Why nutrition can be more important than counting calories
As January came to an end, no doubt many people’s new year resolutions to lose weight or eat healthier in 2022 also unfortunately finished with it.
Indeed, according to Country Living, losing weight and healthier eating are the top two resolutions for people in the UK in 2022. Yet in 2020, YouGov found that just 26% of people stuck to their resolutions, with 23% failing on theirs entirely.
The main issue with these goals is that, while they promote a healthy lifestyle, it’s easy to go about them in the wrong way.
Many people believe that simply counting calories and cutting down their intake of food is the best way to manage it. But this method often quickly leads to people feeling both hungry and also disheartened by the slow results that it produces.
This is likely why many throw away their resolutions by February, falling back into old eating habits that aren’t necessarily healthy.
In reality, a strategy based around good nutrition can be more important than counting calories, for both healthier eating and weight loss. Read on to find out why.
Calorie counting can reduce body fat – but that’s all
As a weight-loss strategy, calorie counting does make sense. We need the calories contained within food to power our bodies, for everything from movement and exercise to digestion and healthy function of vital organs.
However, excess calories we consume are then either stored in our muscles as glycogen or, more commonly, converted into body fat.
That means, if you’re eating more calories than you burn in a day, you’ll likely put on weight in the form of body fat.
So, by reducing the number of calories you take in against the number you burn off, you can limit how much is converted into body fat. Over time, this can then see you lose weight.
Calorie counting isn’t necessarily healthier
The other side of counting calories is that it isn’t necessarily healthier.
For one thing, cutting calories could mean missing out on key nutrients in the meantime, as all your energy goes into avoiding foods, some of which may have been healthy for you.
Additionally, when you return to your normal eating habits, you may find you put weight back on more quickly.
According to the Times, calorie counting has also been linked with causing eating disorders due to its obsessive tendency. This can be associated with serious illnesses, such as anorexia or bulimia.
All in all, this can make calorie counting an unhealthy strategy.
Eating more good foods, not less
Rather than calorie counting, it can be a better strategy to instead eat more healthy foods, rather than less.
Consider adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, unsalted nuts and seeds, and unprocessed meat and fish to your diet.
These foods tend to contain a better mixture of the main macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fats – as well as other vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
That means, even if you consume more calories, those calories contain more of these healthy nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Meanwhile, avoid processed foods such as processed meats, crisps, chocolate, fizzy drinks, and alcohol. These foods can be higher in less useful nutrients, including sugar and bad fats.
Alcohol in particularly can be an issue as it’s known for containing “empty calories”, offering little to no nutritional value at all.
In fact, many weight-loss programmes now advocate this exact strategy, placing limits on what you can eat rather than how much to help their subscribers be healthier.
For you, this can be a gradual process. You could try swapping out a single food on your plate, such as eating sweet potato instead of regular white potatoes.
Even simply eating fruit instead of a bag of crisps as a snack in the day can be a great start in adding more healthy foods to your diet.
Rather than trying to reduce the total of what you eat, a better, long-term approach can be to add high-quality nutrition instead.
Nutrient-dense foods associated with a range of health benefits
Indeed, evidence shows that these nutrient-dense foods can help with a whole host of health benefits, including weight loss.
According to Healthline, diets including nutrient-dense foods are linked to a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, while also allowing you to live longer.
Similarly, these foods tend to be higher in fibre, which brings key health benefits with it.
For one thing, feeling fuller for longer will leave you more satisfied by your meals, reducing the temptation to snack on unhealthy foods. As a result, you can still achieve a calorie deficit while giving your body what it needs, which could help you to burn excess fat.
Additionally, fibrous foods are known for the benefits they provide to your gut health, assisting in digestion.
Enjoying your new eating habits will make them more likely to stick
Most importantly of all, you need to enjoy your new habits. Otherwise, the temptation of sliding back into bad behaviours can be too great.
Calorie counting can often leave you feeling hungry or with cravings, tempting you into eating snacks such as crisps and chocolate and, in turn, feeling guilty about it.
Meanwhile, eating a greater range of healthy foods can be far more rewarding. It can introduce you to new flavours and types of food, and you may find some new favourites that you’d never considered trying before.
It may also encourage you to cook new recipes, giving you a new reason to be passionate about food and further instilling these new habits into your schedule.
This can help to ensure that you stick to your plan for the long term rather than giving up, which can often happen when taking on the monotonous, hunger-inducing strategy of calorie counting.
Speak to a dietician
As with any change to your health, it may be worth speaking to a dietician before approaching a new diet.
They’ll be able to help you with the details of different diets and help you towards your healthy lifestyle goals.
It’s often sensible to consult your GP as they’ll be able to recommend the right course of action for you.