Do you Eatwell?
The picture above is known as the Eatwell guide and it is issued by the govenment as guidance on how we can stay healthy through nutrition. On the whole it is pretty good advice, as it shows us how best to divide your food intake between fruit & vegetables (nutrients) grains and starch (carbohydrate), meat, fish and pulses (proteins) and dairy & oils (fats). It also reconises the importance of hydration and also the other things we all succomb to from time-to-time such as crisps, biscuits, chocolate & ice cream. Many criticise it for being too simplistic, and yes there are lots of things I could pick it apart for - but remember that this is general advice that the government issues to the whole population to maintain healthy living.
The most interesting part of it is perhaps the hardest to spot - and that is in the bottom right corner where we finally get a glimpse of the 4 letters kcal.
What is a kcal?
A kcal (commonly referred to as a calorie) very simply put, is a unit of energy. If you want to be technical, it's the amount of energy it takes to heat 1-litre or water by 1 degree celcius at sea level. The reason we use it for food is because it is a handy way of measuring how much energy is in a serving of food. When we eat, your body takes this energy and converts it into bodily functions like moving, breathing etc. If your body doesn't use this energy, it converts it into fat and stores it on your body. That's why, if we don't move enough, or if we eat more than we need - out body fat increases.
How do I know how many kcals are in my food?
Well, again there is a very simplistic answer - read the packaging! By law, all packaged food served in the UK must have the nutritional information printed on it.
However there are lots of traps, loopholes and pitfalls you might fall into - here are some of the main ones:
Non pre-packaged foods
there are two groups that I think it is generally to put these into.
Prepared food - meals that have been cooked when you buy them such as pizza, pastries or anything that has involved some preparation. Speaking on the whole, you can expect these to be quite high in calories. When they are prepared, the people preparing them want them will be more focused on the taste than the nutrition, and so will load them with things our bodies crave - salt, sugar and fat. There are some very good apps you can download to find out the calorie content of these foods. My favourites are called "myfitnesspal" and "fitbit". You might be surprised just how many calories some of your favourite foods contain!
This generally is a safer category when looking at calories. Here we are mostly talking about things that fall from the sky and come out of the ground. Fruit and vegetables! You will see these in the big green section because they are usually much lower in calories. As always, there are exceptions (100g of pine nuts contains a whopping 673 calories!) so it is always a good idea to check them in your app too.
I'm a woman, so 2000kcal is how much I should eat?
Well, this is where it starts to get tricky. This number is given to everyone, and is also to maintain health. First of all, you are not everyone, and so your individual needs are likely to be different. There is a way of finding out how much you need to maintain your current body - this is called your basal metabolic rate BMR.
A crude calculation you can do is:
BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in Yrs)
This is a rough guide to how many calories your body will burn with no activity during a day.
To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.1
If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.275
If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.35
If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.525
Finally, remember that this number is to MAINTAIN your current body. If you are trying to slim down, you will need to either increase your activity level or reduce your calorie intake, or preferably - BOTH. We advise never reducing your calories by more than 15% as this will lead to other problems. With regards to exercise, we would strongly recommend that you come and talk to us! We will give you a sustainable programme that suits your lifestyle and meets your needs. It will also take into account any injuries and health conditions, and most importantly, we will show you how to get the best results out of it!