Not all calories are equal

Getting proper nutrition is the key to a healthy life.

It’s easy to get caught up in only caring what the scale says to gauging your health. So many other things come in to play when it comes to our health and how efficiently our body works. Proper nutrition is at the forefront for our health and many people have the opinion diet is more important than even exercise. Now remember, exercise is very important and has health benefits that cannot be compared to anything else. So don’t give up your exercise routine either.

Hearing many people judging others health by their size seems common place. If it were possible to look inside each person’s physiology to see their system’s function it would tell a better picture, but we do not have x-ray vision.

When looking at calories alone, it gets confusing to know what foods to choose, how many calories should be consumed each day, and what is a calorie in the first place and what does it mean to me. The English dictionary defines a calorie as a unit used in measuring the amount of energy food provides when eaten and digested. Does that help? Not really.

It is more important to look at food’s nutritional make up instead of eating “empty calories”. Empty calories are foods that are usually processed, high in fats and salt and offer little nutrition for your body to benefit. To help understand further some ideas of added sugars and saturated fats (bad fats) according to the myplate.gov are:

  • The sugars or sweeteners in soft drinks, fruit punch, candies, cakes, cookies, pies and ice cream.
  • The saturated fats in cookies, cakes, pizza, cheese, sausages, fatty meats, butter and stick margarine.
  • Some foods – such as milk, yogurt, and cereals – provide important nutrients, but they can also contain some added sugars or saturated fats. For example, sweetened yogurt and sweetened breakfast cereals contain added sugars. Whole milk and cheese contain saturated fat. Look for food choices that are low in saturated fats, unsweetened or with no-added sugars.

It’s important to continue to choose foods high in nutritional content instead of focusing too much on the number of calories consumed. Choosing a sweet clementine instead of cookie will give you plenty of fiber and is sweet tasting to ward off the sweet tooth. In addition to the change in nutrition from a clementine to a cookie, you also will not receive any of the saturated fats or refined sugars you will from a cookie. It’s not easy to make changes your diet but it possible to retrain your mind to choose healthy, nutritionally packed foods instead of empty calorie foods.

Michigan State University Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute has many programs to help communities change the health disparities of our communities. Experts from Michigan State University Extension make it possible to bring communities together and to educate citizens on a healthy lifestyle for a positive behavior change.

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