One of the most intense battles in the history of nutrition...........
There is conflicting information coming from all directions regarding the quantity of food we devour, and the quality of said food. Some say that we should eat only food from unprocessed, 'healthy' sources, and to eat as much of this food as we want, with no limits. Others say 'eat whatever you want, as long as it's not too much'.
So who is right?
Well, a bit of both actually. See, here's the thing. It doesnt matter what kind of food we eat, or where it comes from, if we consume more calories than we expend as energy, the only possible outcome is weight gain. So for that reason, the quality argument is fundamentally flawed. The simple fact is that all food, no matter what the macro content is, contains a certain amount of calories. If the 'healthy' foods are therefore consumed in excess of our expenditure, we have a problem - fat gain.
So what about the quantity then? A little bit more complex but the argument is basically correct.
We already know how difficult it can be to control our portion sizes and almost impossible to accurately work out how many calories a certain meal contains.
Can anyone tell me how exactly many calories they burn in a day? (without looking at your fitbit Erina)
So the argument of 'eat what you like, just not too much' is right in theory, the problem is, that with us mere mortals that don't have access to the fancy technology, we have no idea what 'too much' is.
So how do we overcome the obstacles? its all about balance. Trying to control our food intake from poor quality food choices is a dangerous game. For example, when we put birthday cake in our mouths, a few things happen. Firstly, we usually get a sugar rush for a few minutes, due to a spike in our blood sugar, caused by the fast release of sugar from the processed carbohydrate in the food. Then, when the sugar high wears off, we often feel tired, lethargic, maybe even a little bloated. Our brain then decides that more energy is needed. That piece of cake was nice, wasn't it? So you'll have another...and so on and so forth. Suddenly you've eaten double what you had planned. It takes a serious amount of self discipline to control your food intake, whilst consuming whatever foods you like.
On the other hand, a delicious plate of roast chicken, sweet potato and green veg - all 'healthy' unprocessed foods - will be hard to resist. It will also be difficult not to overeat if this is placed in front of you, particularly if there are extras. Same thing as the cake applies. If the serving is too large, the chances are, your calories in, will be more than your calories out. The end result - weight gain
Ideally, if we can strike a balance between the two, we won't be far off the right track. If we get used to eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods that come from natural, local sources, we will be half way there. The other half of the deal will be controlling the amount of food we consume. Whole foods are generally going to support our overall health and fitness a great deal better than our friends over in the biscuit aisle, or in the pizza freezer. There are a number of reasons for this, but most of these are for another day. The main reason that we are going to look at - and it's good news - is that good quality food makes us feel more satisfied. When we eat lots of green veg with our meat, or whatever else, our brain gets a message from our stomach that says 'stop, I'm full!' And we generally do.
So the key is to control both our food sources and our quantities. Meet somewhere in the middle. We would recommend that you use your (smallish) plate as a guide.
- 1/4 of your plate protein (Meat, fish, eggs.....)
- 1/4 of your plate starchy veg (potato, rice,bread....yes, bread!)
- 1/2 of your plate green veg (broccoli, spinach etc....)
So Quantity V Quality? Why not have both. If you follow this general guide 3 times a day and have a couple of small protein based snacks throughout the day, you will be on the right track. This of course, can be tailored for the individual depending on their goals, but again, that is a new topic altogether!
Happy eating...and stay tuned, I promise there will be some recipes in the pipeline!