Everything we eat contains nutrients, but the difference is, some foods are better when it comes to nutrition value. Our bodies need certain nutrients to function properly, for optimal health. Foods that are considered nutrient dense, like oatmeal with fruit, are minimally processed and is going to provide more nutrients than calories as opposed to the pop-tarts on the right providing more calories than nutrition. Empty calorie foods tend to be highly processed, jam packed with added fat, sugars, high sodium levels. Packaged pop-tarts, muffins, danishes, etc. are cheap and convenient, but over consumption of these products could be having a negative impact on your health and could play a big factor in weight gain. You're probably thinking how?
The biggest problem with empty calorie foods is that most likely, you're eating more calories than you expending in a day, which is the equation that leads to weight gain. Extra calories are stored in the body as fat and in time, that's when the pounds start adding on. There have also been studies that say highly processed foods with high sugar content may also increase risks of Type 2 diabetes.
You're probably thinking, "So you're telling me I should never eat a pop-tart ever again?" or "How is restricting foods going to help me stay on track?" I'm not saying that. You can indulge in the foods that you love, but I recommend in moderation. I always tell my clients to focus on 90% foods that are nutritious in value for you, the other 10% fun foods. The benefits of focusing on more natural foods are going to help you maintain a healthy weight, plus offer you minerals and vitamins that help your body run effectively. Plus certain nutrients combat disease. The benefits are far superior and long-lasting than temporary satisfaction of a sugary treat every morning.
Let's break down the calorie comparison here...keep in mind, I purposely tried to balance the oatmeal calories to the pop-tarts to show just how much volume you're getting with more nutrient dense foods as opposed to empty calorie type foods.
Frosted blueberry pop-tarts:
410 calories, 10 grams of fat, 76 grams of carbs, 33 grams of sugars, 4 grams of protein
Loaded oatmeal bowl:
384 calories, 9 grams of fat, 72 grams of carbs, 30 grams of sugars, 9 grams of protein
That's about as close as I could get in comparison and the macro nutrients in the oatmeal bowl are still less than the two pop-tarts, despite the protein count, which is coming from the natural almond butter.
So, we've talked about nutrient dense foods versus empty calorie foods, where do you go from here and how to you start implementing the right decisions? Here are some tips for you!
Next time you hit the grocery store, shop the perimeter. That's where all your minimally processed foods are like fruits, vegetables, protein sources. The aisles in between have all the processed foods like refined carbohydrates, foods high in sugar, fat and sodium. Plan your meals ahead of time with low calorie foods that have lots of beneficial nutrients in them like oatmeal offering fiber, salmon omega-3s, fruits and veggies loaded with vitamins and minerals that keep the body active and healthy and help combat disease. Here's a sample grocery list:
Whole Eggs Egg Whites Chicken Lean ground turkey, 90 grade or higher
Lean ground beef, 90 grade or higher
Eye of rounds steak Fish, walleye, halibut, cod, tilapia Salmon
Healthy carbs, complex carbs: Oatmeal Brown/jasmine rice Quinoa Sweet potatoes
Whole grain breads
Spinach Green leafy lettuce
Bell peppers Celery
Carrots Mushrooms Zucchini Squash
All berries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries Apples Bananas
Raw nuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews
Natural nut butters, peanut, almond, cashew Extra Virgin Olive oil Coconut oil Avocado Flax seeds Chia seeds
Once you start making a positive change in your life to fuel your body properly with beneficial nutrients, you will start to feel better, notice more energy and most likely see the scale move in the right direction. Being aware of the foods you eat, choosing the right options and controlling your portions will help improve the quality of life. Something to think about the next time you reach for that pop-tart. Hey, I get it, they are so good and it took some major will power not to eat my prop. What it comes down to is making a choice. Remember, you can enjoy the fun foods you love, just in moderation! Happy shopping!