Although your total calorie intake determines whether you’ll gain, lose or maintain your body weight, the type of calories you put into your body is important as well. Getting your energy from a variety of protein, carbs and healthy fat helps ensure you meet your body’s daily macro- and micronutrient needs — and causes you to look and feel your best.
Total Caloric Needs
Choosing healthy foods to meet your daily caloric needs maximizes your energy and lean muscle mass, minimizes excess body fat and keeps your hair, skin and nails looking healthy. To maintain a healthy body weight, Harvard Medical School suggests adults consume 13 to 18 calories per pound of their body weights daily, depending on activity level. For safe and effective weight loss, reduce your current energy intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day.
The protein recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, is 46 grams daily for women, 56 grams for men and 71 grams of protein per day for pregnant and nursing women. However, many adults — especially those who are active — benefit from exceeding protein RDAs. A 2007 position paper published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” suggests active adults consume 0.64 to 0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily, which equates to 77 to 109 grams daily for a 120-pound adult. Healthy, protein-rich choices include lean meats, skinless poultry, seafood, egg whites, soy products, low-fat dairy foods, legumes, seitan, nuts and seeds.
Daily Carb Recommendations
Carbs are your body’s main energy source, especially during exercise, and the majority of your calorie intake should be from carbs. The Institute of Medicine suggests adult men and women eat at least 130 grams of carbs daily, pregnant women consume 175 grams of carbs and nursing women get at least 210 grams of carbs each day — and all adults obtain 45 to 65 percent of their total calories from carbs. Healthy, carb-rich foods include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, milk and yogurt.
Replacing saturated and trans fats — found in high-fat meats, full-fat dairy foods, butter, margarine, shortening, fried foods and commercial baked foods — with healthier fats decreases your risk for developing high blood cholesterol and heart disease. The Institute of Medicine suggests adults obtain 20 to 35 percent of their caloric intake from dietary fat. Choose heart-healthy canola, olive, flaxseed, walnut and soybean oils, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and nut butters.