Calories matter. This is basic math: If you burn more calories than you take in you will lose weight. It doesn’t matter how many calories you eat. Recent research in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people who ate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt gained less weight over time.
You’ll eat fewer calories if you focus on high-quality calories such as these. This is because you will eat a greater amount of food, the kinds that keep you satisfied so you don’t overeat later.
You could have 1,600 calories worth of healthy grub. For breakfast, you might get 2 scrambled eggs with 1 slice of whole-grain bread; for lunch, a large, fresh salad with 3 oz of grilled chicken and 2 Tbsp dressing; and for dinner, you would get 5 oz fish, skinless chicken, 1/2 cup quinoa and 2 cups roasted broccoli.
Compare that to 1,600 empty calories. That’s roughly equivalent to 1 candy bar, 1 bag potato chips and 1 small chocolate shake. You would feel hungry, cranky and eager to eat more. There are two caveats. Sometimes, a healthier food will have the same amount of calories as its less healthy cousin. This is true for brown rice as well as white rice. However, the former has more fiber and other nutrients.
Nuts and seeds are high in calories, but they also contain fiber and protein, making them nutritional superstars. A study found that nuts are actually less calorie-dense than they appear, which makes them lighter than people might believe. The bottom line is that you can lose weight if you pay more attention to quality than calories. Here are some ways to add quality calories to your diet.
1. Fiber is a great source of energy.
Fiber-rich people eat fewer calories, have a smaller appetite, and are less likely to be overweight. Women require 25g or more daily, while Americans only consume 15g.
2. Crunch your produce.
Liquid calories don’t provide as much nutrition as whole fruits and vegetables (remember, fiber is the key). Switch to orange juice and save big: A 16-ounce orange contains 65 calories, while an orange has 220.
3. Choose protein.
When you eat protein, your metabolism will rev up more than other nutrients. Consume at least half of your daily protein intake in grams per day (choose whole foods over protein bars).