Reaching and keeping a healthy weight is a goal on the minds of nearly every human in the world. While some of us are concerned about our calories because we want to look good, the reality is that eating well is essential to our survival.
The problem is that many of us go about reaching our weight loss goals in unhealthy ways, like restricting ourselves from food. If that sounds like you, you’re probably frequently wondering, “Why am I always hungry?” Chances are, you’re cutting out too many calories in an unsustainable way to lose a few pounds, then binge them all back.
Instead of shooting for fast, extreme weight loss, experts suggest eating a healthy amount of calories for your individual needs. This way, you can continue to enjoy your meals — within reason — and reach and keep your ideal weight.
But how much food should you be consuming per day? It’s not as clear-cut as the 2,000 calories-per-day numbers floating around the internet. Instead, it’s based on certain factors that we’ll share with you here to help you learn how to eat what’s best for you.
Your optimal food consumption should always start with your current health situation and genetic history. If you’re relatively healthy, regardless of your age, you can be a little more flexible with your food.
But if you already have health conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart or cholesterol issues, or any other medical issue, nutrition isn’t just a good idea. It’s crucial to your future. Whether you eat well now because you want to or you eat well later because you’re forced to due to a severe health restriction is up to you. Either way, it’s going to happen.
Want to eat more calories without the weight gain? It’s possible. You just have to exercise and burn more calories than you eat.
Keep in mind that your body doesn’t differentiate between nibbles of things you didn’t like and bites of your favorite food. If it goes in your mouth, you’ve consumed the calories. Those bites, nibbles, and licks all count!
Be sure you’re honest with yourself about your caloric intake and exercise levels. You can lie to your mind, but your body knows the truth.
In general, about 3,500 calories of energy is equal to one pound of fat. Eating more calories than you burn is a recipe for weight gain. Eating fewer calories and burning more should help you lose weight. Eating the same as you burn would be the goal for maintenance. However, this formula isn’t exact, and other factors, like your metabolism, gender, and health, as well as the kind of calories you’re eating, play a role.
Consider these two meal options set before you: 500 calories of fruit and vegetables versus 500 calories of chocolate cake. If you’re only focusing on the calorie aspect of food consumption and you have a sweet tooth, you may decide to go for the cake. However, the nutritional content of each dish is significantly different, and the calories are not the same.
We all learned about the food pyramid early in life, and it hasn’t changed much since then. If you want your body to be healthy, you must feed it the nutrients it needs to perform well. This means ensuring your diet is balanced, using the food pyramid as a guide.
Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta make up the bulk of your servings, but these should be unrefined whole grains when possible. Vegetables and fruits combine 5-10 servings per day, 2-3 servings are milk, yogurt, and cheese, and 2-3 servings are meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. Use fats and oils sparingly.
How you cook your food is an essential part of each meal. Eliminate fried foods as much as possible. Opt for roasted, baked, air-fried, or poached instead. And when it comes to meats, stick to low-salt, low-fat, and unprocessed selections.
When you’re eating healthier meals, they don’t contain “empty” calories. You’ll feel fuller faster, stay content longer, and consume fewer calories on your journey to finding the ideal amount of food for a healthy appetite.