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Are You Counting Numbers or Counting Nutrition?

The other day, I came across an intense debate on the ever popular social media outlet, Instagram. A photo of a diet coke can and one of a fresh fruit smoothie had the caption “200 calories of this is better than 0 calories of that.” I swear to you, some people had a field day with that. They couldn’t wrap their minds around thinking that drinking something packed with [good] calories could ever be better than drinking something with no calories. We could get into the issue of aspartame and how detrimental it is for your body and mind, but that’s a different topic completely.

Reading the comments below that image got me to realize that this is an epidemic plaguing most women. They like to see the low numbers on the nutritional information but never bother to look at the ingredients. My morning protein smoothie has about 300-400 calories in it, but I pack it with super-foods that have me energized and full until it’s lunch time. If you decide to drink the diet coke in the morning over the smoothie you’ll notice how it effects your day. It’s the same with all other food too. At this point I have completely tossed out counting calories, fat, carbs, blah blah blah. It’s all bullshit really. If your foods are rich in nutrients, your body will be able to utilize them and put those ‘numbers’ to proper use.

Take for example those 100 calorie packs. The first ingredient is enriched wheat flour. Sounds nice, huh? “Enriched” is actually the opposite of what it sounds like. It means the nutrients have been stripped out of the wheat in order to achieve a better texture and longer shelf life. Once you ingest it, your body breaks down the flour too quickly and adds a huge shot of sugar to your blood stream all at once, and what does it do with all that extra sugar? It stores it in fat cells so that you can use it later…which let’s face it, we don’t always do. So next time you’re wondering where that spare tire in your mid-section came from, give your bread a glare!

The next few ingredients are not a surprise at all: sugar and canola oil. And with the company being Nabisco, a known GMO-supporter, you better think twice before grabbing this “healthy” snack off the shelves. This one example can extend to most “health” foods and foods that are found prepackaged.

So with all of this in mind, why don’t you try half an avocado instead? It’s 160 calories, with 15 grams of fat, but it’s packed with protein and vitamins that have been proven to stabilize blood sugar, prevent cancer and Alzheimers, and even help you to lose weight (avocados are packed with fibre).

Here are some other foods that get backed away from due to their calorie content, even when they’re actually much better for you than many low-calorie meals:

  • Peanut Butter: 100 calories in every tablespoon looks a little dangerous, yeah? But peanut butter is rich in proteins and improves your metabolic fat-burning rate – it’s the top alternative to fatty meats that have the same protein count and aren’t nearly as good for you

  • Nuts: Not pub nuts so much as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and peanuts. Nearly 190 calories in each ounce of these but,  to be fair, yet you’d be hard-pressed to find better food that’s so rich in fibre and protein and also helps stabilize your blood sugar.

  • Olive Oil: So what if it’s great for cooking? 120 calories in each tablespoon of it means people tend to pass on it. But olive oil has been known to protect against certain types of cancer, and it holds anti-inflammatory properties that are linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

  • Bananas: In fairness, the calorie count in bananas (120) is almost double what you’d find in any other fruit. But they’re packed with fibre, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, folic acid, and countless other nutrients. They’re basically nature’s nutrition energy bars, made specially for you.

  • Granola: Granola gets a bad rap for containing almost 600 calories in one cupful. Yet it’s made from whole wheat and compressed nuts, and often mixed with yogurt and sweetened with molasses or sugar. It’s rich in essential oils, incredibly nutritious, and tastes great.

So forget counting calories and start counting nutrition. It may seem a little scary at first, especially for those who write down every single detail. I challenge you to forget the numbers and instead, eat foods that are beneficial to your health, despite the calories.

You’ll be the better for it! The nutritional benefits will easily outweigh the calorie cost. You’ll have more energy – and you’ll wind up burning off those extra calories in a heartbeat, anyway. You’ll love the food you’re eating and you’ll be happier. If anything is worth a few extra calories, it is certainly that.

Lauren Fogazzi

Lauren Fogazi is in her final year of journalism school at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario. She is an avid reader, inventive writer and a crusader for everything that is holistic wellness. While she does love the written word, Lauren has an intense passion for yoga and has just completed her first yoga teacher training (Hatha/Vinyasa).