It feels great counting your losses when you step on those scales. Although losing weight isn’t always a sign you’re doing your body good.
It really is true that there are right ways, and certainly wrong ways, to lose weight.
To help you get it correct, we’ve teamed up with our expert nutritionist to bring you the most up-to-date advice on what, when and how much you should be eating in order to achieve measured and healthy diet success.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What nutrition is and 21 important nutrient facts
- Why nutritional facts are important
- When you should be eating and how much
- An example of a nutritional plan to follow
- Advice for creating your own health and nutrition plan
What do we mean when we talk about nutrition?
It won’t come as a surprise to you when we say that if you want to lose weight, you need to be eating right.
Along with exercise, our diet is the very foundation of our health, wellbeing and physical fitness.
If you’re trying to shed the pounds, it’s going to be nigh-on-impossible to do without making some changes to what you’re eating each day.
Unfortunately, far too many people interpret this incorrectly, and make the mistake of thinking ‘eating to lose weight’ means ‘eating less’. Sure, you may have to reflect on your portion sizes, but healthy and sensible weight loss is never about going hungry.
We know that, ultimately, knowledge is power.
If you’re equipped with the right tools and information, you can alter your diet in such a way that you get all the nutrients you need, you lose weight and you get to tuck into meals and snacks that taste absolutely divine.
Yes, it is possible! And in this nutrition guide, we’re going to tell you how to do it.
Because we’re all unique – there’s no one size fits all approach to nutrition. How much we should be eating varies from person to person and we don’t all like to eat the same things.
In this guide, we’ll help you understand how much you should be eating and when, what nutrients you need and how to get them, as well as serve you up some great ideas for delicious dinners you’ll love.
21 nutrition facts
From the dos and don’ts with sugar to food groups that have a bad reputation, here are 21 nutrition facts that everyone should know:
Refined sugar should be avoided
We’ve all heard about it before, sugar being referred to as the ‘white death’ and so on.
It’s got a bad reputation – and for good reason. The main culprit for this is unnatural added refined sugar, which has been linked to obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.1
Omega-3 fats are under-consumed
An integral part of cell membranes throughout our bodies, omega-3 fats are essential for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, the contraction and relaxation of artery walls.
The reason why they are essential is because the body cannot make omega-3 fats on its own, therefore we need to get it through food like oily fish and seafood.2
Trans fats are not fit for human consumption
Trans fats are so highly processed, using extreme pressure, heat and hydrogen gas in their production – making them incredibly unhealthy for human consumption.
However the main food source of trans fats is hydrogenated vegetable oil, so it’s best to avoid products with this in entirely as trans fats like these have been linked to increased risk of heart disease.3
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet
Whether keto, paleo, Atkins or even intermittent fasting – there is no one diet that will suit every person.
Each of our bodies are highly different, so when it comes to dieting the best person to speak to would be a professional nutritionist who can provide you with personalised dietary advice tailored to your body and physical needs.
Don’t believe every headline
Over the years, there have been certain foods or food groups that have been demonised by the media – from eggs to carbohydrates.
However, these headlines are often sensationalised and sometimes based on very little scientific evidence. So it’s best to take news articles like this with a pinch of salt.
Eat more vegetables for improved health
We all know that fruit and vegetables are a huge part of a healthy diet, but with so many addictive processed options available, they’re often ignored on a daily basis.
But it is important to remember the many benefits that come with eating a diet rich in vegetables, which include:4
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Lower risk of eye problems
- Support digestive health
- Positive effect on blood sugar
Olive oil is healthier than coconut oil
A staple in many people’s food cupboard, olive oil often doesn’t get enough credit for its nutritional profile. Whereas coconut oil has been on trend in the media over the past few years.
However, whilst both have the same number of calories, olive oil contains mostly unsaturated fats which have been linked to lower ‘bad cholesterol levels’ whereas coconut oil is much higher in saturated fat – which doesn’t have the same benefits.5
Skipping breakfast doesn’t help you lose weight
In fact, people who do regularly eat breakfast are also said to have a healthier diet with plenty of macronutrients like fibre, as well as tending to weigh less than those who skip breakfast.6
You can get enough protein on a meat-free diet
It’s a common misconception that you can only get protein from animal sources.
However, there are a wide range of plant-based sources of protein to ensure you get the nutrients you need. Some of the best sources of vegan protein include:
- Quinoa (1 cup): 8.2g7
- Lentils (1 cup): 18g8
- Tofu (1/2 a block): 22.8g9
- Chia seeds (2 tbsp): 4g10
- Oats (1 cup): 10.6g11
Not all fats are bad for you
Despite their reputation, not all fats are bad for you. In contrast, there are certain types of fat, such as monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats, that actually support heart health.12
Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables
Quick, easy and nutritious frozen vegetables are just as good as the real thing – providing they don’t have any added chemicals.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods
Over the years, eggs have been avoided by people as they are high in cholesterol.
