Monday, April 12, 2010

MAM Day 10: Calories and Diets

So sorry this post is late! See my previous post for more details.

Moving on, day 10's topic was supposed to be about the other side of food, counting calories, dieting, and understanding the nutrition facts that accompany food products found in the grocery store. You've seen them, lets talk about what kinds of information we can learn from reading the nutrition facts. This blog post are merely my thoughts on nutrition and my personal attempts to eat and stay healthy. Anyone considering a serious diet should contact a real health care professional before committing to a diet regimen or program.

I grew up learning about the food pyramid and making sure we get enough portions of food in relation to each other. The food pyramid dictated we get 6-11 servings of grains, 3-5 veggies, 2-4 fruits, 2-3 of meats and dairy products and to use fats, oils, and sugar sparingly.

My main question was, what does a "serving" mean? How much qualifies as a single serving of food? Wikipedia says serving size is a confusing term but summarizes the following:
One serving of grain: one cup of whole grain cereal, one fourth of a bagel, one cup of pasta.
One serving of vegetables: five cherry tomatoes, five sticks of celery, one whole carrot.
One serving of fruit: a medium apple, fifteen large grapes, half a banana.
One serving of dairy: one cup of milk, three cheese cubes, half cup of low fat cottage cheese.
One serving of meat: 1/4 chicken breast, daily guide line: one fist full per meal.
Fats and Sugars: as little as possible, dairy and meat contain plenty of necessary fat, while fruits contain enough natural sugars.

In an ideal world, and if everyone knew exactly what a serving size was and cared to follow the suggested healthy diet, perhaps we wouldn't be as obsessed with staying healthy and dieting. Unfortunately, no one really eats to the food pyramid and very few people keep track of exactly what they're eating. Below is the new food "pyramid" which makes more sense and has more concrete target servings. Click to see a bigger and slightly different pyramid.

However, it's still hard to stick to these guidlines. Personally, I love eating carbs, steer away from veggies, and munch on candy if it's within arm's reach. I really can't help it.

Sometimes I try to be more conscious of what I'm eating and I feel gross if I have had lots of oil and fatty foods. Some people keep track of calories and make sure they're eating foods that fit in their diet. This is where nutrition facts come in. A large percentage of foods at the grocery store have a table of Nutrion Facts that list different information for processed foods.

It lists grams of fats, cholesterols, sugar, sodium, protein, and carbs. The nutrition facts also list percentage daily values of food, which are based on 2000 calorie diets. The percent daily values are the most obvious math connection for the day. Some people may misinterpret the data and not realize that the serving sizes do actually matter. If a food product, a can of soda perhaps, is 120 calories per 8 oz. servings, a 20 oz. bottle of soda is two and a half times more unhealthy (soda has little to no nutritional value) than just one serving.

I can never eat just 2 tablespoons of this stuff so I end up eating a lot more fat than I should...

Calories are important to us because it's the measurement of energy we need to function throughout the day. In moderation, we also need sugar, sodium, protein, carbs, fats, and cholesterols to maintain a healthy diet. However, balancing our diets is the tough part.

It's also important to take into consideration the fact that not everyone needs to have a 2000 calorie diet. My friend who studied biochemistry in college told me that someone my size probably only needs 1200 calories in a given day to function normally. If my needed calorie range is significantly lower than what the food labels are reporting, my daily value percents need to be adjusted as well.

If I like eating 1/3 a box of pasta for dinner, I'm consuming 84 grams of carbs, which may only be 28% of a 2000 calorie diet, but could be a higher percentage for a 1200 calorie diet

It's a good thing I don't have to worry too much about losing or gaining weight. I don't count my calories or give much thought to the nutrition facts on a daily basis, but for those of you who do, I wish you good luck and a smart nutrition sense!

Extra food and nutrition resources and links


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