Nutrition FAQs

Is it a problem to eat less than my recommended calories each day?

Strange as it sounds, going too low on calories is a common cause of getting stuck at your current weight despite dieting. Your body is designed to protect you from starvation during times of greatly reduced food availability, and when you eat too little, your body thinks it’s starving. To compensate, your metabolism will slow down considerably, making it very difficult (or impossible) for you to lose weight. In this state, your body will preferentially burn everything but your stored body fat. Eating to little poses other problems, such as nutritional deficiencies. On top of that, if you later eat more calories, your body is more likely to store these calories as fat, in preparation for a possible "famine" again in the future.

Your best bet is to aim for a weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week through combining a moderate calorie reduction with increased calorie expenditure through exercise. If all the info you entered during your program set-up is accurate, the recommended calorie range you received should be what you need to accomplish this healthy rate of weight loss.

Some people have problems eating enough calories when they go too low on fats—especially by always choosing low-fat or non-fat versions of common foods. So try to find some good sources of "healthy fats" (the monounsaturated fat in nuts, olive and canola oils, avocados, etc.), and foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed, salmon, or tuna. Read SparkPeople’s Nutrition Reference Guide: Fats and Oils for more information on including healthy fats into your diet.

Are diet pills safe and will they help me lose weight?

Sometimes these pills claim amazing results that sound too good to be true—and that's because they are. There is no "magic pill" that works. Think about it—if there really was one pill that people could take and see amazing results quickly, and with little to no effort, everyone in the world would know about it and probably use it.

Don't waste your money.

Some diet pills work because they usually contain stimulants, such as high doses of caffeine, which speed up your metabolism, making it easier for you to lose weight. These can be addictive, and cause serious health problems such as heart problems, medication interactions, and even death. In addition, as soon as you stop taking them, you’ll likely put all the weight you lost back on.

The other problem is that these products (diet pills and herbal supplements) are not regulated by the FDA the way that other medications and drugs are. So basically, no one is checking to make sure their claims are true, that the pills contain what they say they do, or that they are actually safe to be taking at all. Remember, even "natural" doesn’t mean safe.

The best way to lose weight is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. The closer you get to your goal weight, the harder it can be to continue dropping pounds, but you just have to be patient. Save your money—diet pills are not a long term solution.

For more info on weight loss pills/supplements, and how to be a wise consumer when it comes to weight loss products, read:

Weight Loss Supplements: Fact or Fiction?

How to Get Ripped (Off) Guaranteed!

12 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet

What counts as water?

The latest recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, Dietary Reference Intake for Electrolytes and Water says..."The fluids consumed do not have to be only water. Individuals can obtain their fluids from a variety of beverages and foods. Contrary to popular opinion, consumers do not need to consume "eight glasses of water a day" to meet their fluid needs.

However, Becky (SP Dietitian) encourages people trying to lose weight to drink additional water whenever possible. It helps to cleanse the body when weight loss and fat breakdown is occurring. It also helps to keep the hands and mouth busy, so snacking is less. This is a form of behavior modification. Many people feel better when at least 4-6 glasses of plain old H2O is consumed to help meet total fluid needs.

I've been eating healthy and exercising, but I'm still not losing. What am I doing wrong?

It is very important to really track your food and exercise calories, because nine times out of ten, "mysteries" about not losing weight are due to underestimating calories consumed or overestimating calories burned. If you feel like you’re doing everything right and just not losing, here’s an article that might help:

6 Weight Loss Mistakes To Avoid

How do I know if the recommended serving size is cooked or uncooked when I look at it in the food database?

Cooked vs. uncooked…that is the question. However, standard serving sizes are always listed in a ready to eat state. When you are dishing the food item onto your plate, this is when the measuring and weighing begins. These standard portions are perfect examples:

  • Meat: 3 ounces, cooked
  • Vegetables: 1 cup, raw
  • Vegetables: ½ cup cooked
  • Pasta, Noodles, Rice, Oatmeal: ½ cup cooked
But, many times recipes do not use these standard portion sizes. Here are a few tips to help determine how much is being used:

Meat contains 7 grams of protein per cooked ounce.
Example: If the nutrient analysis for a pork chop recipe indicates 35 grams of protein/serving, you can estimate that approximately 5 ounces of cooked meat is used for the serving.

Grain products contain about 15-17 grams of carbohydrate, 3-4 grams of protein, 0-1 grams of fat; for a total of 80-90 calories per ½ cup cooked portion.
Example: If a pasta salad contains 24 grams of carbohydrates per serving, you could estimate that approximately 3/4 cup of cooked pasta is being used for the serving.
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Member Comments

Good morning, my name is Sharon. I would like to make an appointment to see a Nutritionist.
I need assistance in what is beneficial to help with my diabetes. My office extension #5036.
I look forward to hearing from you. Report
Good articles and very good tips Report
Maybe this link can help us Report
Going on a diet (let's call it what it is), to me, is controlling the calories I allow down my neck. I have been getting pretty good with maintaining that number to be between 1500 - 1700 each day. (I weigh 350+ right now).

When you start talking about all the other measurable things like salt and sugars and fat and cholesterol and all becomes mind-boggling. I have lost about 35 pounds thus far, but am at a standstill. On a plateau that will not break.

All these articles make it seem like I should have a full-time dietitian to plan and make all of my meals; because I cannot keep track of all of the different things I read about in these articles.

I am fat, but I am not a health guru. Sometimes, Spark makes me a little depressed sometimes. Report
I try to get in the calories I need. But it's hard. Report
this contradicts cico Report
Good article. Report
Water! Water! Water! Report
Good article and great tips from members re Lemonwater Report
Its a very benefits.
For more for a Water Lemon Diet: http://www.plants
lemon-water/ Report
I squeeze a lemon in a tall glass, add water along with stevia. Delicious fresh lemonade. It helps with the water intake. Report
How does anyone keep from snacking in the evening. I have a proper dinner and a glass of V8 before 9 pm but since I don't usually go to sleep before 11:30, the kitchen keeps calling my name. I always say kitchen closed after my V8, but have hard time listening to myself. Report
I notice that the count for carbs is total carbs and not net carbs. Is there any way to get your net carbs? Report
My recommended calorie range is exactly the same as my wife's, 1530-1880. How is that possible when we are the same age but different weights? Report
Does everyone get a calorie range of 1200-1550? With 60-136 g of protein?! It seems that's all I see in the comments. Should smaller people stick to the 1200? And larger ones to 1550? Hope it's not so because there goes the "custom" for each person. Report