Meal Frequency and Calorie Intake

Friday, August 31, 2007

Posted by Helene

Summer has come to an end and before you settle into the mild weather of fall and sweater comfort of winter, you decide to make one last commitment to eating better and exercising more. Too many ice cream cones, too many barbecue parties and eratic eating habits over the summer have left you wanting for a little diet adjustment. Let's look together at the easy steps you can take to reset your food clock and calorie intake so you can shed those gelati pounds the healthy way.

First, you need to determine how much you need to eat in one day in order to maintain your current weight. There are very accurate textbook equations to do this, but they are quite involved and require more data then we usually have on hand. I have been using this calculator from FitSugar with my clients for quite some time now and with great success. It calculates how much water you need, your BMI (Body Mass Index), your target heart rate for your workouts and how many calories you need per day to maintain. I know, I know....some of us are maintaining but most want to lose. In that regard, look at the base number of calories you need for the day and substract 300-500, never letting your calorie intake fall bellow 1200 for women (1500 is a good number for most) and 1800 for men.

Once you have determined how many calories you need for the day, sit back and think about your own schedule, not what magazines and well-intentioned people say. Seriously, we read all the time that we should eat 5-6 small meals a day. What I encounter in reality is clients who tell me they don't understand that by eating "5-6 meals" a day like articles recommend they are still not losing weight. See the missing word..."small meals". Take you calorie intake and divide it into 3 main meals plus two snacks and you should end up with relatively small portions. This is more realistic than thinking that we have to eat 5-6 whole meals throughout the day. Here is what I suggest to my clients: eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and plan on carry-on or easy to access snacks for a mid-morning tie-over until lunch and an afternoon pre-workout snack. Don't eat the snack if you are not hungry or feel like you don't really need them. Distance yourself from food because it is there but use it to fuel your metabolism throughout the day. It's not because you don't eat your two snacks one day that your metabolism is going to come to a full slow takes months so relax. Snacks are here to sustain your energy levels and prevent you from dipping too low into your blood sugar resources. Follow your activities and how much effort they require and make sure you drink before you eat...sometimes we are just dehydrated, plain and simple.

Allright, so you got your calories, you have looked at your activity level, you have divided your meals throughout the day to make sure that you don't run out of fuel (so to speak) more thing to do:
Divide your total calorie intake for the day into a balanced ratio of protein/carbs/fat for your day. If you want to follow a balanced diet (forget fads, they don't teach you healthy living in the long run), carbs should be 45%-65%, proteins about 20% and fat less than 30% of your daily intake. Now spread those numbers over 3 to 5 meals and you are set for the day. A good rule to follow is to have protein/carbs/fat at every meal, as the combination of all three really help you feel fuller longer and makes sure that you are served the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals to operate at maximum power throughout the day.

Here is a sample daily meal plan for one of my clients after we cleaned up her eating habits:
Breakfast: Choose one
1 cup whole grain cereal (with less than 6 grams of sugar)
1 cup skim milk
1 cup strawberries or one half banana
3 egg whites
2 Tb reduced fat shredded cheese
1 slice whole wheat toast
1 Tb. light butter spread
1/2 grapefruit

Lunch: choose one
Turkey Sandwich:
4 oz sliced turkey breast
1 slice reduced fat cheese
1 Tb reduced fat mayo
1 Tb dijon mustard
3 lettuce leaves
3 slices tomato
2 slices whole wheat bread
4 cups mixed greens
1/2 cup bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1/4 cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/2 tomato, sliced
1 cup cooked chicken
2-4 Tbs low calorie dressing
1/4 to 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, balck beans, corn, peas, edamame,...

