Calories come from three main types of macronutrients, or calorie-supplying nutrients: carbohydrate, protein and fat. Your body needs some of each. Unfortunately, fad diets fuel confusion about just how much of each type of calorie your body needs. We believe the best way to divide your daily calories for weight loss is the same manner in which health and nutrition experts recommend dividing them for good health: 50 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 to 30 percent fat, and 15 to 25 percent protein.
Begin to think of calories as what they do for your body, rather than the enemy. The calories we'd like you to eat are more than just calories: They are rich in nutrients and other health-enhancing substances that take you one step closer to great health. (That's why it doesn't work to substitute candy calories for fruit or vegetable calories. We'd rather have you plan in a few calories for sweets or other treats, and still indulge your body in the health-enhancing calories it needs.)
How many grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat you will get each day when you follow our meal plans depends on how many calories you've chosen to eat. Here's how they shake down:
- 50-60% carbohydrate: 213-255 grams carb (850-1020 calories)
- 15-25% protein: 64-106 grams protein (255-425 calories)
- 20-30% fat: 38-57 grams fat (340-510 calories)
- 50-60% carbohydrate: 238-285 grams carb (950-1140 calories)
- 15-25% protein: 71-119 grams protein (285-475 calories)
- 20-30% fat: 42-63 grams fat (380-570 calories)
Carbohydrates have gotten a lot of bad press lately, but they are the highest quality fuel for people of all ages. The type of carbohydrates recommended for good health are those made by nature and found in:
- Whole grains (whole wheat, barley, corn, quinoa, oats, etc.)
- Legumes (black beans, lentils, split peas, etc.)
- Vegetables (broccoli, carrots, peas, tomatoes, etc.)
- Fruits (apples, oranges, berries, etc.)
The less these foods are refined, the better they are for several reasons: Unrefined foods have more nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals. When it comes to weight loss, unrefined foods are more filling, which means fewer calories make you feel full. For example, an apple is more filling (and more nutritious) than apple juice. Unrefined carbohydrates are called complex carbohydrates.
QUICK FACT: A gram of carbohydrate (about 1/28th of an ounce) has four calories. An average sized banana, for example, has about 28 grams of carbohydrates (the rest of the weight comes from the peel, fiber, a little protein, a little fat, and the water), which account for about 112 calories (good for you calories!).
Proteins build new tissues, help children grow, build hormones and body chemicals and have an essential role in countless other body functions. Protein calories are rarely found alone. Vegetable proteins, such as those found in black beans and other legumes and whole grains such as barley and quinoa, are found with complex carbohydrate calories. Fat calories tag along with meat, poultry, and fish proteins (fish has the least number of fat calories, ounce for ounce, and a better type of fat, too).
QUICK FACT: One gram of protein also has four calories. One slice of individually wrapped cheese contains about 28 grams of protein, or about 112 calories.
Some fat is essential for good health, although generally far less than most people eat. Fat is necessary to form hormones, absorb nutrients, and has several other functions. Fats are found in dairy foods (except fat-free versions), meat, poultry, fish, and most convenience and packaged foods. Nuts and seeds are very high in fat, and some foods are pure fat, such as oils, butter and margarine. All these fat-containing foods can be included in a healthy diet, just in appropriate portions. Adults need about 15 to 20 grams daily, but Americans eat upwards of 70 to 80 grams each day. One of the reasons fats catch up with us so quickly (to add pounds) is that they are very calorically dense.
QUICK FACT: One gram of fat has nine calories. One teaspoon of butter or margarine has about 5 grams of fat, or about 45 calories.