Real Food Nutrition - Ask a Nutritionist

February 29, 2024

Here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we believe in eating real food. But what does that mean? Do you have to track your protein and calorie intake as extensively as other eating plans?

Join Brandy as she navigates the finer details of this type of nutrition, and learn to understand how you are able to free your diet and free your mind by eating real food.

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BRANDY: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. My name is Brandy Buro. I'm a Licensed and Registered Dietitian here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to be celebrating 20 years on air, discussing the connection between what you eat and how you feel, while sharing practical, real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition.

Thank you all so much for your support over all of these years. Now let's get started with today's question. This question came from one of our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners. So they asked, “Do you need to track calories and or protein when following a real food diet?” This is a fantastic question because it's one that I get very often when meeting individually with clients for the first time.

And the short answer is no. You do not need to track calories when following the real food diet. In fact, here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we often encourage clients and class participants to let go of calorie counting altogether, and I think that's the beauty of the real food plan. When you switch to eating primarily real foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible, you are already doing yourself a big favor in terms of living a healthy and happy life.

And counting calories, I think, is often associated with the desire to lose weight. But we have found, in clinic with over 20 years of practice, that when you start eating real food in a balance that supports health and wellness first, weight loss is usually a natural side effect of that.

What do we mean by a real food eating plan?

And I just want to clarify what we mean by eating real food, or what is meant by that real food meal plan. What we're talking about is sticking to foods that do not come out of a bag, or a box, or a fast food window. So we want to stick primarily to whole foods that you could find on a farm, or growing in the garden, or basically anything with a face.

Another way to phrase it would be if you can name the plant you plucked it from or the mother it came from, it's a real food. And I think that saying comes from one of our other nutritionists, Mel, here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness.

So when you think real food in balance, we want to get a good mix of animal based proteins like eggs, meat, fish, throw in some real food carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and then to round it out, some natural fats like olive oil, butter, avocados, nuts and seeds. So essentially, the real food plan is focusing on foods that are not processed or made with factory made ingredients; things that you can pronounce, things that you recognize as food.

So this is the core of our approach to eating well to maintain your health, and this also means maintaining a healthy weight, and it's something that we hope that you can maintain and sustain for the rest of your life. And this alone is, it's going to impact your health in many ways.

And like I said, many people begin to lose weight as a side effect without getting too caught up in the weeds of counting calories or measuring, and I think that's really beautiful and, something that most people can sustain long term. And oftentimes we are encouraging clients that have been calorie counting to let go of that.

I think it's pretty tedious, and I don't think it's very sustainable in the long term. And many clients that I see that have been counting calories are usually not very successful in meeting their health and weight loss goals. And in fact, many of these clients were actually severely under eating. And undereating can lead to a lot of health concerns if they follow that pattern for too long.

How much protein is recommended?

So while we don't really recommend calorie counting, and just to kind of address the other part of this question about measuring protein, we may recommend that you measure your protein portions just to ensure that you are getting enough and that you're meeting your protein needs.

Not forever. I think once you measure your protein a few times. You kind of get the hang of it and you can kind of eyeball it from there on. But what you're looking for your protein is a piece of cooked meat that's about the size and thickness of your hand with each meal and maybe half that for snacks.

So that works out to be, depending on the person, about four to six ounces of animal based protein with each meal and maybe two ounces for a snack. And again, once you see what that looks like, you don't really need to measure every single meal every single day, but you can eyeball it moving forward.

Similarly, with those real food carbohydrates and your natural fats, we do provide you some guidance on how much is recommended to meet your nutrient needs. But once you understand what that looks like. You can very easily put together a balanced meal without getting out the measuring cups or a scale.

And once you understand what works for your biochemistry, you kind of know what your recipe is for your personal needs. Well, it's time for a quick break, but when we return, I'm going to share with you more about why calorie counting is not recommended in the real food plan.


Welcome back! Before break, I was telling you about what it means to follow a real food plan and how calorie counting is not necessarily part of the protocol. So I think the beauty of a real food plan is its simplicity. It makes it a plan that we hope is realistic for you and something that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

Calorie counting is simply not that. And I want to share with you more about why we do not promote it here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are more concerned that you are eating enough, and we don't really want you to get fixated on counting calories or getting in the habit of restricting your calories.

Not all calories are created equal

The first point I want to bring up is that Not all calories are created equal. For example, 2,000 calories of fast food does not impact your body or your health or your metabolism in the same way that 2,000 calories coming from meat and vegetables and natural fat will. Another point I want to make is that restricting calories or under eating will actually slow your metabolism over time. When you under eat, your body starts to adapt and it learns how to survive with less.

So your metabolism starts to slow way down and it starts to hold on to its energy reserves, because it thinks that you're starving. And when your body is in starvation mode, the next time you do feed your body a little more, it's going to think of that as an opportunity to store as much of it as possible to prepare for the next famine.

You know, our bodies are kind of hard wired for those survival mechanisms. But our approach involves fueling your body, nourishing your body with enough nutrients to help your body let its guard down and fire up your metabolism. You're sort of telling your body that you will feed it. It will get fed.

Eating real food stabilizes blood sugar & is healing

There's no reason to panic. Another way that eating real food in balance and eating enough real food increases your metabolism is by stabilizing your blood sugar. So when your blood sugar is balanced, we actually use that energy that we consume more efficiently. And we actually end up storing less of it as fat. Eating real food in balance also helps heal your body at a cellular level. So a lot of different areas of your health are positively impacted.

Well, I hope that answers your question about how we feel about calorie counting and measuring protein with the real food plan. Thank you so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist”. If you found this episode useful, please leave us a review or a rating so that we can help others discover the connection between what they eat and how they feel.

And if you have a nutrition question that you'd like us to answer, please join our private Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook.

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So once you're a part of that group, you can join the conversation and ask your question, or you could give us a call at 952-641-5233 and leave your question in our Dishing Up Nutrition voicemail inbox. So don't be shy. If you have a question, just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for listening today and have a great day.

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