No vulgar pun intended for this blog post, but when it come meal planning, size does matter. There is no need however to maniacally measure out how much of something you are eating; but there is some merit to this as I discovered on my own nutrition journey.
When I started training at the gym several times a week, my trainer made more aware of the need to be conscious of my macro nutrient (i.e. carbs, protein, fat) intake. I needed more protein to aid muscle growth and more (and better) carbs to fuel my workouts.
Being vegetarian though added some complexities in getting enough of what I needed (I was borderline vegan at that time). To help me get my head around all the information out there, I completed my formal nutrition studies and well, here I am today running Oomph! Health Coaching.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines 2013 recommend the below macronutrient intake to reduce risk of chronic disease (i.e. be healthy):
• 20–35% of total energy intake from fat
• 45–65% from carbohydrate
• 15–25% from protein
Now there are different types and qualities of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, but I won’t get into that level of detail in this blog post. The percentages in the guide are relatively broad as there is no one-size-fits all. For this example I have simplified it as follows:
Understanding if you are getting the right percentages for your body’s needs requires us to count. This is because we all need a certain energy intake (e.g. 2000 calories a day), and macronutrients have the following caloric counts per gram:
Fats 9 calories
Protein 4 calories
Carbs 4 calories
Using an energy intake of 2000 calories per day would therefore equate to the following macronutrient intake per day (using our 20/25/55 split from the pie chart above):
This is where the need to count stems from.
However I quickly found out counting is VERY tedious. I was logging everything I ate, weighing ingredients, analyzing food labels etc. The spreadsheet was out of control and I quickly decided to stop.
What I did learn though was that portion size and knowing what to put on my plate was key.
So portion sizing and also being in touch with my hunger cues and feeling of satiety (a fancy way of saying “fullness”) is how I manage my diet.
I also prepare nutrient dense meals with a range of diverse, quality ingredients and colours. It wasn’t until I looked at my own diet diversity that I realized that even as a vegetarian, I didn’t eat enough fruit and vegetables! I was a creature of habit when it came to what I ate, and while what I ate was not bad, it is now a lot better.
If counting works for you, great; my advise is keep it simple until you understand the portion size that works for you and keeps your caloric and macronutrient intake within your desired range; it's ok for eat more or less from day to day. Food should be enjoyed after all.
Some commercial diets use point systems to help simplify the process and others prepare meals for you. These are all good ways of managing your diet if they work for you. Just make sure you are choosing a variety of foods/meals. If you are not feeling full enough, lack energy, concentration etc. then check your food choices to ensure you are getting the macronutrients you need to fuel your lifestyle.
I can help you assess your diet and help you identify ways where improvements could be made. You decide, I guide.