The foods we choose throughout the day play a significant role in determining how hungry or full we will be. Honoring hunger and nourishing our bodies with the “right” calories is a balancing act. Sure, a low-calorie beverage makes a lot of sense but, a low-calorie snack may not be the smartest choice. Choose a low-quality calorie option, and you’ll be hungry again soon (which means more calories). Choose a high-quality calorie, and you’ll be fuller longer. This means you’re less likely to eat more than you should over the course of a day. Finally, here’s the conundrum for calorie watchers: sometimes we need to eat more calories in the moment to ultimately eat fewer in the day (yup, you read that right).
Of course, during the holiday season, when decadent dishes and creamy confections abound, this message is even more important. It’s easy than ever to consume calories and even easier to overconsume them. It’s also common during the holidays, and frankly any time we are eating calorie-rich foods, to leave ourselves overfed and yet undernourished.
The potential for being overfed and undernourished at the same time comes down to the quality of the calorie and underscores exactly why we should seek nutrient-dense foods as much as possible. Nutrient density refers to how much nutrition a food provides per calorie. Maybe you recall when 100 calorie snacks were popular on supermarket shelves, leaving consumers to believe that “it’s just 100 calories” (of course, if you are familiar with trying to burn them off at the gym then you know that 100 calories is definitely something). The concept behind the 100-calorie snack was based on a “you can have your cookies” approach, with thin versions of your favorite cookies in 100 calorie portions. However, these low-calorie, extremely low fat, unsatisfying “cookies” did nothing to curb your hunger.
Compare these cookie packs against a 100-calorie portion of almonds. Almonds are not only fiber rich, but also offer about 10 grams of heart-healthy, appetite-suppressing fat. The almonds are a significantly better choice and more likely to help an individual eat less later.
The 100-Calorie Lens
If this idea of considering the nutrition offered in a 100 calorie serving sounds familiar, it’s because that’s what Guiding Stars is all about. When you choose foods with 1, 2, or 3 Guiding Stars, you’re choosing the option that also offers more nutrition and therefore adds more value to your day. If you were to go check out those almonds, they earn three stars, while that 100-calorie snack pack of “thins” earns none.
WSo, what can you do this holiday season to choose more nourishing foods so that you aren’t left overfed and undernourished? Start by planning and prepping so that you can maintain a balanced eating pattern in order to make healthier choices during the day before a decadent dinner. When it comes to those decadent “sometimes” foods, be mindful of your choices. Lastly, remember to slow down and savor the season without it being all about cookies and cakes.