One of the most frequent (or atleast top 10 questions) i get asked online is “how much should i be eating?”, “How many calories does this have?”, “How much of X should I eat to get enough X?”
If i was having a health consultation with you or if i knew about your background, how your diet in whole looked, your lifestyle etc i could give more of a recommendation and personalized answer. But questions like that from a random stranger online… it is impossible (well almost) to answer. Of course there are recommendations such as middle-aged in active women should eat xxx calories while young active men should eat xyx calories. But you could be a middle aged women who is inactive but also has digestive problems and illnesses that mean you need more of a certain nutrient or more calories, which is why you should get personalized and individual help with your nutrition.
Many people get caught up in numbers when it comes to food. So many people are seeing food just as numbers…. either as macros or calories. Or just seeing food as nutrients and not as a whole thing.
Sure, we eat for energy and nutrients and minerals. That is the main reason we need to eat. So that we give our cells, muscles and organs energy to function so we can live life. All the different macronutrients and micronutrients have a function in our body, which is why we need to get them from food and on a daily basis.
The problem with just seeing food as numbers is that 1) it can take enjoyment away from food, 2) it can lead to an unhealthy and obsessive behaviour and 3) you can’t be certain that the food actually has the amount of calories or nutrients as you think.
The amount of energy and nutrients in food varies…. everything from how and where the food was grown, how it was transported, how it was prepared all affect the nutritional value as well. And of course calories aren’t always the same as what the package says. Sure, things like plain chicken or rice or potatoes are rather standard and calories don’t vary so much…. and there is a calorie difference of maybe 5-10 per 100g, so it is no big deal. But what i am trying to say, is that you never really know how much you are eating and you don’t need to either.
Which leads me to the next thing. Digestion and absorption.
You may think you are eating a certain amount whether it is calories or nutrients, but the amount you absorb and digest isn’t always the same.
Example, some people can eat very little iron and still have good iron levels because their body can adapt and absorbed more procentually, compared to someone who has an ok intake of iron but absorbs very little and ends up with anemia.
Or example myself, i can eat alot of fats but my body doesn’t absorb all of the fats (only c.a 50% or less).
So the amount you eat isn’t always the amount you absorb.
People get far too caught up in numbers when it comes to eating, but forget that food is also enjoyment. Of course, it shouldn’t be your only enjoyment in life or become something you abuse or begin to emotionally eat. But it is something social, something that can make you feel happy or a way to bring people together.
Which brings me to my last point…. not every meal has to be nutritionally optimal. Not every meal has to be perfectly balanced with all the macronutrients. Some meals may be more carb heavy and others may have more fat and less carbs. Or some meals may be low in protein whereas others are filled with protein. The thing that matters is the entirety of your diet. It is about the average of all your meals and not what you eat on occasion that matters.
There are of course ways to optimally boost your nutrition and intake via different combos and combining of food, but it is not something you have to do to have a healthy diet.
My best advice is to just try to eat varied overtime. Focus on filling your plate with different colours and not counting calories. (Different coloured vegetables and fruits give different vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants!)
I understand that some people need to count calories to make sure they are actually eating enough, or if you do need to lose weight. Just try not to get obsessed with them and instead use calories as a guide and not the end all, be all. Nutrition is more than numbers. And leave the numbers and counting to dietitians and nutritionists so you can instead just have food as enjoyment, energy and nutrition and not as a numbers game.
I know this post may not be super relevant to many of my readers, but i thought it was important to write about and share anyway. Food isn’t just numbers and the numbers aren’t always accurate anyway,