Now that you know your BMI and understand the need to control calorie intake to maintain a healthy weight, let's discuss what makes up the foods we eat and which foods contribute to a healthy diet.
All foods are composed of macronutrients, substances that provide us with the energy needed for growth and other body functions. The three macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrate. The term "macro," which means large, refers to the fact that we need to consume large amounts of these three every day.
While all macronutrients provide calories, they contribute different amounts, with fat providing the most at nine calories per gram and carbohydrate and protein each providing four calories per gram.
Many of us have tried diets that limit one or more of these macronutrients, such as Atkins, South Beach or any diet that severely restricts fat. The healthiest diet, however, is one that includes all three because each plays a special role in the body. Let's look at how the experts divvy up these three main ingredients of the foods we eat.
Fat should contribute between 20 to 35 percent of daily caloric intake - that's about 400 to 700 calories in a typical 2,000-calorie diet. Fat is essential for normal growth and development; for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, K, and the carotenoids; for maintaining cell membranes and cushioning essential organs; and for enhancing the taste and consistency of many of the foods that we eat. One caveat: Not all fats are equal. You should avoid saturated fats and trans fats that are linked to elevated cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease.
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap lately, influenced by various fad diets popular today. As a result, many people believe that eliminating carbohydrates helps to promote weight loss by causing the body to burn fat for energy.
While limiting carbohydrates can help you lose weight, low-carb diets don't work in the long run and decrease the body's ability to use carbs for key functions. The USDA's Dietary Reference Intakes recommend getting from 45 to 65 percent of daily calories - from 900 to 1,300 calories in a typical 2,000-calorie diet - from carbohydrates.
Carbs are essential because they are a quick source of energy for the body, provide necessary fiber, and support the function of key organs such as the heart, nervous system, and kidneys.
Protein is considered by many to be the building block of the body and right now this macronutrient makes up 25 percent of the average American diet. Experts recommend you get about 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories - from 200 to 700 calories in a 2,000-calories diet-from protein.