It's no big secret that what you eat has a major effect on how much fat your body stores, but most people don't know how one affects the other. One lb. of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories, according to the Mayo Clinic. That means if you eat just 500 more calories per day than your body burns, which equals roughly two sodas, in one year's time you will have gained more than 50 lbs. of fat. Planning even a rough meal guideline can burn fat, save your health and ultimately save your life.
The amount of calories you burn over a day's time is referred to as your "metabolic rate." This rate is different for everyone and is based primarily on your age, height and weight. Other factors come into play, such as how often you exercise and the time gap between each meal. The more often you exercise, the higher your metabolism will be. Follow a consistent meal plan, that includes lots of healthful foods at each meal. The size and frequency of your meals depends on your schedule and preferences -- small meals throughout the day might prevent overeating in some people, while 3 square meals a day can work better for others. Experiment to find the approach that works for you -- it's essential to be able to maintain healthful eating habits for long-term success.
The United States Department of Agriculture lays out a rough caloric guideline for everyone based on their age, sex and average level of daily activity. For example, a male age 31 to 50 living a sedentary lifestyle should eat 2,200 calories per day, whereas a male the same age who walks an average of 3 miles per day should eat as much as 3,000 calories per day. Determine your recommended daily caloric intake using the USDA guidelines, and combine the caloric sum of each meal to ensure you're staying under that amount.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, low-fat diets that take advantage of "good" carbs are more likely to be successful in the long-term than low- or no-carb "fad" diets. Whole-grain foods that list whole wheat or whole grain first on the ingredients list are the most ideal choice in this area. Foods such as steel-cut oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur and whole-wheat pasta are healthy, carbohydrate-rich dishes that can keep you energized throughout the day, while simultaneously keeping your calorie count low.
According to the USDA, adults require anywhere from 0.4g to 0.8g of protein for every pound of body weight daily. While there are many foods available that can bring in this amount of protein, whey contains a specific fat-burning component that no others have. A study conducted in 2003 by Dr. Donald Layman at the University of Illinois, published in the "Journal of Nutrition," found that diets rich in leucine, an essential nutrient found primarily in whey protein isolate, promoted growth of lean body muscle and an expedited loss of body fat. 100 percent Whey protein powder can be found in most nutrition stores and helps boost your protein intake.
Fiber is an entirely indigestible calorie. For every calorie of fiber you eat, your body will rid itself of through typical means of eliminating waste, which explains why eating fiber promotes regularity. Thus, foods high in fiber aren't assimilated by your body, so any sugary meals that you replace with high-fiber meals will be potential excess calories eliminated from your diet. The current USDA recommendation is to get at least 20 grams of fiber each day from food, not supplements. Fruits like apples, pears and blueberries contain a high amount of fiber. Whole-wheat bread, couscous and tomatoes also contain high amounts of fiber.
Sample Meal Plan
Try starting your day with an egg white omelet made with veggies -- its fiber and protein content will keep you full through to lunch. For a light lunch, try a homemade low-fat vegetable soup paired with a leafy green salad topped with protein -- salmon, chicken breast, tuna, beans, lentils and tofu all offer potential options. For dinner, serve grilled chicken breast on a bed of steamed kale, and round out your meal with a serving of wild or brown rice topped with hot sauce. For snacks, reach for an apple or a handful of nuts -- these high-fiber foods will keep you from feeling ravenous before your meals.