However, further research showed that any changes to cholesterol levels in the blood are minimal. And it doesn’t end there, eggs are also packed with protein, vitamin D and vitamin B.13
Ultra-processed foods are damaging to your health
In a recent trial by Dr Chris Van Tulleken for the BBC, after a month of eating 80% ultra-processed foods (from 30%), he experienced poor sleep, heart burn, unhappy feelings, anxiety, sluggishness, and a low libido.
As well as this, not only did he gain 7kg, but brain activity scans showed that the areas of the brain that are responsible for rewards had linked up with the areas that are responsible for repetitive, automatic behaviour – similar to cigarette and drug addiction.14
Sugar sweetened drinks are a key component in fat gain
We’ve already mentioned the damaging effects of added sugar, but getting it in the form of sweet soft drinks are arguably worse.
The issue here is that our brains struggle to compensate for the calories, which leads to eating more foods.15
Supplements will never replace real foods
While it can be tempting to not change your diet to be any healthier and just use supplements instead – this is a bad idea.
Healthy foods, whether they have a large portion of micronutrients such as fats or carbs, come with a variety of other important vitamins, minerals and nutrients that you can only largely get through eating the food itself.
Low-fat products aren’t healthier
It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying everything in the shop with ‘low-fat’ slapped on the front.
But it’s rare that these products are actually any healthier for you as they may contain more sugar and sometimes even trans fats.16
The most sustainable way to lose weight is through a lifestyle change
Although they’re still around, statistics show that dieting is an unsustainable way to lose weight, with one study showing that 23% of those who were followed for below two years put on more weight than they had lost, and 83% of those who were followed for over two years put on more weight than they lost.17
Fruit juices are as sugary as soft drinks
Having a glass of fruit juice in the morning is many people’s go to. But it’s not necessarily as healthy as we think.
The majority of the time, fruit juices have almost the same amount of sugar as other soft drinks – so if you fancy a sweet fix first thing, opt for the real fruit instead.
Never ignore your gut health
Gut health shouldn’t be overlooked, but it often is.
A healthy gut is home to a variety of healthy bacteria and immune cells that help us to fight infections and viruses and ultimately stay well.
As well as this, a healthy gut works better at communicating with our brain through nerves and hormones, which all play a part in our general health and wellbeing.18
Cholesterol isn’t all bad
When we think of cholesterol we often think that’s bad news, but this isn’t always the case.
There is a distinct difference between ‘good’ HDL cholesterol that carries cholesterol to the liver where it is removed before clogging our arteries, and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol that takes it directly to our arteries.
Carbohydrates don’t make you fat
This essential macronutrient has had a bad rap recently, but let’s get one thing straight. Carbohydrates alone do not make you fat.19
You should try to eat more fibrous, unrefined carbs for more health benefits, but carbohydrates as a whole are a very important component of our diets that give us energy throughout the day.
Why are nutritional facts important?
With so many voices and differing opinions, knowing the basics of nutritional facts is key for making informed, healthy lifestyle choices.
So when you head to the supermarket, checking out the nutritional facts label will help you to buy and consume a whole range of healthy, balanced ingredients to form your diet.
So how much should I be eating?
Before we even start to delve into discussing which foods to swap in and out of your diet, we need to know how much of it you actually need.
We’re all different shapes and sizes and we need to take that into account when we talk about how many calories you should be aiming for each day.
Fortunately, there’s a reasonably straightforward way of doing that; but you will need a calculator to hand.
It’s all about your BMR
You may or may not have heard of ‘BMR’. This stands for Basal Metabolic Rate – in other words, the amount of energy you need to sustain your body at current levels without exercise.
Why is this important? Because once we know what your body requires to carry on the way it is, we can make a deduction – giving you a new calorie target that provides a calorie deficit and will result in weight loss.
To begin, choose the formula that matches your age and gender and calculate:
- 10 - 17 years BMR = 17.7 x weight + 657
- 18 - 29 years BMR = 15.1 x weight + 692
- 30 - 59 years BMR = 11.5 x weight + 873
- 10 - 17 years BMR = 13.4 x weight + 692
- 18 - 29 years BMR = 14.8 x weight + 487
- 30 - 59 years BMR = 8.3 x weight + 846
Got it? Great!
Now we need to factor in any exercise you’re doing (and we hope you are).
