Updated: May 6, 2020
"First meal of the day! Who said eating healthy can't be delicious? #summerbod here I come!!!"
**Insert eye roll here**
Let's just break it down.
They've put together an unquestionably healthy meal. Two slices of golden flax whole grain bread, coated with organic nut butter, thinly sliced banana wheels on top, sprinkled with raw honey and chia seeds.
My mouth is watering just looking at my Instagram feed.
Breaking it down, this is the perfect picture of a healthy meal.
Whole grain bread with flax, which contains omega-3 fatty acids and fiber to help with everything from heart health to a smooth digestive track.
Organic nut butter loaded with healthy poly- and monounsaturated fats helping lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels with an anti-inflammatory bonus.
Bananas, with magnesium, potassium, and starch, rich in soluble fiber (if banana is unripe).
Raw honey aiding digestive tissues and packing powerful antioxidants.
And chia seeds bringing it home with 10g of fiber per ounce and more omega-3's to help raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Truly an impeccable way to start the day.
Your goal is to lose weight.
What I am trying to illustrate in this post is that there is a difference in eating for health and eating for weight loss. The hard part to understand is not every healthy meal is good for weight loss and not every meal for weight loss is healthy.
Let's start by defining what is essential for weight loss.
1) A calorie deficit.
That's it. For the last 30 years of research into the topic, that is the only essential piece for losing weight. (Yes, I know calories aren't the only thing that matter. So much goes into changing body composition, but a calorie deficit is the only thing consistently proven that is needed to lose weight). It doesn't sound sexy, it doesn't sound difficult, and that's why people discredit the "calorie counting" method. But even if you aren't counting, your body is.
So let's look at the above mentioned meal and break it down calorie by calorie:
Two slices of Golden Flax whole grain bread: 300 calories
Two servings of Organic Nut Butter (one serving for each slice): 380 calories
One medium banana: 116 calories
Two table spoons of chia seeds: 118 calories
Two table spoons of raw honey: 139 calories
Total Calories: 1,053
If your goal for fat loss is 1500 calories a day, then you just ate more than 2/3 of your daily calories before 9:00am. And lets be real, will probably finish the day at 2,500+ with lunch and dinner still waiting. So even though you got all this health, your body isn't changing.
Now, just for fun, let's look at a Big Mac Meal with a Diet Coke:
Big Mac: 563 calories
Medium Fry: 340 calories
Medium Diet Coke: 0 calories
Total Calories: 903
"Wait, so are you saying if I want to lose weight, I should eat Big Macs and not micro-nutrient dense foods?"
ABSOLUTELY NOT (even though Jordan Syatt ate a big mac for 30 days straight and still lost 7 pounds to prove a point. I'll link the video at the bottom of this article.)
I am just trying to highlight the fact that what always looks "healthy" might not line up with your goals, and that, sometimes, foods or meals that look extremely "healthy" carry the most calories.
Any diet will work if this one rule is in place. Keto? Yup. Vegan? Sure. Caveman? Why not.
As long as consistently over time, calories in < calories out, you will lose weight.
Now comparing the two meals above on a micro scale looks completely different. Like anything in life, there is a good and a bad.
There's good music and there's bad music. There's good conversations and there's bad conversations. There's good sex and there's bad sex. There are good calories, and there are bad calories.
I mentioned the micro-nutrients in the first meal. All the omega-3's, the vitamin and mineral complex, the ungodly amount of fiber... everything that your body wants.
The Big Mac meal offers almost nothing. Over-processed beef, packaged sauces, lettuce and bread, deep fried potatoes... the stuff your body does not want inside.
One will make you feel like crap while the other will make you feel great.
So how do we make the two overlap?
I am not trying to make eating healthy and eating for fat loss seem like two completely different things. You can have something healthy that also will help you with fat loss. And you should. It's just understanding all angles of the problem.
Eating for fat loss shouldn't be a blast. It should suck sometimes. Having to restrict what you eat is never fun and will never be fun. But we can make eating for fat loss healthy. We just have to look for foods that are nutrient dense and don't carry as many calories.
In previous posts, I mention the three macro-nutrients and the calories they all hold:
1g Carbs = 4 cal
1g Protein = 4 cal
1g Fat = ~9 cal
Let's notice that fat carries more than 2x as many calories as carbs or protein -- something you will notice in "healthy" looking meals that hold too many calories, is a s*** ton of fat.
The above mentioned banana/toast meal holds 48g of fat. (Yes, that is scientifically considered a s*** ton.)
Here are some lists of calorie heavy / higher fat "healthy" foods:
- Whole Eggs
- Nuts / Seeds
- Peanut Butter / Nut Butter
- Olive Oil (for cooking base / dressing)
- Coconut Oil
- Oily Fish
- Salad Dressings (Ranch, Caesar, Italian, etc.)
- Dark Chocolate
- Grass Fed Beef (80%> lean)
I am not saying we can't eat these foods if we want to lose body fat. I'm saying when we are aiming for a certain daily calorie intake, a lot of these foods typically send us over.
Now, a list of foods that are very micro-nutrient dense, and don't carry a ton of calories:
- Lower sugar fruits (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, watermelon, orange)
- All leafy greens & vegetables (spinach, kale, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Lean Grass Fed Beef (90%+ lean)
- Lower Fat Fish (cod, mahi-mahi, tuna, tilapia, halibut, some salmon)
- Egg Whites
- Greek Yogurt
- Sweet Potatoes
How this all works out
My view on diets is that they are not black and white. I believe in tracking calorie and macro-nutrient intake because it gives people wiggle room day-to-day on what they eat and is easy to point out where a problem is in a diet, which is usually what is most sustainable. If you want some peanut butter, you can fit it in. If you want the ice cream, you can squeeze that in as well. In moderation.
Just remember, whatever your diet looks like, the calorie in vs. calorie out rule will always hold true whether you are measuring or not.
But whatever your diet looks like, it can always be hard to fit in all the nutrients we need. I always recommend using a leafy green powder to make sure you're getting everything you need on days that your diet looks less than perfect. (Onnit makes a great powder. So does Organifi.)
Important Closing Words
If you have been struggling with losing weight, now, in the past, or always, I implore you to track what you eat. It is hard. You will not be good at it (at first).
It shouldn't be that hard to see why.
If you have a money problem, you track your income and spending.
At work, when an employee isn't getting the job done, you track what they're doing on a daily basis.
You track because you know it will show you where you've done wrong.
So take a total of 15 minutes a day, and pay attention to what you are putting in your body. When trying to solve the problem for fat loss, the devil you know is better than the one you don't.
I Ate One Big Mac Every Day for 30 Days And Lost 7lbs (Here's How)
Bread + PB + Banana + Chia + Honey Nutrition