Only 120 calories per serving!
You've probably seen this type of statement on food packaging or in commercials. It's a statement that gives the impression of healthy eating to foods that are rarely healthy. Do you buy foods based on their calories per serving? If yes, it's time to stop!
When you consume food, you are in fact consuming calories which your body needs to produce energy. If you're consuming a high amount of calories but not burning them off, they will be stored. An excess of stored calories can be converted to fat over time and this can lead to weight gain.
Many moons ago, the food and diet industries used this scientific fact to create the calorie counting epidemic. It wasn't about what you were eating, but the amount of calories you were eating. So basically you could eat whatever you wanted as long as you stayed within your body mass index (BMI) daily calorie requirement.
Calorie counting gave people a sense of control: if they knew they could only have so many calories per day and the labels on their food told them exactly how many calories per serving, it seemed like a foolproof way to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Many of you, including myself, became so focused on the number of calories in our food that we forgot to read the actual ingredients.
Fast forward to today.
We put calorie labels on all packaged food (as is required by law), but most of that packaged food is made up of junk ingredients. Even with everything we know about processed food, many people still look at the calories per serving rather than the ingredients.
Let's use one of those low-calorie, frozen dinners, as an example. The "beef" in a low calorie beef dinner is referred to as "beef product" (beef, water, dextrose, modified corn starch, potassium chloride, sodium phosphates and artificial color). The list of artificial ingredients in a product like this goes on and on. "Low in calories and high in crap," is what the label should read.
Guess what happens when processed food makes up a majority of your diet? Not only are you depriving your body of essential nutrients, you're also filling up on empty calories, leading to more cravings which ultimately leads to poor food choices.
Are you ready to stop counting calories? Are you ready to change your relationship with food? Here is my two step action plan to help you break free from the calorie counting cycle.
1. Add more plant-based food into your diet.
This is key to feeling healthier and happier. Stock up on vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and legumes. These plant-based foods will give you the essential nutrients you need to fuel your body and mind with living calories your body will actually use to keep you energized.
The more plant-based food you eat on a daily basis, the less likely you are to crave junk food. I especially recommend adding a tablespoon of hemp seeds to all your meals. They will add extra nutrients to your meals and help satiate your appetite.
2. Get in the habit of reading ingredients first!
Forget the calories per serving — skip right to the list of ingredients. If the first few ingredients on a label are words you can't pronounce, you probably want to avoid eating that product. Steer clear of products that are high in sodium, sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and processed grains (to name a few).
Notice I call them products and not food? Everything you need to know is on those labels. Remember: you are what you eat! If you eat healthy most of the time and get regular exercise, you're going to live a better quality of life. It's not about obsessing over a number. It's about feeding your body the nutrients it needs to stay strong and thrive!