Dinner: Choose one
Pizza with side salad
2 slices thin crust cheese or vegetable pizza
2 cups mixed greens
1/4 cucumber, sliced
1/2 tomato, sliced
2 tsp. olive oil
5 oz roasted chicken
1/2 cup rice or 1 small baked potato
1 cup steamed green beans
1 tsp. olive oil

Snack ideas: (have 2 ready for the day)
1 small container low fat yogurt + 1 medium banana
1 granola bar + 1 orange
4 Ry Krisp type crackers + 2 Laughing Cow Original swiss wedges
1 small apple, sliced + 1 Tb. peanut butter

These are just suggestions. It takes time, trial and error to know what works for you and how you need to balance all the ratios necessary for your body to work at its optimum capacity. My advice is to write down what you typically eat and see what calories you can scratch such as refined sugar, fat ladden dressings, useless croutons and extra butter, etc... Plan for a treat once a week and enjoy a small portion of it. Soon, these changes won't feel like sacrifices anymore and will become second nature. Trust me. You are worth it!

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Helen from Tartelette.


Very well-written article. I love the sensible suggestions that have been mentioned here.

Nupur said...
September 1, 2007 at 12:24:00 PM GMT+2  

It's almost like you'd been sat with us for breakfast today Helen. We were having that conversation. Very well written and informative.

September 1, 2007 at 3:06:00 PM GMT+2  

Lovely article. I just got back from a visit to my parents' place and just before leaving on the trip, I told my husband that we should make our meals 6 small meals during the day instead of 3 good meals. I have soaked some chick peas just this morning to get us started. Thanks so much. I do understand that it is a trial and error method.

Raaga said...
September 3, 2007 at 9:34:00 AM GMT+2  

A great read, and I know what's written works b'coz that's precisely what I did for my weigh-loss plan!! I'd suggest sticking to 1300-1400 calories though, even for women, and burn 500 calories at least 5 times a day...1200 calories can give you a headache or make u wek, esp if u have a busy lifestyle


Mansi said...
September 5, 2007 at 12:40:00 AM GMT+2  

Helene, great article. I really appreciate the achievable ans sensible methods. It's awful how magazines preach for all of us to follow some fad - it all seems totally unachievable. Reading your article I felt like this is all doable. Actually I am doing part of it already and I think many of us are - just polishing up the rest will bring us closer to our goals.

YOu are the best!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
September 5, 2007 at 1:27:00 PM GMT+2  

I love this article. It's great to see sensible advice instead of fad diets for a change.

One question: What is your opinion on smoothies? The last diet advisor I went to suggested them to me because I'm just hopeless with eating -anything- solid for breakfast (and therefore usually skip it). But I'm a bit skeptic because there's a big smoothies fad going on right now. Would you recommend them?


September 5, 2007 at 1:37:00 PM GMT+2  

Smoothies are great for breakfast! If I did not have to teach step aerobics in the morning, I would have on everyday!
I use a mix of berries (about 1 cup), 1/2 a medium banana, 1 cup of yogurt and a splash of milk if it is too thick.
I use them for snacks also, makes me feel like I have a milkshake, without the guilt!

Helene said...
September 6, 2007 at 9:08:00 PM GMT+2  

What kind of diet would you recommend for vegetarian? I feel drained on a low calorie diet of 1200 - 1500 calories. I feel that 1800 calories is what my body likes. But I don't lose weight on it, even though my diet is as clean as it can be!! Besides would you consider Power yoga/Ashtanga Yoga three times a week enough for physical activity? I have tried running too, I can run twice a week maybe but more than that leaves me drained with hunger pangs!! :)

Anonymous said...
September 7, 2007 at 8:01:00 PM GMT+2  

Anonymous: I work with vegetarians also, and what they think is a healthy diet needs tweaking sometimes to make sure you get the proper ratios of proteins/ carbs/ fats. Yoga is not eough for physical activity, I recommend adding walking or the elliptical. Any good aerobics session will leave you hungry, make sure you drink plenty of water and eat a small snack afterwards if necessary.

I would be most ahppy to help you with the diet part. Would you mind email me a journal type email of 2-3 days worth of typical meals for you, including beverages and medications if any? Maybe we an find a calorie ratio (1600-1700)that would work for you and make sure you are getting all the important nutrients. My email is marinette1ATcomcastDOTnet

Helene said...
September 7, 2007 at 8:45:00 PM GMT+2  

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