If you look at the studies over the years, the strongest evidence still shows that calories do matter. One of the main reasons for the chronic disease of lifestyle is an overindulgence of foods. However, it seems that focusing on food quality is just as important for weight loss and weight maintenance.
Foods that are unrefined and minimally processed foods
Examples include vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and healthy, lean sources of protein
Foods that are highly processed
Examples include snack foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined (white) grains, refined sugar, fried foods, and foods high in saturated and trans fats
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 looked at whether some foods were more or less likely to promote weight gain. The researchers studied over 120 000 healthy men and women for about 20 years. They determined that weight was most likely to increase when foods such as potato chips, potatoes, sugar sweetened beverages and processed and unprocessed red meat were eaten, and the foods that were linked to weight loss were vegetables, whole grains fruits, nuts and yoghurt. The researcher’s conclusion from this was that eating foods higher in starches, refined grains, fats and sugars can increase weight gain. This does not mean that calories are not important, but choosing high quality foods mostly is an important factor to help people to eat less calories.
So how can you put this into practice when you are running around needing simple options for snacks or lunch? Choices that you should try to make include salads (choose those with no dressing or only oil as dressing), fruit (can be dried fruit too, but be careful of the portion), yoghurt (choose a yoghurt that has no added sugar), nuts or biltong (again, watch portion) or a whole wheat, seed or rye roll and a piece of chicken or tuna pack. This may seem like a lot more effort than running into a fast food place and ordering a hamburger, but is it really? Once you become familiar with your quick stop store you will be sure to find at least some good options.
Preparation is the key to success, so get into the habit of keeping some ‘back-up’ food on you at all times. For example, have a packet of high-fiber crackers and some peanut butter or tuna packs at your desk for those days you forgot to bring your lunch or are just hungrier and need an extra snack. This then eliminates the stress of having to go buy a quick meal or snack and decreases the chances of choosing lower-quality foods.
Also get into the habit of reading labels. The number of ingredients in a product as well as which ingredients are predominant in the product is a good indicator of whether the food is a high or low quality food. Remember that foods are listed in order of weight, so if sugar or fat is listed in the first three ingredients then the product is high in sugar or fat.
Bottom line is that that quality is very important in determining what we should eat to achieve and maintain a health as well as a healthy weight. So become more careful about choosing high-quality healthy foods for the best you!