Ideally, you should be exercising five times a week, for 30 minutes each time at moderate intensity. You should feel breathless, but still able to talk in sentences.
Either way, we’ve got to factor this in. Take the BMR calculation you just got and do the following, based on an honest analysis of your activity levels:
Physical activity factor:
- BMR x 1.4 - inactive men and women
- BMR x 1.6 - moderately active women
- BMR x 1.7 - moderately active men
- BMR x 1.8 - very active women
- BMR x 1.9 - very active men
There we go!
We now know how many calories your body needs each day to sustain itself. If you keep up this intake, you’ll stay exactly the same as you are now.
But we don’t want that, we need a little less. That means there’s one more step.
(your number / 100 x 85)
And there we have it! If you want to get great weight loss results gradually and sensibly, this is the calorie intake you should be aiming for each day.
When should I be eating?
Now you know your daily calorie goal for sustainable weight loss, you can think about how you might apportion it out throughout the day.
The last thing you want is to be feeling hungry. With your (likely) somewhat reduced portions, going a long time between meals and allowing the hunger to kick in big could well cause you to cave and spoil your efforts.
That’s why the advice is to eat smaller, but more regular meals.
The bonus? This may actually assist weight loss. Eating little and often keeps your metabolism on its toes and may help burn the calories better.
Here’s a rundown of when you should be eating, and what food groups you should cover. Don’t worry if you don’t understand these yet – we’ll tell you more about those later.
Meal 1 - Breakfast
When: Early in the morning, as soon as you rise
What: aim for some proteins, carbs and good fats
Meal 2 - AM snack
What: protein based
Meal 3 - Lunch
When: midday for very early risers, early afternoon for later risers
What: A healthy combination of fat, protein and carbs. Include some starch if training later
Meal 4 – PM Snack
What: Protein based if resting in the evening, carb based if training
Meal 5 – Dinner
When: Early evening, post-training (ensure to include starch and protein after training)
What: Starch and protein based with some good fats
Overall, you should try and ensure your meals are concentrated with proteins and whole grains.
These will help avoid sugar spikes and therefore will ward away the cravings, making you more likely to stick to this five-meal structure.
What should I be eating?
You’ve worked out how much and how often, so now it’s time to focus on the big question – what to eat?
The reality is that there’s no perfect answer to that. But being able to make informed decisions when planning your meals is the key to a successful diet.
Macronutrients, macronutrients, macronutrients
When it comes to healthy eating, getting the right balance of macronutrients is key.
There are three classes of macronutrient: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. We need a particular balance of these in order to diet successfully.
For most people, the macronutrients break down even with dietary needs will be the same or similar; it is age and activity which will skew the figures the most.
The typical macronutrient split is 55% carbohydrates, 15% protein and 30% fat.
So a diet for 1500kcals would look like 206g of carbohydrates, 50g of fat and 56g of protein. And a diet for 1700kcals would look like 233g or carbohydrate, 56g of fat and 64g of protein.
Example nutrition plan for weight loss to follow
Here are some fantastic ideas for healthy meals to include in your diet plan.
All have been carefully selected to provide a balance of macronutrients and have an appropriate calorie content, helping you to meet your calorie intake goals.
Look out for those labelled ‘Recipe’; that means we’ve included our very own recipe for you to try!
Our handpicked delicious and nutritious inspiration menu
- Omelettes (can be made suitable for all diets)
- Egg cups (loaded with vegetables/fruit)
- Overnight porridge oats (can be made with milk alternatives, gluten free porridge or yoghurt and combine with fruits such as berries) Recipe
- Avocado on Toast
- Green Smoothies (loads of green leafy veg such as kale, spinach, avocado, fruit for sweetness, fat free/dairy free yoghurt) Recipe
- Low fat tofu stir fry with gluten free noodles Recipe
- Vegetable soup
- Quinoa and avocado salad Recipe
- Spicy meat-free chicken and avocado wraps Recipe
- Chickpea quiche
- Almond lentil stew Recipe
Advice when creating a nutrition plan
Some of the most important things to consider when creating a nutrition food plan include; your activity levels, balanced macronutrients and including some of your favourite foods.
That way you can ensure that you’re getting enough energy for what you have planned that day, a wide range of nutrients to keep you healthy and some of your favourite foods and healthy snacks to help you stick to it in the long run.
Nutritionist recommended: Two diet myths debunked: the truth about fruit and fat & Diet Dos and Don’ts
The final say
There are a wide range of myths and misconceptions around nutrition and health, but hopefully we’ve set the record straight for you in our guide.
If ever you find yourself overwhelmed and confused with where to start, just consult our list of nutritional facts to help you get back to basics again.
Last updated: 23 August 2021