy, cake, pizza, cheese, french fries, bacon, oil)
- Few calories+ big portion+lots of nutrition=Hard to overeat (ex. kale, broccoli, apples, oranges, bananas, chicken, lean steak, baked potatoes, yogurt, cottage cheese)
- Lots of calories+small portion+lots of nutrition= Not as easy to overeat, but not hard either (nuts/seeds, avocadoes)
So the simplest way to make use of a nutrition label is to look at the calorie count compared with its portion size. From there, you can see whether those calories are worth the fullness in the context of your daily caloric goal. BOOM!