Figuring out a meal plan that can help you reach your goal can be so overwhelming. There are the low or no carb coaches or the protein pushers and many more. No matter where you get your advice, make sure it is nutritionally sound. There isn't a One-diet-fits-all meal plan. You need to base your decisions on a few things like your basal metabolic rate, your activity level, your food preferences, your lifestyle, your availability to certain types of foods, etc. Just reducing your calories may give you temporary success but you can’t base your health solely on the number on the scale. A huge reduction in calories can definitely produce weight loss but it may not just be fat. Count on losing muscle mass as well.
Below is a list of macro nutrients and why your body needs them. After studying those lists, you can see why it is not a great idea to radically eliminate any of them from your diet.
Carbohydrates are the macro nutrient that we need in the largest amounts. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA, 45% - 65% of calories should come from carbohydrate. We need this amount of carbohydrate because:
- Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel.
- Carbohydrates are easily used by the body for energy.
- All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose for energy.
- Carbohydrates are needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, the muscles (including the heart) to function properly.
- Carbohydrates can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy.
- Carbohydrates are important in intestinal health and waste elimination.
- Carbohydrates are mainly found in starchy foods (like grain and potatoes), fruits, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in lesser amounts.
According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA 10% - 35% of calories should come from protein. Most Americans get plenty of protein, and easily meet this need by consuming a balanced diet. We need protein for:
- Growth (especially important for children, teens, and pregnant women)
- Tissue repair
- Immune function
- Making essential hormones and enzymes
- Energy when carbohydrate is not available
- Preserving lean muscle mass
Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables.
Although fats have received a bad reputation for causing weight gain, some fat is essential for survival. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA 20% - 35% of calories should come from fat. We need this amount of fat for:
- Normal growth and development
- Energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy)
- Absorbing certain vitamins ( like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids)
- Providing cushioning for the organs
- Maintaining cell membranes
- Providing taste, consistency, and stability to foods
Fat is found in meat, poultry, nuts, milk products, butters and margarines, oils, lard, fish, grain products and salad dressings. There are three main types of fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat. Saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, lard, and cream) and trans fat (found in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarines) have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease. Replacing saturated and trans fat in your diet with unsaturated fat (found in foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil) has been shown decrease the risk of developing heart disease.