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Overcoming the fad diet: A guide to proper nutrition and weight management.

Updated on September 2, 2012

Avoiding the White Coat

With my nursing experience over the last six years, I've realized that the typical patient is largely unaware of proper nutrition or how to even begin a healthy nutritional plan once diagnosed with a disease such as; diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol. Unbeknownst to the general public, the main goal of healthcare providers is primary prevention: Providing the public and their patients with the education and tools to prevent the leading causes of death in this nation which include heart disease (cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke) as well as cancer. Unfortunately, most people correlate the doctor with being ill; shudder at the thought of sitting in a confined waiting room, especially beside potentially sick patients harboring contagious illnesses and being only an arm's length away from those germ-riddled magazines previously touched by snot-covered toddlers and ill patients awaiting their turn. People will even endure incredible amounts of pain or prolonged illness before succumbing to that sterile four-cornered white room and that ominous figure in the white coat, let alone visiting a healthcare provider for a routine physical. Combine this seemingly "natural" human behavior to steer away from physicians and healthcare providers for routine care and the current 50.7 million uninsured Americans, one might as well say that preventative healthcare is left up to each individual. Therefore, this hub will discuss the basics of nutritional education to reach and/or maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

The Typical American Diet

Typical American Meal Caloric Intake

12 oz of Belgian White Beer = 171 calories, 0 fat, 14 carbohydrates, 2.5 grams protein

1 serving of fried chicken = 1,260 calories, 57 g fat (10g saturated), 132 g carbohydrates, 53 g protein, 2.78 grams sodium

side of french fries = 400 calories, 14 g fat (2g saturated), 63 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 1.37 grams sodium

Grand Total =1,831 calories from:

71 grams fat (12 saturated)

209 carbohydrates

60.5 grams of protein

4.15 grams sodium (1.5 grams more than recommended by U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.)

And all in one sitting. There is no wonder why heart (cardiovascular disease) is the leading cause of death in the nation. Oh, & did you want honey-mustard with that? So here are some tips to change just that.

Determining Caloric Demand

There are multiple BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate) calculators online, but I prefer to use the Harris-Benedict formula because it calculates BMR based on gender, height, weight, age and activity level.

BMR Equations

Women: 655 + [(1.8 x height in cm) + (9.6 x weight in kg)] - (4.7 x Age) = BMR

Male: 66 + [(5 x height in cm) + (13.7 x weight in kg)] - (6.8 x Age) = BMR

Calculating Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE

Sedentary (couch potato) = BMR x 1.2 (No or rare exercise)

Light Activity = BMR x 1.375 (light exercise/leisure sports 1-3 days/week)

Moderate Activity = BMR x 1.55 (moderate exercise/competitive sports 3-5 days/week)

High Activity = BMR x 1.725 (intense exercise/sports & physically demanding job 6-7 days/week)

Professional Athlete = BMR x 1.9 (intense daily exercise/sports & physically demanding job or 2 a day training for marathon, triathlon, etc)

Example Calculation (decimals rounded)

28 year old Female, 5'6", 160 pounds, light activity (168 cm tall, 72.6kg)

BMR is 655 + [(1.8 x 168 cm) + (9.6 x 72.6)] - (4.7 x 28) =

655 + (302 + 697) - 132 = BMR of 1,522 kcal per day

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) = 1,522 x 1.375 = TDEE of 2,092 kcal per day

TDEE: What it Means

Weight Maintenance: Maintain the same caloric intake as your TDEE.

Weight Loss: Decrease caloric intake by 15-20% of your TDEE. Women should eat at least 1,200 calories or more per day and men should eat at least 1,800 calories or more per day. Very low calorie diets below these levels (also called VLCD) can slow one's BMR, disrupt normal thyroid function, and while it may initially provide faster weight loss results, returning to a normal caloric intake (according to your TDEE) will result in weight gain and future difficulty in weight loss.

