The term “healthy fats” is tossed around a lot these days in particular in the “whole foods” space, which is great that people are becoming more aware that French fries are different than a fresh avocado. This is awesome and a huge improvement from several years ago when people were thinking that eating non fat everything was the key to health and that eating fat would in turn make you fat. We’ve since learned the massive health benefits of eating high quality fats but, somewhere we got a little wonky on portion sizes.
People love extremes. We went from eating no fat to eating all the fat with popular diets like the ketogenic diet (or what people think is a ketogenic diet). We need fat. Our brain is made of fat. Our cells are held up with fat. Our hormones travel on fat. We just don’t need as much as a lot of us are currently eating.
As people began to realize the benefits of a whole foods diet, whole milk cheese and yogurt became popular again, eggs and bacon are the breakfast of champions and heavy whipping cream or even butter became a staple in people’s morning cup of coffee. Listen, I love all these things and I’m not knocking on any one of them individually. An issue that I see, is some people are *only* eating high fat foods in pretty big portions too. This raises the issue of total calories consumed and also cholesterol. While fat doesn’t make you fat, overeating cholesterol does negatively impact your overall cholesterol levels. People can forget about fruits and vegetables because fat is so satiating. This can be a reason people drop body fat while eating a high fat diet, mostly because they end up eating less total calories. An issue arises when people are eating high fat, and high carb in combinations (or even just normal carb). Again, fat and carbs are not bad, but it’s incredibly easy to eat more than your body requires which equals a calorie surplus.
For the majority of people, sticking to around 30-40% of your daily calories from fat is sufficient. This supports brain function, hormone function and satiety while also supporting body composition. This means that if you eat 2,000 calories per day, you’ll eat about 65-70g of fat per day. This may look like a big number, but most people are surprised how easy it is to consume much more than that.
I do believe that there are specific people and situations that do well on a higher fat/ketogenic diet. I just don’t believe that the majority of people should. Don’t fear fat, (or any other macronutrient for that matter) just realize that as with everything, it’s about moderation and being aware of the quantities you’re consuming based on what your body needs.
Interested in learning more? Schedule with our knowledgeable nutritional therapist, Hannah Roeter BS FNTP.
There are so many ideas in the nutrition world these days, that some people just end up feeling perplexed, perhaps even accompanied by a little bit of “analysis paralysis”. In an attempt to dispel some confusion, I’m going to highlight two of the most important ideas today. One term is macros (short for macronutrients). The other is JERF (abbreviation for Just Eat Real Food).
Let’s look into these terms and what they actually mean. Starting with Macros first: it simply means the amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and protein in a diet. Typically when people say they’re “tracking macros”, it means they are keeping track of protein, fat, carbohydrates and total calories.
JERF is the other term we’re diving into also known as Just Eat Real Food. Typically when people say this (or use it as a hashtag on social media) they are referring to eating whole, unprocessed foods most of the time. Tracking your whole food intake is commonly not practiced here.
Now that we have an understanding of what I’m talking about, let’s look into some benefits and pitfalls that can happen with both practices.
Benefits of macros based eating include enjoying balanced meals and snacks most of the time since you're trying to keep your macro percentages (carb, protein, fat) similar each time you eat. It teaches people appropriate portion sizes by having people measure the food they’re consuming. This can be beneficial for many, since we tend to underestimate certain foods such as fat and overestimate other things such as protein and carbohydrates. Oftentimes, people can tend to undereat then overeat every few days because overall total calories have been too low. This can be especially prominent in people who have done poorly designed diets in the past. Tracking can keep this in check (to be clear, I’m not talking about binge eating behaviors here). It also teaches consistency, which can be a challenge for yo-yo dieters or for people who eat sporadically. Everyday, you’re eating similar foods, similar portions and similar total calories.
Tracking macros does have its share of pitfalls however. IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is another common social media hashtag and while it can be great for fitting an occasional “indulgence” in your dietary plan it can also lead people down the path of poptarts and protein shakes all day, everyday. For some people it can also trigger their past of eating disorders or disordered eating patterns from past attempts at logging calories (typically very low calorie diets) and they can also become a bit obsessive if they don’t hit their numbers perfectly each day.
Now, let’s consider the benefits of JERF. Eating whole foods the majority of the time also means you’re limiting processed foods which is always good. The focus tends to be more on quality of the food which is a great mindset shift from “how can i get the cheapest chicken breast?” to “how was this raised” “what were the farming practices?” etc. It can also be a great way to reduce plastic use by reducing the amount of pre packaged foods you purchase each week. It also has a great focus on homemade meals with nutrient dense ingredients.
The pitfalls of JERF: The one I see most frequently is undereating. Healthy foods such as lean meats, beans, veggies and fruits are pretty low in calories so it makes it easier to eat less.This can be helpful from a fat loss perspective but you need to remember less food isn’t always better. On the flip side of this, it can also be really easy to overeat things such as fatty cuts of meats (bacon, sausage) and nuts. Nuts are extremely easy to eat (especially if they’re roasted and salted!) and 1 serving is about 14 almonds. I don't know about you, but I can definitely eat more than 14 almonds at a time. It can also become really easy to eat too much fat, not enough protein and not enough carbohydrates. There’s more to this concept, but I’ll leave that for another day.
In conclusion, successful implementation of either method does require knowing yourself, and knowing your history of eating. They both benefit from some experimentation to see what works best for you and where you’re at in your life currently. Something that has worked well for you in the past may, or may not work again. Be open to trying new things and to your own process. They both come down to how you do it, the amount of head space you have along with any goals you have.
Interested in learning more? Book an appointment with Hannah Roeter to organize your best plan.
Staff at Mission Health & Wellness regularly contribute to this blog including Nick Carlo, Hannah Roeter, Courtney Mohr Taylor, and Dr. Kristen Acesta