I talk a lot about Calories. Overall, its the quickest way to manipulate your weight in one direction or another. I also talk a lot about Protein and Sugar, and to a lesser extent Fats, carbs, and sodium. These are the micronutrients that make up food and can be found on the nutrition labels. These can be manipulated to change the composition or performance of your body, not just the general weight.
Once you have an idea of where you need to be calorie wise, you can mix up your diet with differe macros based on your needs. Calories are macros are calories. Its just a matter of what its made of. Protein, Carbs, and Sugsr are all 4 calories per gram. Alcohol yes its a macro!) is 7 calories per gram, and Fat is 9 calories per gram.
Personally, I need a decent chunk of my diet to be based in protein for muscle building and carb for sustained energy while running, but fats are just as important for creating hormones and delivering certain vitamins. Protein is the only one I specifically track to make sure I’m hitting my minimums, but carbs come from everywhere and all my favorite foods are full of them so I know I don’t have to worry about not getting enough. Someone with a background in health or science could go on in more detail about what each macro does and reccomended amounts based on your personal lifestyle, but I am not that person and I just want to put out the simple facts and how I use them.
Even further down are the ingredient lists. Aside from what the nutritional values are, this also tells you exactly what is used. Anyonr with allergies knows all about this area and watches it closely. I keep an eye on this for one big reason – high fructose corn syrup. Three years ago I completely cut out hfcs from my diet and haven’t looked back. Too many brands will use it as a cheap sweetener and since its a condensed syrup, even more sugar can get packed into a meal than just using regular sugar. I have dropped entire brands from my shopping and chose different ones based on hfcs use alone.
My diet is pretty loose in terms of what I can eat, as long as its within my calorie budget and helps with my high protein / low sugar goals. Some people have a high fat and protein / low carb goal, and others are mainly concerned about sugar and sodium levels. Whatever your goals are, the nutrition label will have everything you need to determine if a certain food works for you.