Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Battle of the Calories

Counting calories has become an obsession for many people concerned with health and fitness. In order to lose weight safely, it’s very important to know how many calories should be consumed without putting your health at risk. Once you know that, it will be super easy to put together a diet you can follow.

Contrary to popular belief, calories are good for you. Without them, your body wouldn’t have enough energy to make it through the day. However, consuming too many calories without burning them off through exercise can result in weight gain. By knowing what foods to stay away from and keeping track of the amount of calories and fats you eat on a daily basis, you’ll be able to successfully lose weight without worry.

Knowing the difference between good and bad fats is key in the food choices you make. Saturated fats are bad for your body and are responsible for high cholesterol. This type of fat is mainly found in eggs, seafood, dairy and meat. Trans fats are also unhealthy and are used in many commercially packaged foods to ensure longer shelf life. You can find trans fats in any bag of chips, French fries, margarine and microwaveable popcorn. Unsaturated fats are the ones to include in a healthy diet. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol and can be found in nuts, canola oil and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats also work the same as monounsaturated fats and are found in salmon, fish oil, corn, soy and sunflower oils.

An easy way to replace bad fats with good fats in your daily diet is to read the labels of the products you buy. All of the ingredients and nutritional information is listed in detail so you know exactly what you’re getting. Switch to using canola oil or olive oil for cooking. When grocery shopping, cut out the commercially packaged food to avoid trans fats and opt for foods that are trans-fat free. Because dairy is an important part of the food group, switch to skim milk instead of whole and when it comes to preparing meat for dinner, trim off the excess fat.

When it comes to calorie counting and losing weight, the key is to lose weight slowly instead of all at once. Trying to shed 15- 20 in a short period of time is an unrealistic goal dieters have that can actually backfire. Losing too much weight at once only results in gaining it back after going off the diet. A more realistic goal is to lose no more than 2 pounds per week.

In order to know how many calories you should cut back on, you’ll need to figure out your BMR, which is the amount of energy your body needs to function properly. There are BMR calculators online that help simplify the math. Once you know your BMR, you can begin setting your caloric intake goal. The easiest way to count calories is to keep a diary of the food you eat each day - don’t forget to list how many calories each food has. With each day, you’ll be able to keep an accurate count of how many calories you consume. Be cautious, as calorie counting can become additive and can cause you to lose more calories than necessary. Never consume less than 1,200 calories per day.

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