By Shelly Sandhu

Do you ever wonder what you should eat, how many calories you should consume and when you should consume them? There is an overwhelming amount of information available, so how do you know who to listen to and what is true? I remember being at a stage in my late teenage years when I cut back everything in my diet.  I ate a few bites of toast for breakfast, a small bean burrito for lunch and maybe a half of a cheese sandwich for dinner.  I noticed that the less I ate, the less I weighed.  I also noticed that I would end up being so hungry that I would binge on occasional meals, which soon led to binging and purging.  Although I was always a normal Body Mass Index (BMI), I gained weight and lost weight like a yoyo and finally realized that was not working for me because I felt terrible.  I quickly learned that it felt better to eat when I was hungry and to eat something that I could get enough of and still remain the weight that I felt best at.  The key word being “feel”.  What makes you feel good after you’ve eaten it?  If it settles well with your body, gives you sustainable energy and supports your focus then it is probably something that is working for you.

Knowing when to eat can be a battle.  It takes self-awareness to learn when you are physically hungry and when you are not hungry.  Diets are easy to follow but most have written laws of what you can and can’t do.  This can sometimes go against what our bodies know to do.  The best diet is listening to your body.  If you are keeping your body fed with balanced nutrition, then you will most likely not have urges to over eat.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is feel your fullness.  Understand what if feels like for you to be full and stop eating at that time. Always take into consideration that it is important to monitor your chemical intake as well.  Chemicals are additives to our foods.  These chemicals block the signal to the brain that tells you that you’ve had enough and are full.  Chemicals are often hidden in processed foods, restaurant foods, and fast foods.  The best way to avoid chemicals is to eat whole foods and plant based foods.

With the diet mentality, we get hung up on how many calories we need.  One size does not fit all when it comes to how many calories you need to consume in a day.  There are several calculators out there that help you to figure this out.  You have to consider where you are at today.  Goal yourself at a normal range BMI (Body Mass Index)and strive for that weight.  Once you know that weight, then the calorie calculators will help you to understand approximately where you need to be.  There are many applications out there for your mobile device. MyFitnessPal seems to be a popular application that I recommend to help you with calorie goals and learn self-discovery from a calorie perspective.

Now you know when to eat, how much to eat and how to track it. Let’s get into what you should be eating and why. As the years have passed so has the recommended foods from our government.  Remember the food pyramid?  Now, we have MyPlatewhich is a great baseline, but there’s more to nutrition than that. Let’s be honest; are you going to eat a sit down meal with the recommended amounts at every meal?  If so, great for you!  For most teens, it isn’t realistic or reasonable to eat a sit down meal every time you are hungry, nor is it necessary.  You may find yourself eating whatever is easily available.  Stay away from boxed, processed, chemically laden foods and replace those options with vegetables, legumes, fruits, and dietary fiber.  These four categories give you everything you need and will help you to be at your natural weight.