Everyone knows losing weight is a numbers game. In order to shed pounds you have to expend more calories than you take in, and since 3,500 calories equals one pound, most people attempt to cut their daily calories by at least 500 a day to create a deficit, and then burn additional calories with exercise to lose a healthy 1-2 pounds a week.
While this is definitely the best way to jump start weight loss, there are other parts of your diet you should also monitor to not only see a drop on the scale but to make sure you’re making the most out of the calories you are eating and benefitting your overall health. Here are six additional parts of your diet you should start keeping a tally on.
Fat is a dirty word when it comes to eating but it is a necessary part of our diet—in moderation. On a regular diet, total fat intake should not exceed 30 percent of calories; if you’re aiming to lose weight, that number should be reduced to 25 percent. Since fat contains 9 calories per gram, on a 1500-calorie diet, you should have about 41 grams of fat per day.
There are different types of fat so you should also pay attention to the type you are taking in and adjust your allowance accordingly. Saturated fat should be limited to 10 percent of your daily intake to decrease your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. Trans fats should be avoided altogether and at the most you should take in less than 2 grams.
Like fat, sugar is directly related to obesity and essential to curb if you want to lose pounds. The US Department of Agriculture recommends no more than 32 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie diet but it’s best to limit your intake even more and avoid table sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar and all other added sugars in favor of natural sugars that are found in fruits.
Most of us live for breads and potatoes but there’s a reason low-carb diets like Atkins are so popular: Too many carbohydrates in your diet will cause you to gain weight. Carbohydrates are processed for energy but when you eat more carbs than you need, they are stored as fat and more bad fat is the last thing you need when trying to trim down. Limiting your carbohydrate consumption teaches your body to use its stored fat for energy which means you’ll start losing by using up the fat you have and preventing more from building up. American dietary guidelines recommend between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates a day, if you’re going the low-carb route that number should be reduced to 50 to 150 grams.
A high sodium diet doesn’t pack on true pounds but what it does is cause fluid retention and that excess water shows up on the scale. Sodium is necessary for a number of key bodily functions like maintaining the proper balance of fluids in the tissues and helping muscle function so you should still have a minimum intake of 500 mg per day. A range of 1,000 mg to 1,500 mg is a healthy target to stop fluid retention and lower your risk for high blood pressure.
High fiber intake is essential when on a diet because it helps you feel fuller longer and curbs overeating so you stay within your calorie limit. Fiber also regulates bowel movements, lowers blood cholesterol levels, and controls blood sugar and is best found in green vegetables which are a must-have while on a diet anyway. The standard recommendation is 14 grams per 1,000 calories.
Protein is essential for all of our critical body functions but it still needs to be regulated. The benefit of protein is that it helps build muscle which is great for burning calories and fat but too much protein means you’re probably taking in more calories and fat then you need. You want to take in complete proteins like beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and milk and these foods should take up no more than 45 grams of your diet per day.