Sure It Fits Your Macros, but Should It?
Macronutrients (or macros) are the nutrients our bodies need in large quantities to function properly. The three main macronutrients are carbs, protein, and fat, and our bodies need all three to maintain their systems and structures because each macronutrient has its own function.
Lately, we’ve been seeing many people who have stopped counting calories and have opted to count macros instead. Macros have specific caloric values:
- Carbs contain 4 calories per gram
- Protein contains 4 calories per gram
- Fats contain 9 calories per gram
Essentially they’re still counting calories, just in a slightly different way. This works for many people, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with tracking macros instead of counting calories. However, I get concerned when people forget about the quality of their food. When people stop prioritizing nutrient-dense foods and start mainly eating treats (aka foods that are low in nutrients and high in calories) because they can fit into their macros, things can get problematic.
It’s all over social media, fitness blogs, and YouTube videos that you can eat whatever you want, as long as it fits into your macros. People are saying things like, “eating doughnuts every day is fine if you can fit them into your macros,” and “you want to eat a whole ass cake? If it fits your macros, go for it!”
With all this talk about foods fitting your macros, I wonder if we forget about the importance of MICROnutrients? You know, the stuff in our food we need for growth and healthy development.
Coach Brooke here to remind you that your mom was right. You do still need to eat your veggies!
So suddenly, you joined the culture where no food is inherently BAD or GOOD, and YES, YOU CAN finally have dessert with your meals. A world where pie and cake FIT, and you have food freedom again! YAY! But what does that mean for the “rules” your parents and grandparents spent YEARS trying to ingrain into your brain??
My expert opinion
As a Registered Dietitian, I am here to play devil’s advocate and tell you that while YES, you CAN make a food fit, that doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD.
Let’s think about our goals: We are on this journey to become the healthiest version of ourselves, right? Lead a healthier life? Possibly pass on some healthy habits to the next generation?
Well, then we need to consider the nutrient components of our daily food choices! Every food choice we make contains something called “micronutrients.” These are the vitamins and minerals that make up the foods that we eat.
While this topic was literally TWO full semesters in graduate school, and I could talk ALL DAY about it, I will do my best to make this concise.
What your body needs
Your daily intake should contain at least 1 ½ cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day to maintain a healthy balance of micronutrients! These can come from various sources, including fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and veggies! (If you are buying canned or frozen, look for options without added sugars or salt.)
Fruits are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals. They are high in fiber, which is important for keeping you full and regular. You also get a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants, such as flavonoids which have anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.
Vegetables are also loaded with nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, folate, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
Each fruit and vegetable choice you make contains a different balance of vitamins and minerals, so make sure you EAT THE RAINBOW and vary the food choices you make!
And if you don’t like a particular fruit or vegetable, that’s fine. You don’t have to eat every type of produce under the sun; just make sure you get a variety in your diet. But don’t be afraid to experiment either. There are some vegetables that you may dislike raw, but once you roast them, they are absolutely delicious (I’m looking at you, broccoli!) And take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Incorporating new fruits and vegetables into your meals can be delicious and make mealtimes less boring. Now that it’s summer get your hands on all the delicious peaches, watermelons, and zucchinis that you can!