Balancing Calories to Manage Weight Calorie

Balancing Calories to Manage Weight Calorie

Balance the balance between calories consumed and calories expended is the key to weight management. Current high rates of overweight and obesity can be attributed at least in part to people consuming more calories in foods and beverages than they expend in physical activity.

The guidelines recognize that many aspects of American life promote obesity, leading to an “obesogenic food environment.” Factors contributing to this environment include an increase in the number of fast-food restaurants in communities, an increase in meals eaten outside the home, increased portion sizes, sedentary work and home environments, limited availability of safe outdoor walking and recreational spaces, and increased dependence on transportation and technological advances that lead to lower calorie expenditure on everyday tasks.

Still, managing body weight means that individuals need to control total calorie intake, and for people who are overweight or obese, this means consuming fewer calories from foods and beverages. The guidelines encourage people to become more conscious of what, when, why, and how much they eat; to deliberately make better choices; and to seek ways to be more physically active. The guidelines also urge people to cook at home more and eat out less, to eat smaller portions, to limit screen time, and not to eat while watching TV.

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Foods and Food Components to Reduce In addition to overall calories, Americans tend to consume certain foods and food components in excess in particular, sodium, solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains. These foods often replace needed nutrients in the diet; therefore the guidelines include recommendations that limit these foods. For example:

• Most dietary salt comes from salt added during food processing, therefore processed foods should be limited.

• Limit foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. (See the box “Reducing the Saturated and Trans Fats in Your Diet” for more information.)

• Solid fats and added sugars contribute about 35% of the calories consumed by Americans, without contributing many nutrients. Sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks are the biggest source of added sugars in the American diet. The differences in nutrients between soda and other beverages are shown in Figure 8.3.

• Foods that contain refined grains, and especially those that also contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium, should be replaced with whole grain products as much as possible.

• Alcohol should be consumed only in moderation.

• Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2300 mg, and further reduce intake to 1500 mg if you are 51 or older, are African American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1500 mg recommendation applies to about half the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults. The average intake of sodium for all Americans is estimated at 3400 mg; for boys and men between the ages of 12 and 50, it is estimated at more than 4000 mg. High sodium intake is associated with high blood pressure. Most salt in the diet comes from salt added during food processing.

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