(Example: The female above should eat 1,673 calories per day for a 20% deficit in calories. This is a daily deficit of 418 calories per day, 2,926 calories per week, in order to aim for an appropriate maximum 2 pound weight loss per week)

Weight Gain (lean mass): Increase caloric intake by 15-20% of your TDEE. This increased caloric intake must be combined with an adequate weight-training program of 3-4 times per week in order to gain lean muscle mass. Lean protein intake should be around 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of total body weight.

(Example: The female above should eat 2,510 calories per day for a 20% increase in daily caloric intake. Since there are 4 calories per gram of protein and if she ate 1.2 grams of protein per her 73 kg, then 1,168 calories should come from lean protein choices such as chicken breast, turkey meat, nuts, seeds, or beans.

Macronutrient Ratios: What to Eat & How to Eat It.

The Basics: Calories per gram

Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram

Protein: 4 calories per gram

Fat: 9 calories per gram

How to Choose your Ratios

  1. The American Heart Association promotes the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. This diet promotes sodium restriction and a basic macronutrient ratio to reduce high blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol.
    The diet is an 18% protein, 27% fat (6% saturated), and 55% carbohydrate ratio. Additional daily recommendations in this diet include: 1.5-2.3 grams daily sodium restriction, 150mg or less cholesterol, 4,700mg potassium, 1,250mg calcium, 500mg magnesium, and 30 grams of fiber. Overall, it promotes a well-rounded nutritional plan and in-depth material can be found on the website provided below.
  2. Mediterranean Diet: 16% protein, 46% fat (8% saturated), 38% carbohydrate. This diet places a heavy emphasis on plant-based foods, lean meats, and carbohydrates from mainly fruits, vegetables and a few whole grains.
  3. Low Carbohydrate: 63% protein, 30% fat, 7% carbohydrate. This diet has a great emphasis on protein intake and may be difficult for many people to follow.

How to Choose Healthy Food

Food Sources
Lean meats: chicken, fish, turkey, greek yogurt, beans, egg whites, whole eggs (use sparingly)
Amino acids (building blocks for growth & functioning), energy
Nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, olives
Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K), stored energy (adipose)
quinoa, whole wheat grains, brown rice, oatmeal, potatoes, fruits, beans (also provide protein), milk, yogurts
Immediate energy & glycogen storage (stored energy)

How do I keep track of these ratios?

It's simple math my dear Dear Watson

TDEE - Caloric intake = Pounds Lost!

With the gadgetry of this technology age, it is simple to keep track of caloric intake and energy expenditure. I highly suggest buying a digital scale and keeping a log of what you eat during the day. Pick a day, any day that you think you'll have extra spare time to keep track of food intake for just 24 hours. Most people will be surprised what they eat in a single day and weighing food really makes you more conscious of late-night snacks or fast-food lunches. If you have an iPhone, I prefer to use Calorie Count because it's free and one can easily scan food items with a UPC code as well as providing a daily analysis of nutrient intake as well as energy expenditure. I've provided links to top recommended sites for keeping track of nutritional intake and exercise below.

Overall, I tried to keep this article simple yet useful to readers who want to take a more active role in their nutrition and provide them with the tools to be educated dieticians in their own life. I hope that it is obvious that an ounce of preventative lifestyle management; such as a proper diet, is truly worth more than a ton of cure in the medical business. If readers want a more in-depth article concerning the cellular processes of nutrition or how chronic diseases (such as diabetes or heart failure) require different macronutrient requirements, please let me know and I'll be glad to write such articles.


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    • Brownie83 profile image

      Kelly (Brown) Wagner 5 years ago from Arvada, Colorado

      I think moderation is key to most things in life. That being said, I've simply provided information for people who want an idea of how to start a nutritional plan in order to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, lose weight, or become more educated in their nutritional lifestyle. Many times, people don't know how to analyze their current diet or understand why they cannot lose (or gain weight for certain types) and this article is meant to provide for these purposes as well.

    • Trish303 profile image

      Brenda 5 years ago from Springfield, MO

      I go by what my grandmother went by and her mom that is everything in moderation. I'm not skinny but I'm at a happy weight.

    • rabia kamran profile image

      rabia kamran 5 years ago from pakistan

      great and very informative hub.....thanx


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