Calories Don’t Matter
Yes, this may not be what you wanted to hear, but the good news is, just because calories matter, doesn’t mean you should count them, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should feel restricted. Going back to the what you eat matters part, it is significantly more difficult to overeat on a plant-based, whole-foods diet than on a junk-based processed foods diet.
Now, there are a few things to unpack here, so let’s be specific. Plant-based does not mean vegan, nor does it mean vegetarian. Plant-based simply means that the foundation of your diet is plants. Only 1 in 10 US adults eats the recommended servings of vegetables and over 1 in 2 US adults are overweight or obese. Whole-foods are foods in their most untouched form. For example, a potato is a whole food and has roughly 100 calories, loads of fiber, B vitamins, potassium and a bit of protein. French fries, (otherwise known as chips) average 300 calories per 100 grams, 20 grams of unsaturated and 20 grams of saturated fats.
You would have to eat 3 medium sized potatoes to get the same amount of calories as just 100 grams of chips.
Now, for the meat eaters, 3 ounces of beef tenderloin (a less fatty cut) has roughly 179 calories and 26 grams of protein (according to the USDA). That same steak is still fairly high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Comparatively, pork-sausage has roughly 250 calories per 3 ounces and contains 1/3 of your daily allowance for both fat and saturated fat, while only offering 8 grams of protein.
Of course, there is a price difference between these two choices- the majority of us are not tossing beef tenderloin in our carts- but that doesn’t mean we must succumb to the sausage alternative.
Lentils provide an average of 9 grams of protein per 100 grams, 115 calories, nearly no fat and loads of healthful things like fiber, iron, and magnesium. Lentils are also super affordable.
1 cup of edamame (155 grams) has about 188 calories, 18.5 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber and is backed with b vitamins and magnesium. 1 cup of edamame is equivalent to nearly 2 servings of beef tenderloin.
Okay, back to calories. Point blank, they matter BUT if you eat a plant-based diet and focus on whole foods, counting them shouldn’t. Being mindful of portions, is likely a better method than obsessing over calories. A great resource for minding portions is Finally Full, Finally Slim by Lisa Young, PhD, RDN. The book details how to live in a world where calories matter, without restricting or denying.
Fill you plate with un-processed veggies first, then add the rest.