Think You’re Eating Healthy?
Think again. Let’s face it – eating healthy can be really hard. It’s not hard to the point that it is almost impossible. But it seems so hard because it can be so confusing sometimes. New studies would occasionally emerge saying this certain food is good, or this certain ingredient is actually toxic to your body. And then a week later, a new study would prove the opposite. Even some fad and celebrity-endorsed diets often come and go faster than we can keep track of. Eating healthy can be compared to looking for the best smartphone in the market. One moment, you thought you found the trendiest smartphone there is, but in the next month another one comes out which is better and faster than the previous. The thing is if you just base your idea of eating healthy to just opinions and trends, chances are you will get confused and lost along the way. This raises the question of where you can turn to when looking for solid, reliable, and stable nutritional advice.
Human as we are, we tend to seek the knowledge and experience of other people when it comes to something that is new to us that we haven’t experienced before. That’s why we ask for recommendations from our trusted colleagues and friends or from some established organization about the standards of eating healthy. However, recommendations can be quite difficult to follow because above all, everyone has their own distinct taste and preference. There is a plethora of variances from person to person. What seems to be an effective diet for one person may not be the same for another person. Even if you are of the same age, gender and weight with someone else, your calorie expenditure may be much different based on various factors like lifestyle choices, level of activity, body structure, exposure to stress, and etc. Because of this, recommendations must always be taken with a grain of salt. Recommendations are there so that you can balance out which diet or meal plan works out the best for you. It is also not advisable to focus only on one recommendation alone which eliminates your chance to weigh out the better options.
Even some of the trusted and well-known organizations provide us with somewhat vague and lacking information regarding the appropriate eating habit for us individually. Popular recommendations are a breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins into percentage ranges specifically for adults: Carbs – 45 to 65 percent of calories, Fats – 20 to 35 percent of calories, and Proteins – 10 to 35 percent of calories. As you can see, these percentages are quite broad and you can’t really derive the actual amount of carbs, fats, and proteins you should take based from these numbers alone. This makes you confused by doing all the math just so you could pinpoint the actual calorie number. When you start talking about children, the confusion just increases. For every change in age group, activity level and gender, you’re looking at an entirely different recommended daily calorie intake. Children have a different calorie intake from adults and athletes must follow a different meal plan compared to office job workers. Because of these fluctuations, it is better to find studies and organizations which cater to specific conditions that are quite close to your physique, activity level, and age group rather than studies which are too vague and broad. One of the best things you can also do is to figure out your total calorie expenditure each day and eat around that number. One way to figure this out is to calculate your BMR.
Your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is a measure of the calories you require on a regular day-to-day basis for essential life functions. This calculation assumes no physical activity is being performed, no food is being actively digested, and therefore minimal energy is being exhausted. You can calculate your BMR from your age, height and weight by using a gender-specific formula. Not to worry about the math since there are a ton of online calculators you can use. If you figure out your approximate BMR and factor in physical activity, you can get a general idea of your daily caloric expenditure. Once you know this number, you can use the percentage ranges listed above to tailor your diet.
It’s important to keep in mind that just like with exercise, change is a good thing when it comes to diet as well. If you find yourself starting at a macronutrient split of 45% carbs, 35% fats and 20% protein, you can later switch it up to 55% carbs, 30% fats and 15% protein, as an example. You can always adjust these digits as per your liking or need. If you find that your activity level has increased, then of course, you need to also increase your carbohydrate and fats intake to make up for the energy spikes throughout your day.
Remember, there is no specific and accurate healthy eating plan that you can directly follow. You will find through trial and error what your body responds best to. There are numerous online and phone app programs that serve as macronutrient trackers. You could start by tracking your normal intake for a week and seeing where your macronutrient ranges fall.
What it all boils down to is finding a balance that works best for you. You may find that your answer isn’t even close to what government, institution, or celebrity recommendations say, and that’s okay. Whether your goal is to lose, gain or maintain, find a system that makes sense. And also remember that it is alright to make changes in your nutrient calculations once in a while because the human body is constantly changing and so is the environment and lifestyle we live in.