Many people often associate eating healthy foods with weight loss. Healthy foods are thought to give our bodies what they need to stay healthy while limiting “junk” or “bad” foods that cause us to put on weight. But healthy eating and weight loss are not that straightforward, and swapping healthier alternatives into our diet doesn’t necessarily guarantee we will lose weight.

What We Need for Weight Loss

Weight loss only occurs when our bodies are in a calorie deficit. Unfortunately, no amount of lemon water is going to change that. For our bodies to be in a calorie deficit, we need to burn more calories than we’re eating. For example, if we are consuming 2,000 calories per day, we need to be burning approximately 2,500 calories to lose weight. If we eat more calories than we burn, the excess is stored in our bodies as fat. 

The standard for healthy weight loss is 1 lb per week. This requires a calorie deficit of approximately 500 calories per day (a total of 3,500 calories per week). 

Although this sounds simple enough, it can be quite complicated. Many people can manage their weight by listening to their hunger cues to avoid overeating, however hormone imbalances, hunger signals, stress and many external factors can influence our body’s metabolism and understanding of our hunger signals. In these situations, tracking calories may be beneficial in achieving healthy weight loss. 

Healthy Foods vs Calories

Healthy food ≠ weight loss

The idea that we can eat as much as we want and as long as it’s healthy, we will still lose weight, is very flawed. This is because many foods we associate with being healthy and nutritious can also be high in calories. Some examples of these foods include fruits like mangoes and avocados that are both very high in calories.

Additionally, many products pose as “healthy” alternatives to processed foods. These products often use words like “smart” or “veggie” in the name to appear healthier than they are. However, many of these products contain high amounts of sugars and fats and are consequently high in excess calories and not nearly as healthy as they want us to believe.

Although we often associate “healthy” with “low calorie” the two terms do not always exist simultaneously. Healthy food can, in fact, contain both high amounts of nutrients and high amounts of calories which consequently impact our weight loss.

Weight Loss and Healthy Foods

As I mentioned earlier, weight loss requires we burn more calories than we eat. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t know the difference between high-calorie healthy food and high-calorie fast food. To them, calories are calories. So when it comes to weight loss, eating healthy food is no guarantee of success. Particularly as many healthy foods that pop to mind contain high amounts of calories.

Because we need to burn more calories than we eat to lose weight, consuming large amounts of healthy but high-calorie foods can impede our efforts. If our diets are packed with healthy foods, like avocado on whole-grain toast, we may be consuming way more calories than we’re burning. So, n order to achieve healthy weight loss, we need to consider not only the nutrients our food, but also how many calories are in the food as well.

We don’t want to sacrifice nutritious foods for low-calorie alternatives, nor do we want to eat healthy foods that contain excess calories. To achieve healthy weight loss, we should aim to limit foods high in sugars and fat and include foods rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Working with a Dietitian for Weight Loss

Weight loss on your own can be challenging. People often don’t know where to start and have tons of (unanswered) questions. Additionally, there is plenty of misinformation floating around the interweb that can make the journey challenging and even unsafe. Working with a registered dietitian can provide you with the knowledge and support you need to achieve healthy weight loss. They can teach you how to read nutrition labels, spot nutritious foods and identify healthy ingredients. While also helping you to develop healthy and sustainable habits for weight management.

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