Updated: Apr 16, 2020
This is Nathan writing. Grace and I follow a similar approach to eating. That is,
· We both eat intuitively
· We do not count calories
· We do not count macros
· We do portion food
· We regularly eat fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, and similar foods
· We still eat junk food
Why we do not count calories or macros
Grace and I counted calories and macros for many years. I stopped several years ago, whereas Grace transitioned away from calorie and macro counting over the past two years. The reason we do not count calories are
· Our goals are not as nutrition dependent
· Counting is time consuming
· We portion food
· We are aware
Our goals are not as nutrition dependent
When Grace worked to reach a body fat of 15 percent, which is low for a woman, counting macros, weighing individual foods, and overall being very structured with nutrition was essential. Not only was this important for composition changes, but for maintenance or even improvement of performance.
In that same vein, when I wanted to drop from 215 to 180, while minimizing muscle loss and improving performance, the same points were important for me. Arguably, they were more important for me. I was not dropping from 215 to 180 because I was fat (though my body fat percent was higher). Rather, maintaining the level of muscle at 215 was difficult for me, as I was sometimes eating 5000 calories per day for healthier food options and the volume of food was hard to consume daily. I wanted to be at a muscular weight that was easier to maintain and at the same time I wanted to improve performance.
My point is not to go on about those two points, but rather to provide context. At that time Grace and I had goals that required more focus on “clean eating” and that meant counting macros, weighing individual foods, etc. At this point, we are both happy with where we are and are focused on maintaining. Sure, just due to our hard work we are still progressing, but this is just the benefit of be consistent and using smart planning for training and nutrition, not because we are chasing specific goals like we were in the examples.
Counting is time consuming
Counting macros and calories can be time consuming. While not an issue in and of itself, with our goals being less nutrition dependent, that harder focus on tracking is not necessary. That said, we still “track” in another way. We portion food, that is, we control the volume of food we eat and therefore control our calories and macros.
Portioning means we weigh food such as meat to an appropriate per serving amount for us, such as four ounces for Grace or 6-8 ounces for me. This also means that we eat commonly accepted portions of foods we do not weight, such as one apple or one yogurt cup.
This approach reduces the time spent on tracking and on food preparation. For example, while we weigh meat or other foods, we do not focus on counting the macros with each meal or making sure the meal balances out with the overall macros for the day, which saves us time.
We portion food
As I just noted, we portion food. In essence, this is the same as counting calories or macros in the sense that it helps control food quantity consumed. However, it makes the process easier for us. Any nutrition plan has some sort of measurement process. For example, some plans have a person serve portions based on palm or finger size, others have users fit foods into specific containers, such as vegetables in a specific green container, or still others have users count points.
None of these approaches are superior or inferior to others and instead are appropriate for the certain people at that time in their lives. For us macros counting was appropriate at one point, where now just weighing is appropriate.
We are aware
This is the biggest thing, the most important step to our success. We eat brownies and ice cream, which are high calorie items. We eat these during the week and on the weekend. With a gallon of ice cream or a pan of brownies in front of us, we could easily shovel spoonful after spoonful or ice cream or bite after bite of brownie. We are aware of this and aware of what we consume, meaning we enjoy the food but do not binge.
This idea applies to all eating, whether considered healthy or not. Overeating vegetables or fruit will lead to unnecessary weight gain if continued for too long. Even healthy foods can be overconsumed. No food is inherently bad or good. Some foods have better nutritional profiles, but all foods can be a good part of a nutrition plan in moderation—including sweets, fried foods, and other so-called junk foods. Awareness and self-accountability are the keys to success.
How we meal prep
· We weigh our food
· We portion according to serving sizes
· We prepare food in advance
· We prepare simple foods
· We have simply cooking methods
· We have go-tos for quick snacks or meals
We weigh our food
We weigh meats, vegetables, and in some instances, other foods such as grains. As noted above, this helps control our calorie and macro intake. While we do not track the cals and macros, we know Grace needs less food than me. For meats we generally weigh out 1.5-2 pounds of food for four meals (dinner day of and leftovers for lunch the next day), with Grace usually consuming 0.5-0.75 pounds (across both meals) while I consume the rest.
The same idea applies to vegetables of other foods we weigh. In these instances the amounts are less but the logic is the same. Though we do not count calories and macros, we understand I need more than Grace and portion accordingly.
When approaching food weighing in general, based on our experience with calories and macros and understanding what we need to maintain our weight and performance, we know these amounts work for the two of us.
We portion according to serving sizes
Some foods have serving sizes. For example, we regularly eat yogurt and purchase both tubs and packages of individual cups. While we could spoon out of the tub with no regard, or eat multiple cups at a time, we use the recommended servings. Again, we are not counting the calories or macros, but this helps us control both. It is simple and something that anyone, including you, can do. Read the serving size, serve that size, and eat that size instead of mindlessly eating.
We prepare food in advance
Preparing food in advance saves time, saves money, ease frustration, and reduces low-quality eating.
1. Saves time—we prepare multiple meals at once, cuts prep
2. Saves money—by having food prepared, we do not buy food on the fly
3. Eases frustration—by having food prepared and not buying on the fly, we remove frustration that can occur due to spending money on low quality food when we know we could have prepared food
4. Reduces low-quality food eating—by having food made in advance, we control quality, and are not subject to the food available through other means, such as eating out
We prepare simple foods
We are not gourmet chefs and do not want to spend significant time in the kitchen. I am sure many of you can relate. To this end, we prepare simple meals. For example, on Sunday we usually have spaghetti. Prep time usually takes about 10 minutes and serve time takes five minutes. I take the one-pot approach by cooking the pasta first, then setting it aside in the strainer, cooking the ground meat, draining it over the pasta in the strainer, and then placing everything in the pot, along with sauce and vegetables as desired. Everything heats through in about five minutes. The entire process takes about 30 minutes. Quick and easy.
Since we prepare multiple meals at once, this portions out six servings. One each for me, Grace, and Amelia for dinner as well as one each for lunch the next day. This means we have six servings for three people spread over two meals prepared in 30 minutes. Convenient.
We have go-tos for quick snacks or meals
Apples, bananas, carrots, cucumbers, yogurt, cereal, and similar foods are common in our kitchen. These foods are on hand for various meals, but also serve as quick snacks it we are hungry. These are alternatives to less ideal options such as chips, pizza rolls, or similar foods.
Having quick and easy snacks that have better nutrition value to other options allows to stay fed and on track for our goals.
Keeping it simple
Our approach it nutrition is simple and not time consuming. We still eat junk food, but also eat more foods that have high nutritional value. We do not count calories or macros, but are aware of overeating but at the same time fueling yourself properly. This is not hard and barely takes any thought from us. With a little effort, your nutrition plan can be just as simple yet effective, and you can move toward your goals with less stress.
Check out our Online Nutrition Coaching for help with your nutrition goals.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, and the International Sports Sciences Association. Nathan has 17 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.