An apple a day.... some nutrition basics

So let's start with some super basics! ((don't worry - I promise I won't always be so boring)) Macronutrients - nutrients you need in large amounts: carbs, fats, protein

  • Calories: Carbs: 4 kilocalories/gram (though we just call kilocalories calories normally)
  • Protein: 4 kilocalories/gram
  • Fat: 9 kilocalories/gram
  • Now I found this interesting:
  • Alcohol: 7 kilocalories/gram   (so note that's a lot of empty calories that are easy to chug on down with no added nutrients. Now I'm far from dry - but it's something to be cognizant of. Also your body processes alcohol first - it's a poison and your body wants it out! So when drinking and eating your body will process the 3 margaritas first, then work on your burger - which makes it easier for that to be tagged on somewhere you don't like. If this thought worries you... well, it's all about balance. If it still worries you, just ignore that whole paragraph.)

Micronutrients - vitamins, minerals.

  • Vitamins are organic so they can easily be broken down during food prep or storage. Each vitamins ways of being broken down are unique though, so it's hard to follow one set principal. I care about this but at the end of the day I think eating the vegetable, however it's prepared, is probably better than not eating it (though not with cheese sauce.)
  • Minerals are inorganic, so boiling or nuking them won't break them down
  • but both are easily thrown away when you boil a vegetable, for example, and dump the water down the drain.

Some terms to know while shopping:

  • fortified - the nutrients were added after
  • enriched - nutrients were added back that were lost when the food was processed. Some of this is regulated - for example, folate is added back to white bread because a lack of it causes birth defects
  • imitation foods - that cheese in velveeta probably ain't real...

What proportions of macronutrients you should be eating: 

  • 45%-65% from carbs
  • 20-35% from fat
  • 10-25% from protein

That's all well and good but when you look at a sandwich it's not quite so simple. A tool I love is sparkpeople.com. I recommend everyone at one point do a food log for a week - not a day or two where you can cheat. It's just astounding some of the assumptions I had before I did the same. Then I'd watch my husband fill not one but two large bowls to the top with cereal for breakfast and one day finally got him to pour a bowl and then put it in a measuring cup. That was 4 servings of cereal!

If you're hardcore into it, all of this measuring involves some measuring cups and a food scale. If not there are tricks for determining portion sizes. All of this seems like a pain in the arse, I know, but eventually it becomes second nature.

  • meat - one 3 oz serving of cooked meat is about the size of a bar of soap
  • pasta - 1/2 a cup is the size of your fist. That doesn't help so much with angel hair. I used a food scale. The amount while dry looks sad and skimpy. When cooked it plumps up. Also remember you can have numerous servings per day of these various macronutrients so it's okay to go a bit over but don't have 5 servings worth in one meal!)
  • oil - one teaspoon of oil is about the size of the tip of your thumb - that's around 40 calories. And it pours out fast.
  • cheese - one ounce is about the size of a domino
  • fruit - a tennis ball sized apple is a serving. The ones from costco the size of volleyballs? Probably more calories in those babies than a normal home-grown apple.
  • peanut butter - 2 oz serving is a ping pong ball.

Think that's enough basics for now. I'm off to the gym!