From Nicholas Cage movies to prerequisite discussions in social studies classes, the Declaration of Independence is one of the most iconic documents of American culture. Perhaps the most memorable component of this historic piece, besides John Hancock’s outsized signature, is a phrase coined by Thomas Jefferson – “All men are created equal.” (Sorry to go all history geek on you; I promise there won’t be a multiple choice test later.) That sentiment has been amended over time to include women and people of all races, religions and backgrounds. But people aside, there’s one thing that will never be equal, no matter how hard brand marketers try – calories.
Like a little black dress or string of pearls, products with reduced calories never go out of fashion. Take one bite of their goods and suddenly you’ll have more pep in your step, be able to wear a bikini to the beach and perhaps broker world peace (okay, the advertisements haven’t made that claim yet, but I’m sure it’s on the horizon). That lowered calorie count doesn’t mean much though once the food is processed by the body. Skimp on the nutritional value and you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
Certified Integrative Nutritionist Cheryl Howlin, BS, CHHC, illustrates this point using the example of a Nabisco Cookie Snack Pack and a banana, which both contain 100 calories. “The difference lies in how these foods are assimilated into the body,” notes Cheryl. “Those cookies are comprised primarily of processed and refined carbohydrates that are very quickly digested into the body, raise blood sugar and within one hour produces a sense of hunger for more food. Full of essential vitamins and minerals, the banana is processed much slower, its nutrients used by the body as proper fuel for both physical and mental tasks.”
When it comes to calories, individuals all too often just look at caloric math and nothing else. That certainly was the case with my yo-yo dieting past. During my senior year in high school, I drastically cut calories without any regard for nutrition. Lunch every day was a scoop of ice cream, which ultimately made it hard to stay awake during afternoon classes. As soon as I started eating normal quantities of food again, the lost pounds reappeared and brought friends along for the ride. Yeah, the good old days.
What are the most important nutritional considerations in your diet? Are calories king or do other factors have equal or greater importance?