I often get requests for the nutrition information (calorie count, fat grams, etc.) for my recipes, but as you may have noticed, there are none.
I used to pay a lot of attention to “how many calories” and “how much fat” before I tried a recipe (and I used to read nutrition labels before buying a product), until one day I noticed that raw walnuts were way more “fattening” than gumdrops. In fact, based on the nutrition facts, I determined I could eat the whole bag of sugary, chemical-laden gumdrops without a worry – as long as I stayed far away from the walnuts.
What’s in the Numbers?
Obviously, these numbers weren’t a reliable source for making good food choices.
One of the problems with depending on those numbers to help with food choices is not all carb grams, calories, or fat grams are created equal.
For example, let’s compare a couple of salad dressings – both with 100 calories per 2 tablespoons.
They both have the same number of calories, but the dressing on the left is made from whole, unprocessed ingredients. It offers you fiber and an abundance of other nutrients that are helpful for weight loss. Conversely, the dressing on the right is loaded with processed ingredients, refined ingredients, chemicals, and other ingredients that not only offer nothing for your health, but also have been shown to contribute to weight gain.
Same calories? Yes. Same results? No.
According to the numbers, a medium orange has 13 grams of sugar – more sugar than the average chocolate chip cookie.
But the sugar in the orange is a natural sugar perfectly packaged with fiber, vitamin C, calcium, folate, phytochemicals, and many others super-nutrients. This flawless formula will not only aid in weight loss, but will help boost your immune system, strengthen your bones, prevent cancer, and more!
A cookie recipe, on the other hand, usually calls for refined sugars, refined flours, and refined oils – all ingredients for obesity and poor health. And store-bought cookies? Even worse. The ingredient label often reveals ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, polysorbate stuff, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors, bleached flour, mono thisandthat, and yellow #6.
Less sugar? Yes. Better choice? No.
And another example:
Compare this recipe for Pasta with Avocado Sauce with another recipe for pasta with a fat-free cream sauce. The Avocado Pasta recipe has about 4 times as much fat as the fat-free cream sauce recipe and more calories. If you only looked at the numbers, you may stop the comparison right there and declare the fat-free version the winner.
However – and this is a big however – the avocado recipe is made with real, whole, unprocessed, plant-based ingredients that offer you fiber, folate, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and a plethora of other nutrients that have been shown to prevent heart disease, promote healing, maintain healthy brain function, prevent PMS, boost the immune system, prevent kidney stones, promote digestive health, and help with weight loss!
On the other hand, the cream sauce recipe is made with fat-free mayo which is made from high-fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, gums, preservatives, and other ingredients that couldn’t be considered “real foods” and many of which have been shown to be disastrous for a weight loss plan.
More fat? Yes. More fattening? No.
One more (because once you get me going, it’s hard to stop):
One-quarter cup of raw almonds has 11 grams of fat. And a serving of orange sherbet – zero. The sherbet is a better option because it has less fat, right?
Reading the ingredients shows a serving of sherbet gives you corn syrup, artificial colors, artificial flavors, gums, and sugar – more ingredients for obesity and poor health. The ingredients in raw almonds? Just almonds – a whole, unprocessed food that has been shown to help with weight loss and contribute to good health.
If I make my food choice based on the numbers, I may choose the sherbet. But if I look at the ingredients, I can know which is the better option.
What you don’t need to know. What you do need to know.
If you’re eating healthfully, referencing the numbers – calories, fat content, etc. – is, more often than not, a waste of time.
You don’t need the nutrition information to tell you apples and oatmeal are better options than Lucky Charms, and carrots are better than Cheetos. You don’t need to know how many calories are in the oatmeal (or the apple or the carrots), or how much protein, how much fat, or any of that. Oatmeal is a whole, unprocessed, plant-based food. Same for the apple and the carrots. Both can be a valuable part of a healthy diet.
You can use the same thought process for recipes. Look at the ingredients.
Are (at least most of) the ingredients whole, unprocessed foods?
Are (at least most of) the ingredients from plants?
Does the recipe have any other ingredients that I don’t want to put in my body?
If it does have some refined (or processed foods) in it, how much does it have?
If a food is processed or if it’s made from refined ingredients (white flour, sugar, oils, etc.), chemicals, or too many animal products, it doesn’t matter a whole lot how many calories or fat it has, it isn’t the best choice and it may contribute to weight gain in the long run – even if it’s low in calories and/or fat.
What’s In It?
To eat healthfully, we don’t need to ask “What are the numbers?” but rather, “What’s in the food?”
When deciding whether or not to buy a product, eat a food, or try a recipe, forget the numbers and look at the ingredients. Make a choice to eat a wide variety of whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods and the numbers will take care of themselves.