Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Skinnytaste Clue: Nutrient Needs

When I have nutritional questions, I often turn to Registered Dietitian Heather K. Jones, The Diet P.I.  Now I’ve teamed up with her to help answer reader questions and clear up nutrition confusion! (It's like having your very own personal dietitian at your fingertips!)

Hi Gina,

Your blog is absolutely one of my favorites. My question is about my daily nutrient requirements. How do I find my daily needs for carbohydrates/protein/fiber? And what should my daily limit for sugar be?

Curious Cook

Hi Curious Cook,

The truth is, lots of people are confused about what they should eat to reach their daily nutrient needs – but don’t fret, it doesn’t have to be that complicated! Here’s what you need to know…

Calories are derived from protein (like fish, nuts, and meat), carbohydrates (like fruits, grains, and some vegetables) and fats (like oil and butter). Alcohol also has calories, but since it doesn’t provide nutrients, it is not considered necessary to health.

You can use this nifty Daily Food Plan tool from the USDA to help you figure out how much of each food you should be eating.

After entering your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level, the Daily Food Plan tool will tell you the total number of calories you need to maintain your weight. For example, a 35 year old, 5’5” 135 pound woman who is active less than 30 minutes a day requires 1,800 calories per day to maintain her weight.

The recommended fiber intake is about 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. Beans and peas, veggies, fruits, whole grains, and nuts (all Skinnytaste staples!) are all packed with fiber. (For a complete list of fiber in food see the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Appendix 13.)

Once your calories are calculated, the tool then tells you how much of each type of food – grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein – you should be eating to reach that number. And if you are having trouble fitting the different foods into your diet, you can refer to the helpful tips provided to help you reach your goals.

Want to lose or gain weight? The tool can help with that, too! It provides sensible tips to help you adjust your daily calorie needs to reach your ideal weight.

For sugar, you can follow the American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations to eat no more than 100 calories from added sugar per day if you are female, and 150 calories of added sugar per day if you are male. That is equivalent to about 6 teaspoons for females (or 25 grams) and 9 teaspoons for males (or 37 grams). For more on sugar be sure to check out these fab tips from AHA.

Need more help building a healthy lifestyle that works for you? Take my free 3-minute
Diet Type test and find out how your personality affects your health and food choices.

Happy healthy eating!

Heather K. Jones, RD

The Diet P.I.


Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers said...

I love this segment. It seems recently I have lost my way with nutrition. I eat healthy everyday, but I seem to be having some throw backs. I can see the weight is coming back and I am so disgusted with myself. Starting today I am offically not going to use added suagr anymore, unless absoloutly necessary. I'm going back to my roots when I first started to lose weight and I used natural sugar like honey and maple syrup and that seems to work for me. In reference to your post, the chart is so helpful. SInce I've started to gain weight, I started to cut way back on calories, probbly to much, so looking at your chart it makes it simple for me and helps me realize what I do need to eat! SO breakfast this morning it's going to be whole wheat bread with flax and some strawberries and maybe a teaspoon of Peanut Butter. Thank you so much for posting this!

Heather K. Jones, RD said...

Hi Jennifer! Happy this info helped! Good for you for getting back to the basics - I find that keeping it simple is always the best way to stay on track.

And you're right, cutting too many calories is not a good idea. Drastically cutting calories sends your body into starvation mode. This results in a slowed metabolism so your “starving” body can maintain its weight. The trick is to reduce your calories enough to lose weight, but not so much that you negatively affect your metabolism.

I always remind people that healthy eating is a journey, not a destination... : )

Best of luck!


Marian said...

Thank you for this added feature!! I've recently make the decision to eat more natural products, less processed food, no GMOs when possible, and all natural meats and cheese, etc. I've always used artificial sweeteners to reduce calories and I'm finding that reducing calories and eating natural do not always work together. For example, I've used the "lite" Hershey's chocolate syrup for years, since its the only way I drink milk, and I love the extra boost I get from milk in the morning. I can't find low calorie chocolate syrup, pancake syrup, etc. And then there's the added expense. My "light" pancake syrup is about $2.00. All natural maple syrup is at least $8.00 a bottle and loaded with calories. I know the added expense is worth it in the long run, but its hard to rationalize that at the grocery check out. I appreciate your added sugar guidance above.

Heather K. Jones, RD said...

Hi Marian,

So glad you like the post! Great idea to eat a more natural diet. Eating whole, nutritious foods (like those found in Skinnytaste recipes!) is really the way to go.

I used to use Sucralose (Splenda) - it is sucrose (sugar) chemically combined with chlorine - for my coffee and tea. Sucralose is the only artificial sweetener that has passed all safety tests, so there is no reason to think it causes harm. But a few years ago I decided to switch back to sugar, because I didn't want to load my diet with unnecessary chemicals. I like to eat clean (chemical free) as much as possible.

There is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned natural sugar, the problem is we eat too much of it! : ) I always suggest people use smaller amounts of the real thing, that way they can reduce their calories from added sugar, and still keep their diet clean.

For chocolate milk, for example, try using 100% cacoa powder (like Scharffen Berger Cocoa Powder) with a bit of real sugar.

Happy healthy eating!


Marian said...

Thank you! Great idea :)