The macronutrient composition of a diet can play a role in weight management. When you manipulate macronutrients, you manipulate total energy. However, it is important to remember that the three main macronutrients, carbohydrates, protein, and fat, all play a unique and important role within the body. So we shouldn’t be cutting out any of these macronutrients from our diet completely.
There is a wide range in the suggested macronutrient proportions for a healthy eating pattern.
- Carbohydrate can range from 45–65% of total daily energy
- Fat can range from 20–35% of total daily energy
- Protein can range from 15–25% of total daily energy
The range depends on the foods you prefer to eat or are included within specific diets. It is important to stay within these ranges for good health.
Studies which have investigated the effects of macronutrient manipulation for weight loss found that weight loss only occurs when certain conditions are met e.g. only when the total energy intake is also reduced. Reducing total energy intakes can be achieved through reducing fat, protein or carbohydrate intakes. When you reduce one macronutrient, the others go up as a percentage of overall intake but total energy should go down resulting in weight loss.
Remember that fat is the most energy dense macronutrient and therefore it will influence your energy intake the most. You certainly can still lose weight on a higher fat diet but you have to be good at watching your total kJ intake. A good way to reduce kJs is by reducing intake of discretionary foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages, confectionary/sweets, baked sweet products, and fatty meats.
Refer back to national food guides for your country’s list of discretionary foods.
How to read food labels
Below is an example of a nutrition information panel from the Eat for Health website. This explains the key things you should be looking for on the panel. The things you focus on can depend on your individual nutrition goals. There is a nutrition information panel log book activity at the end of this section.
Nutrition information panels[pdf-embedder url=”https://ditmatrix.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/efh_food_label.pdf”]
Below is an image of 2 nutrition information panels. They are for similar foods (cereals) but they contain different amounts of nutrients. Compare the per 100g column on these 2 panels to see which is higher in energy (kJs), fat, protein and carbohydrate. This is a great strategy for helping you choose healthier products in the supermarket.
Two nutritional panels side by side
Log Book: Find a healthier alternative
For this log book activity we would like you to find a healthier alternative to one of your favourite packaged foods.
- Find one of your favourite packaged foods in the cupboard or fridge.
- Have a look at the nutrition information panel and in your log book, record the kilojoules, protein, fat, and carbohydrate (including sugars) per serve and per 100g.
- Next time you are at the supermarket (or have a look online) compare your log book nutrition information panel notes to similar products and see if you can find an alternative that has less kilojoules and less fat or sugar e.g. compare your yoghurt with another yoghurt, or your breakfast cereal with another breakfast cereal.
- Use the per 100g column to compare products and the per serve column to check that the recommended serve is appropriate.