If one rounds up every diet plan that ever existed, that tells people to count and cut out their daily calorie intake, this article would never end. Anyone who has crossed the age of 15, and has tried to search for “How to lose weight fast” on google even once, knows it very well that most of the diet fads suggest that if one cut out the calories in food, it’s the easy way out to the world of weight loss and perfect physique. Well, just like everything else, we’re here to debunk it. Does “Low-Calorie foods” really live up to the hype, or is it just another false claim with no scientific backing and no truth to it? Or is it a potentially dangerous thing to do? Read on to have all your questions answered about the Low-Calorie approach to food, and why you should definitely, or should never have a go at.
What does Low Calories mean?
To start with; what does it mean when a food is ‘low in calorie content’? What is a calorie? Well, to put it simply, a calorie is a unit of energy. To be precise, it’s the amount of energy needed to raise the temperate of 1 gm. of water to 1°C. But, that couldn’t possibly what it means in terms of food, right? Well, yes and no. The amount of calorie any food has helps to give us an idea about the amount of energy that food possesses. As a general knowledge, 1 gm. Of Carbohydrates and 1 gm. Of protein, contains 4 calories. So, this helps us understand how many gm. of food of any kind we need to consume, depending on how much energy we need. So for example, an apple you eat might have 60 calories, and if you go for a quick jog, you’ll probably burn 120 calories, so you’ve lost twice the energy that you consumed.
So, what about these low-calorie diets? These diets focus on the calories of any meal that’s consumed. A run-of-the-mill low-calorie meal usually has around 800 calories or less. A unique feature of low-calorie diets usually involves lots of different foods where one can get these 800 calories from; the same food isn’t repeated.
Why Low Calories?
Well, any functioning organism needs the energy to survive; your calories are what keep you moving. No, it isn’t just when you exercise; you also burn calories while you sleep. However, everyone’s caloric needs are different. If we were to simply consume exactly the amount of energy we need to get through the day, we’d be a lot healthier and happier. But, we are all flawed. If you eat too much or too little, is when problems start to show.
So, well, how do you know how many calories you need in a day? Well, it depends a lot on the physical exertion that your body takes during an average day. But there is a multitude of factors that determine how much energy you’ll need, and these include; sex, weight, height, and physical exercise. So, a 6ft tall, 30 years old professional swimmer will probably need more calories than say a 25 years old 5.5ft lady who’s an IT expert. There are obviously averages gives; an average male in the US needs 2700 calories and an average woman needs 2200. But regardless, no one should consume less than 1800 calories a day.
It’s also important to know that calories don’t immediately mean something is healthy or unhealthy. A cup of lettuce will give you less than 10 calories, but something like peanuts, at half a cup will give you well over 400 calories. Yet, both are healthy foods in moderation. So, then how does low-calorie food seem like such a good thing recommended by dieticians? This is where we learn about Empty Calories and Nutrient Dense Calories. This is by far the most important thing about calories! Now, what are these?
Are you eating Empty Calories?
Empty Calories Food is the food that is high in calories but offers little to no other nutrients. So, it does the job of giving you energy but does not give you any other very essential nutrients that you should be getting from your meals such as; fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, and the very important vitamins. Solid Fats and Added Sugars are where you get most of your empty calories from. Solid fats such as butter and beef fat are fats that are solid at room temperature. Added sugars are added to foods and beverages during processing; the biggest culprit and most damaging being high-fructose corn syrup, which is found in foods that aren’t necessary sweet to taste.
Solid fats include ribs, bacon, sausages, cheese, pizza, butter (yes, all the good things). Added sugars include Energy drinks, fruit drinks, sodas, any artificially made drink. Solid fats and added sugars both are found in items such as ice-cream, cakes, pastries, donuts and all the other good things.
Say No to Empty Calories
So what about Nutrient Dense Calories? Well, these are the ones you should be eating! These come in two types too! You have your low-calorie nutrient dense and high calorie nutrient dense. It’s usually assumed that high-calories are automatically bad for you, which it will be if it’s empty calories, but for those struggling to gain weight, nutrient dense high-calorie foods will do just that! These are healthy and give you energy; goat cheese, granola and almonds, avocados, almond butter, peanuts, smoothies, banana chips, olive oil, and dark chocolate. But words of caution to those who’re trying to lose weight have to take a different line of action.
This is where your low-calorie diets come in! These are foods with high nutritional value and very low calories. The idea is that when you put low calories in your body, the already existing fat will be used to get energy, and will therefore lead to weight loss. So, finally here is a list of foods that have low calories and will give you a lot of nutrition, for that perfect balance of energy!
Your Low-Calories Food List
- Salmon: These should be your go-to meal if you’re on a low-calorie diet. It’s so dense in nutrients that even a little salmon makes you full, it’s easy to cook, and keeps you full longer. Try this recipe for a healthier, yet flavorful take on salmon!
- Dark Chocolate: Do you really need a reason? For eating dark chocolate? Don’t even deny it!
- Blueberries: These are rich in anti-oxidants and one of the most filling berries. These are also the most common smoothie ingredient because they’re so damn delicious. Here’s something that’s lip-smacking delicious, but also so healthy! Three words: Blueberry Chocolate Pancakes. Just replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate, and you’re good to go!
- Cucumber, Plum, Grapefruit, Strawberry, Muskmelon, Blackberries: There’s really no rule with fruits. These are easy to snack on and this makes it possible for you to incorporate them into your day-to-day meals without making any drastic changes. They’re very filling, with all their fiber, so you can even fashion an entire snack with these fruits. For a yummy sweet salad, toss together spinach with musk melon, a few pieces of plum, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, a few blackberries, feta cheese, and a dash of toasted almonds, and you’re good to go!
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- Popcorn: This has to be added separately, because if you remove all the butter and salt, popcorn is healthy and yummy, and very filling, all on very low calories! To add a bit of flavor and still keep it healthy; toss popcorn with cayenne pepper, salt, zest of lime or lemon, and herb such as basil, and you have yourself a snack that you won’t be able to stop eating!
- Almond milk and powdered peanut butter: These are dairy free alternatives that will make everything they’re paired with ten times yummier. (Celery sticks with peanut butter, anyone?)
- Vegetables: Can’t leave out the single most important thing on the list, can we? Try out this vegetable salad, to check out every veggie that you should be eating to get on the low-calorie train.
- Potatoes: This is the food everyone who went low-carb missed the most! This is the world’s most perfect food and with such little calories and high-carb and nutritional content, it won’t only keep you full, but also happy. Boiled potatoes are one of the healthiest meals to have ever been created. Try these hassle back potatoes (without the cheese) and these all-around healthy pot-pot potatoes.
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Is it good to be always on Low calories Diet
These are a few of your run of the mill low-calorie foods, but should you get on the diet? Should you replace all your meals with low-calorie substitutes? Well, as much as will help you lose weight, science doesn’t wholly agree.
A low-calorie diet, in the long run, is unhealthy and can have damaging effects on your body’s energy system. So, yes, you can try a low-calorie diet, but getting back would mean slowly introducing normal foods back into your diet and complimenting it with exercise to maintain your desired weight.
Besides, some people simply aren’t fit enough for a low-calorie diet, since it exerts a lot of pressure on your body in terms of energy. Some side effects include fatigue, constipation, and even diarrhea. Although they do improve over time, there’s no way of knowing if your body individually is ready to take on the challenge of a low-calorie diet. This diet isn’t recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and definitely not for growing teens. Pre-existing health problems too can make this diet more harmful than any other, so have a full-body checkup, including your BMI, and consult with your doctor if a low calorie is something you can handle.