It's time to talk shop about nutrition facts. I really love teaching you what I have learned, and practice daily, as a registered dietitian. So, please forgive the soap box I might jump on – I just get, well, passionate.
A frequently received question from Prep Dish subscribers goes something like this, “Why don't you include nutrition facts with your meal plans; aren't you a dietitian?” (Note- we do offer nutrition facts as an optional add-on each month or free for Premium subscribers.) We also see concerns about the nutrition facts of particular Prep Dish recipes. For example, a popular question we get is if coconut milk is too high in saturated fat to include in the recipes. Spoiler alert- I frequently use full fat coconut milk in recipes, so the answer should be obvious, right? ;-).
First, I want to say that if you do look at nutrition facts and count calories and it works for you, great! I do understand this can be useful information and is important for specific medical conditions. But, I find calorie counts and nutrient information to be only one reference among many things you can look at when it comes to your diet.
Here's my reasoning for why I do not put my trust in Nutrition Facts:
- All calories are NOT created equal? Studies have shown that “junk food” calories will cause weight gain, as compared to an equal amount of calories eaten from “real food” (ie, the kinds of foods you'll find on the Prep Dish menus). What? Well, for one thing, whole foods “use up” more energy to break down in the body than processed foods that sit there with no real benefit and turn into fat. Also, see “fiber”, below.
- Fat is NOT a 4-letter word. Fat does SO much good in our body, including helping with satiety. Unfortunately, I think many of us are still recovering from the 90's “food fat = body fat” mindset. My recipes often call for fats from healthy sources (nuts, coconut, olives, avocado); however, if I were to include the number of fat grams with the recipe, it might “look” scary (this goes back to that 90's mindset). So I'd rather you just not look at it. I really don't want to perpetuate a fear of good food!
- Take the focus away from deprivation. Personally, when I focus on eating healthy most of the time and completely ignore nutrition facts and calories (oh, I used to be a counter!), I actually end up weighing less! Huh? Basically, I allow myself to eat as much of the healthy stuff as I want until I feel satisfied. This goes back to #1 above. I fuel my body with real foods that provide energy, keep me feeling full and of course, taste really good. Now, don't get me wrong, I have treats from time to time. But because I haven't been “depriving” myself, I don't feel the need to go overboard. If you're a subscriber or have completed one of our challenges, you know this to be true! We get so many reports from all of you, often surprised by weight loss as a result of eating of Prep Dish recipes, especially since the meals don't taste like typical “diet food”.
- Don't forget fiber. When you increase the amount of produce you eat, you increase fiber intake. Fiber can actually reduce the number of calories absorbed and also aids in satiety. Perhaps you've noticed, but I try to keep the “fruit & veggie” list the lengthiest section of the meal plan Grocery List ;).
- Ingredients trump nutrition facts. While I rarely look at nutrition facts, one thing I do inspect is the ingredient's label. Again, if you are making a Prep Dish recipe, you can rest assured that the recipes use only “real food” ingredients. I find the ingredients to be the most important marker of whether or not a recipe or food item is “healthy.” Food manufacturers are pros at putting together a pretty looking nutrition label, but nature is far superior in putting together a truly healthy, nourishing food.
If you really want to geek out on this OR are a calorie counter, I highly recommend checking out this post by Mark Sisson over at Mark's Daily Apple. Mark is also the founder of the Primal Kitchen mayo I'm always raving about ;).
If you want to hear more about my story and why I follow a “Paleo-ish” diet, check out the article I wrote for Lisa over at 100 Days of Real Food.
All of this being said, if the nutritional information helps you on your health journey, then please use as a resource. The full nutrition facts for all Prep Dish meals are included in our Premium subscription or can be purchased at a nominal fee for other subscription levels.
Thank you for allowing me to jump on my soap box a bit. I hope you found it both informative and helpful. If you have more questions, ask away. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I am @prepdish in all 3 places.