When it comes to weight loss and making healthy food choices, most of us turn to food labels to meticulously investigate the number on the box indicating how many calories we are about to consume.  How many calories are in this bowl of corn flakes?  How many calories were in the chicken and broccoli that I had for dinner last night? Calories…calories…calories.

In general, our society has been taught to count calories and fat grams in our food when it comes to keeping our waistlines in check.  It seems that the majority of diet and weight loss programs are basically based on those two things, right??!  However, many Americans have forgotten – or were never aware of in the first place – that there are numerous other vital ingredients, nutrients, minerals, etc. in our foods that contribute to its composition and impact our health and weight significantly.  Our bodies are made to digest and use nutrients that come from whole natural foods;  but a very different chemical reaction occurs when we attempt to digest foods with ingredients such as trans-fats, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, refined flour and aspartame. These are all examples of chemically altered foods that destroy our body’s maximum functioning potential! Instead of fueling our bodies, these foods slow us down, make us tired, add unwanted pounds, promote free radical damage, and raise cholesterol levels.

This is not to mention that the average American portion size also exceeds the “normal” amount of food that one individual should be consuming in one meal (or all 3 for that matter)!  ONE serving may be ok; however, sitting at work Mr. Average Joe realizes that he has been mindlessly munching all day and has eaten an entire bag of potato chips! That means that without even thinking about it Mr. Joe just consumed about 1400 calories of trans-fat laden, sodium drenched, artery clogging chips.  On the way home, he grabs dinner at Mama Lucia’s and orders spaghetti with meatballs – a dish big enough for a family of four.  If Mr. Joe keeps up with this diet, he is inevitably on the fast track to a life of obesity and heart disease.

So, is it true that a calorie = a calorie when it comes to food consumption?  Well, if we are talking about energy expenditure, this basic rule applies:

Calories in = calories out = consistent weight

Calories in > calories out = weight gain

Calories out > calories in = weight loss

**I lb of fat = 3500 calories. So to lose 1 lb in 1 week, you would need to increase the calories you burn (EXERCISE) and decrease the calories you consume (FOOD). **

 However, how do these foods match up nutritionally?

Does 100 calories of fruit = 100 calories of potato chips?  Simply put, 1 ½ apples or 8 potato chips?  When it comes to how our bodies, brain and systems need and want to function, the short answer is NO! The human body needs “fuel” in the form of whole nutrient dense foods that it understands how to digest.

Here is another way to look at it –

150 calories….a protein shake (Shakeology) = ½ of a blueberry muffin

200 calories….1/2 cup of oatmeal w/ ½ banana = 1 glazed donut

300 calories….peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat w/ side of fruit = 1 hot dog

Which is the better choice? What keeps you satiated and stops you from snacking on more crap an hour later? Gives you more energy?  Provides your body with valuable nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins?  Here is a hint – it is not the hot dog; and a calorie ≠ a calorie.