How to Qualify Your Calories on the Total Body Diet

By Victoria Shanta Retelny, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

You don’t want to go overboard on calories, but the Total Body Diet is about the quality of the calories you’re consuming overall. Food should be enjoyable and fun, but thoughtful eating and drinking is important to good health. Qualifying your calories by assessing their nutritional value is a good idea.

An occasional cupcakes or doughnut is fine, but it doesn’t qualify to be on your regular eating plan because it doesn’t fuel your body well over the long run. Quality calories provide your body with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), as well as macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats). So, when you’re eating and drinking, think about what’s in your food.

A key way to qualify your calories is to inspect the Nutrition Facts label. Important things to look at on the Nutrition Facts label include the following:

  • Serving size: Look here to find out the suggested amount in one serving. It’s the basis for all the nutrition information on the label. If you eat two servings, you have to double all the other numbers, too.

  • Calories per serving: When you know your serving size, you can figure out the total calories based on the number of servings you consumed. For example, if the serving size is 1 cup and you eat 2 cups, double the calories and the other nutrients on the label.

  • Nutrients to limit: Check the label for total fat, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. You want to keep these at a minimum.

  • Nutrients to boost: Aim for more dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.

    The Nutrition Facts label. [Credit: Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration]

    Credit: Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
    The Nutrition Facts label.

If words resound better for you than numbers, check the ingredients on the package first. The first five ingredients reveal a lot! If you see sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat (such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) near the beginning of the ingredient list, that’s a food you’ll want to limit or avoid. Some ingredients — like sugar — are used more than once in a food product, in different forms. For example, you may see sucrose as the second ingredient and corn syrup and molasses elsewhere on the list — all three of those are sugar.