Nutrition Articles

Nutrition FAQs

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Is it a problem to eat less than my recommended calories each day?

Strange as it sounds, going too low on calories is a common cause of getting stuck at your current weight despite dieting. Your body is designed to protect you from starvation during times of greatly reduced food availability, and when you eat too little, your body thinks it’s starving. To compensate, your metabolism will slow down considerably, making it very difficult (or impossible) for you to lose weight. In this state, your body will preferentially burn everything but your stored body fat. Eating to little poses other problems, such as nutritional deficiencies. On top of that, if you later eat more calories, your body is more likely to store these calories as fat, in preparation for a possible "famine" again in the future.

Your best bet is to aim for a weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week through combining a moderate calorie reduction with increased calorie expenditure through exercise. If all the info you entered during your program set-up is accurate, the recommended calorie range you received should be what you need to accomplish this healthy rate of weight loss.

Some people have problems eating enough calories when they go too low on fats—especially by always choosing low-fat or non-fat versions of common foods. So try to find some good sources of "healthy fats" (the monounsaturated fat in nuts, olive and canola oils, avocados, etc.), and foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed, salmon, or tuna. Read SparkPeople’s Nutrition Reference Guide: Fats and Oils for more information on including healthy fats into your diet.

Are diet pills safe and will they help me lose weight?

Sometimes these pills claim amazing results that sound too good to be true—and that's because they are. There is no "magic pill" that works. Think about it—if there really was one pill that people could take and see amazing results quickly, and with little to no effort, everyone in the world would know about it and probably use it.

Don't waste your money.

Some diet pills work because they usually contain stimulants, such as high doses of caffeine, which speed up your metabolism, making it easier for you to lose weight. These can be addictive, and cause serious health problems such as heart problems, medication interactions, and even death. In addition, as soon as you stop taking them, you’ll likely put all the weight you lost back on.

The other problem is that these products (diet pills and herbal supplements) are not regulated by the FDA the way that other medications and drugs are. So basically, no one is checking to make sure their claims are true, that the pills contain what they say they do, or that they are actually safe to be taking at all. Remember, even "natural" doesn’t mean safe.

The best way to lose weight is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. The closer you get to your goal weight, the harder it can be to continue dropping pounds, but you just have to be patient. Save your money—diet pills are not a long term solution.

For more info on weight loss pills/supplements, and how to be a wise consumer when it comes to weight loss products, read:

Weight Loss Supplements: Fact or Fiction?

How to Get Ripped (Off) Guaranteed!

12 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet

What counts as water?

The latest recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, Dietary Reference Intake for Electrolytes and Water says..."The fluids consumed do not have to be only water. Individuals can obtain their fluids from a variety of beverages and foods. Contrary to popular opinion, consumers do not need to consume "eight glasses of water a day" to meet their fluid needs.

However, Becky (SP Dietitian) encourages people trying to lose weight to drink additional water whenever possible. It helps to cleanse the body when weight loss and fat breakdown is occurring. It also helps to keep the hands and mouth busy, so snacking is less. This is a form of behavior modification. Many people feel better when at least 4-6 glasses of plain old H2O is consumed to help meet total fluid needs.

I've been eating healthy and exercising, but I'm still not losing. What am I doing wrong?

It is very important to really track your food and exercise calories, because nine times out of ten, "mysteries" about not losing weight are due to underestimating calories consumed or overestimating calories burned. If you feel like you’re doing everything right and just not losing, here’s an article that might help:

6 Weight Loss Mistakes To Avoid

How do I know if the recommended serving size is cooked or uncooked when I look at it in the food database?

Cooked vs. uncooked…that is the question. However, standard serving sizes are always listed in a ready to eat state. When you are dishing the food item onto your plate, this is when the measuring and weighing begins. These standard portions are perfect examples:

  • Meat: 3 ounces, cooked
  • Vegetables: 1 cup, raw
  • Vegetables: ½ cup cooked
  • Pasta, Noodles, Rice, Oatmeal: ½ cup cooked
But, many times recipes do not use these standard portion sizes. Here are a few tips to help determine how much is being used:

MEAT
Meat contains 7 grams of protein per cooked ounce.
Example: If the nutrient analysis for a pork chop recipe indicates 35 grams of protein/serving, you can estimate that approximately 5 ounces of cooked meat is used for the serving.

GRAIN PRODUCTS
Grain products contain about 15-17 grams of carbohydrate, 3-4 grams of protein, 0-1 grams of fat; for a total of 80-90 calories per ½ cup cooked portion.
Example: If a pasta salad contains 24 grams of carbohydrates per serving, you could estimate that approximately 3/4 cup of cooked pasta is being used for the serving.

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Member Comments

  • SABOWEN11
    My recommended calorie range is exactly the same as my wife's, 1530-1880. How is that possible when we are the same age but different weights?
  • 1SUNBUMM1
    Does everyone get a calorie range of 1200-1550? With 60-136 g of protein?! It seems that's all I see in the comments. Should smaller people stick to the 1200? And larger ones to 1550? Hope it's not so because there goes the "custom" for each person.
  • KMILLER31
    Appreciate the nutrition helps and hints.
  • HAVING A HARD TIME USING YOUR PROGRAM. I TYPED IN COFFEE IT BROUGHT UP THE SELECTIONS AND THEN I put in eggs; it erased coffee but didn't show the places where it should be logged.
    It is supposed to be free right.

    JULIA MCLEAN
  • trying to find out how to read the calorie breakdown on the bottom right of the nutrition page can anyone help
  • I am a type 2 diabetic. Is Spark People going to be able to help me with recipes and diet and nutrition for diabetics? Thank you Kandy
  • learn more about sodium intake and sodium food guide or food chart
  • SPARKEYKAT
    Help I just found out I have high cholesterol and I am not sure what I can eat or do to get it lower. I hear conflicting reports on eggs and I like eggs in the morning with turkey bacon. I guess I need to make a list of the can/can't things to eat.
    Thanks for the help.
  • what can I add to water instead of drinking straight water all the time:
  • ALLENC37
  • I am trying to eat more fiber and have started to eat a tossed salad every day. But I notice that on my nutrition page I list a cup of tossed salad and It counts it as zero fiber.
  • LOSTNAME
    Slow eating: putting down my eating utensils between bites, no shoveling food.
    Chewing & no more food until food is swallowed.
    I am working on my goal weight with sparks people, the 20 more pounds
    So far in total weight I have given away 50 pounds
    I don't say lost weight because lost means you want it back instead I say given away
  • POTSIEP
    Can someone tell me how to estimate nutrition information when making casseroles?
  • EAWOODS63
    I am new to the program and have a question about food portions. Is there somewhere on the site where you can get portion infor, e.g. baked chicken breast is listed as 0.5 bone skin removed - is this 0.5 lb and not 0.5 oz? Same with tuna don't understand how much i can have in one serving. Is there a chart that lists the portions and where do i find it??? Thanks
  • MEASHA2
    I joined the 30 fit food but when I try to put it into my tracker the food does not come up.
    How do I keep track. Please Help. and thank you

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