By Brittany Wonnell, RD, CHWC
Often at the beginning of the year, we begin new resolutions that can include changing the way we eat. When thinking about defining which foods are “healthy” or “unhealthy,” it’s important to understand not just the quality of your food but also the quantity you’re eating.
You can gain weight by eating high-quality, healthy food in incorrect quantities. Each individual needs a different quantity of daily food and beverage intake. Another way of thinking about the quantity you need would be to think about the total number of calories you need. Caloric need is calculated based on a variety of factors including a person’s age, height, weight and activity level. A more precise way to determine your caloric need is to obtain a body composition measurement using a BOD POD or an indirect calorimeter test. No matter which method you choose, a registered dietitian can help identify and explain your specific calorie needs.
A registered dietitian can also help you identify and set goals related to your diet. For example, if you want to eat healthier and lose weight, the dietitian will most likely prescribe a healthy and controlled calorie deficit so you can begin learning and planning. Then, the dietitian can help teach you how many calories are in the food you consume.
Being mindful of caloric intake can be tedious at times. So it’s always important to go back, reflect and learn from what you’ve consumed. For example, if you eat three slices of pizza, a breadstick and side salad for dinner at a local pizza restaurant, you may be surprised to learn you just consumed 960 of your allotted 1,500 daily calorie need. This type of scenario is bound to happen at some point when you first start to make changes in your diet, but until you go back and reflect on this meal and think about what you could have done differently, you won’t learn from this situation.
Reviewing your caloric needs and learning nutrient recommendations with a registered dietitian can help you succeed at healthy weight management over time.