Dietitian Melissa Meier shares why you need to keep the engine running if weight loss is your goal, and restrictive eating plans might actually hinger your progress. Instead, take a look at her ideal day-on-a-plate that will keep you satiated but keep you in fat-burning mode.
If you’re trying to lose weight, or you’ve been there, done that in the past, you’re (probably) cognisant of the calorie content of a variety of different foods… after all, weight loss is just about cutting calories, right?
While that might be true to some degree, I’d bet my bottom dollar that most people sell themselves short on the calorie front when they’re trying to lose weight – thanks to many a fad diet spruiking ultra-low cal meal plans, unqualified wellness gurus cashing in on so-called wellbeing programs and the abundance of calorie-tracking apps we all have at our fingertips.
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The problem with low-calorie diets
‘So, what’s the problem with that?’ you might be asking yourself right now… and actually, there’s quite a few:
1. Reducing your calorie intake too much is likely to mean your diet is not nutritionally adequate because you’re simply not consuming enough food to meet your daily nutrient requirements. Depending on the food group you decide to limit, or worse – omit, you could miss out on nutrients like fibre for gut health, vitamin b12 for nervous system function or iron for oxygen transport, which obviously is not ideal in terms of your overall health.
2. Your body requires a certain number of baseline calories just to keep it ticking. Your beating heart, breathing lungs and thinking brain all contribute to your ‘basal metabolic rate’ (i.e. the amount of energy your body needs just to keep you alive). If you’re not giving your body enough energy to fuel these functions, your metabolism could eventually slow down, especially if you’re a chronic dieter. In the long run, that’ll make it even harder to not only lose weight, but maintain a healthy weight altogether… And that’s obviously not ideal.
3. If you dramatically reduce your calorie intake, you’re likely to lose lean muscle mass, not the excess fat mass you’re trying to. That’s because when you don’t give your body the energy it needs to keep ticking (see point two, above), it starts to break down your muscle for energy in the form of protein. Again, not ideal.
How many calories should you be eating to lose weight?
With that being said, you’re probably wondering about the magic number of calories to eat to help you lose weight without going too far – and while that number is unique to you as an individual, the ballpark figure is 1510 calories (6300 kilojoules). In other words: goodbye silly 1000 calorie meal plans. And hello real food and long-lasting, sustainable weight loss.
To give you a little healthy weight loss inspo, here’s my dietitian-approved ~1500 calorie day-on-a-plate:
- Breakfast – half a cup of natural muesli, 170g reduced-fat yoghurt and two passionfruit (410 calories)
- Morning tea – latte with skim milk (70 calories)
- Lunch – two slices of wholegrain bread, one 220g tin of reduced-salt baked beans and a sprinkle of reduced-fat cheese (430 calories)
- Afternoon tea – one apple (90 calories)
- Dinner – 100g (raw weight) salmon served with a bunch of sautéed broccolini and half a roasted sweet potato, cooked in a drizzle of olive oil (510 calories)
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram.