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Day 22: Understand what you’re eating

The amount of energy in food is measured in kilocalories, KCal.  The higher the number, the greater the amount of energy the foodstuff provides.

The number of kilocalories we each need in a day will vary according to gender, age and how active we are.  As a guide, the recommended amount for men is 2500 KCalories a day and for women, 2000.  The amount we actually need can vary greatly between people even if they happen to do the same amount of activity as one another.

For many people diets do not work well in the long term but maybe we’re focusing mainly on the outcome and not where we’re coming from. I’d like to propose a different approach. Before starting any diet it is helpful to know our starting position and to do that we need to keep track of the foods from which we are getting our calories.

Last week we talked about the need for a balance of carbohydrate, protein and fats, and as part of our tracking process we need to identify from which of these food groups our daily calories are derived.

Keeping a track of our current intake can help us identify daily habits and behaviours, both good and bad, and help us make healthy changes. We may know the basics of healthy eating but that doesn’t mean were doing it. How often do we eat healthy food, fast food, processed food? How many of our KCalories are coming from alcohol or sugared soft drinks, sweets and chocolate?

It’s the regular daily intake that is important and we are all allowed the occasional treat. Aiming for an 80-20 split with 80+% Kcals from healthy foods and fewer than 20% from the unhealthy groups is a good goal.  Another way of thinking about it might be to say am I feeding potential disease processes or am I fending them off?

Tracking can be done by keeping written record either freehand or using a template. There are also various apps that track your intake such as MyFitnessPal or MyNetDiary – others are available :-)

Almost all food packaging is labelled with nutritional information which will help your record keeping.

In your record you will track the food you have eaten, and the breakdown of carbohydrate, fat and protein and the Kcalories.  Each day you can then see where the majority of Kcals are coming from and which behaviours might be feeding that intake – such as always having coffee and biscuits after a stressful meeting or grabbing fast food for lunch as it fits better with your daily grind.

Even if you are making healthy choices you may still not be getting balance. Consider breakfast where you may have porridge oats with fruit, some wholegrain toast and a glass of orange juice: all healthy choices BUT mostly carbohydrate so in this instance you might substitute eggs for the porridge which would add protein and so change the balance of the intake.

All of these are habits that can be changed little by little given time and focus. Such changes can make a big difference to your overall dietary intake without the need for difficult to live with restrictions……..but first do the tracking so you know what you’re dealing with.

As always, please get in touch if you have any questions or would like some help with this.

Perfection is an illusion - instead, seek progress and you will achieve