The Definitive Guide to Calorie Quality vs Calorie Quantity

Tip #5: How to Analyze Calorie Quality

Losing weight is about eating the good calories, not limiting how many you eat.

A breaking new article from the New York Times (linked below) summarizes research that losing weight is more about eating good calories than limiting total calories.  While it’s great that the New York Times is finally realizing this, the article doesn’t really explain how to analyze what is a good calorie and what’s not.  Here’s how you make that determination…

This breaking new article (link below) from the New York Times summarizes research that losing weight is more about eating good calories than limiting total calories.  Well, duh … we’ve only known that for the past decade.  While it’s great that the New York Times is helping the public come to this understanding, the article doesn’t really explain how to analyze what is a good calorie and what’s not.  Here’s how you make that determination…

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Calorie Quality – A Definitive Guide to Analyzing Calories – Alexandria VA

Breaking news from the New York Times, “It’s not about how many calories you eat, it’s about the quality of calories.”  We’ve only been saying that for the past 4 years… but good of the New York Times to finally realize this.

Soft drinks, fruit juice, muffins, white rice and white bread are technically low in fat, for example, but the low-fat group was told to avoid those things and eat foods like brown rice, barley, steel-cut oats, lentils, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, quinoa, fresh fruit and legumes. The low-carb group was trained to choose nutritious foods like olive oil, salmon, avocados, hard cheeses, vegetables, nut butters, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed and pasture-raised animal foods.New York Times

🍰 You mean I can’t lose weight on a low fat diet by eating soft drinks and muffins? Thanks New York Times for the breaking nutrition information. 🙂 And in case, you didn’t get the message, they summarize it for you:

The most important message of the study was that a “high quality diet” produced substantial weight loss and that the percentage of calories from fat or carbs did not matter, which is consistent with other studies, including many that show that eating healthy fats and carbs can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.New York Times

So it’s quite simple, you’ll lose more weight if you eat good calories vs. bad calories.  But what is a good calorie?

Qualities of Good Calories:

There are actually many factors that go into determining what should be classified as a good food/calories for weight loss.  In fact, the answer often depends on the person eating the food (e.g. some calories are better for some people than others.)  To simplify the analysis, I prioritized this list into just four of the most important factors:

1. Good Calories Contain a High Amount Micronutrients per Calorie.

This known as the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrition Density Index).  Simply put, it’s the amount of vitamins and minerals in one calorie of the food.  For example do you think there is more vitamins and minerals in one calorie of Kale or one calorie of Butter?  If you said, “Kale” you understand how the ANDI index works!  But are you taking advantage of it?

You need to consider the nutrition density of every food you eat.  In our nutrition program, you are limited by how many calories you can eat (yes quantity matters as well as quality).  However, you need to make calorie in that diet count.  If you have more vitamins and minerals in your diet, your metabolism will be higher, and you’ll lose more weight. 1

2. Good Calories have a Low Glycemic Load

It’s well known that sugar is evil for weight loss, because of the affect is has on your blood sugar.  Elevated blood sugar leads to a number of problems with weight loss.  But it’s not just sugar… it’s all foods that produce a high level of insulin in the body.  When you analyze the glycemic load (glycemic index divided by serving size), you need to make sure you aren’t eating too many fast digesting carbs at one time.  To keep it simple, skip the high glycemic carbs, go easy on the medium digesting carbs, and eat lots of slow digesting carbs. 2

3. Good Calories Contain Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

Fiber is kind of starch that humans and most mammals need to keep our bowels moving well.  Nutrition is not just about what we put in our body, but also about how well our body takes out toxins and removes waste products.  We recommend clients eat between 30-50 grams of soluble fiber today.  Insoluble fiber isn’t listed on food labels, but it’s basically the indigestable plant fiber founds in grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, and especially vegetables.

Be warned, some healthy foods don’t contain any fiber.  You don’t need to consider the fiber content, unless the food also is high in carbohydrates.   If the food contains a lot of carbohydrates, then it needs to high in fiber.

4. Good Calories Don’t Contain Allergens

Food allergens create inflammation, create digestion problems, and ultimately reduce energy output of the body.  Common foods allergens are foods like dairy, wheat, gluten, nuts, and soy.  However, people can be allergic to lots of different foods (like oranges and eggplant — like I am.)  In order to determine which foods you allergic too, you can see an allergist that can test you for common foods allergies, and/or you can follow an elimination diet like Whole 30.

Qualities of Bad Calories:

Basically, a food that doesn’t comply with items 1-4 would be considered a bad calorie food.  Examples include: most processed foods, foods (except seeds, nuts, and whole grains) that don’t spoil without refrigeration, and foods that are breaded, glazed, or covered in sauces should be avoided.

Get Started: Nutrition Coaching Alexandria

  1. See our article on Vitamins and Minerals.
  2. See our Article on Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs.
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