With so many weight loss diets on our radar, counting calories has become a dieting norm. There’s a lot of debate among experts as to how many calories a person should eat to lose weight — but that’s not the only benefit eating fewer calories might present. Would eating just 1,500 calories a day change our lives? As of 2010, the average American ate over 2,000 calories daily. Let’s look at what would happen if we all ate less.
Our digestive systems would rejoice
Eating fewer calories could actually increase our average fiber intake.
The health of your digestive system depends on a number of factors. Some of them you can control; others, you can blame on your genes. As a nation, we don’t eat nearly enough fiber. Research warns diets low in fiber increase your risk for multiple chronic diseases. But we’re so busy filling up on processed food, we barely notice our stomachs are in distress.
If we ate more fiber, we would eat fewer calories as a result — most high-fiber foods, like vegetables, are extremely low in calories. Our guts would end up a whole lot happier if we took fiber more seriously.
Average spending on food would also decline
The average American family spends over 40% of its food budget on eating out.
According to Business Insider, we spend the majority of our annual budgets on transportation, housing, and food. Unfortunately, a lot of the money we put toward food every year is spent on food that isn’t good for us. The average American family spends 43% of their food budget eating out every single year. So even if we kept buying processed foods (but do you really want to?) and just stopped eating high-calorie restaurant and fast food meals, we would probably save hundreds if not thousands of dollars annually.
We’d either make healthier dining choices or stop eating out entirely
The standard restaurant entree exceeds 2,000 calories per meal.
There are many entrees at popular restaurants that are over 1,500 calories — just in one meal. As of 2016, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics estimates that most restaurant meals exceed 2,000 calories. Of the meals they evaluated, 92% exceeded a 2,000 calorie count. This makes eating out almost impossible if you are trying to count calories. Setting a lower limit would either force you to make healthier dining choices or skip eating out altogether. Except on special occasions, of course!
Obesity rates would probably drop
Eating smaller portions cuts out unnecessary calories.
The more calories you eat, the greater your chances of developing a devastating condition like obesity. While portion control is not the only reason people become obese, it is a major contributing factor, says the International Journal of Obesity.
From this, it’s not far off to guess eating fewer calories would help prevent many cases around the world. We’d probably see slightly fewer instances of other chronic diseases too, like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
We’d probably eat less junk food
High-calorie processed foods make up a major portion of the average American diet.
One of the reasons junk food is so terrible for you is because it’s extremely calorie-dense. This means it tends to be high in calories and extremely low in nutrition. Also included in the empty-calorie category: soda, juice, and energy drinks. One of the easiest ways to cut calories is to eat less junk food. If we all ate more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and fewer snack foods, we would easily be able to keep our calorie consumption at a lower threshold.
We wouldn’t necessarily be healthier, though
It’s possible to eat fewer calories and still eat mostly garbage.
There’s no guarantee that eating less would help everyone lose weight. Keep in mind that as important as calories are, they’re not the only way to measure a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, sleep, and stress management can prove just as essential in the long-term. To truly improve our nation’s overall health, we need to improve the quality of our calories while also eating less. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, poor-quality foods are major contributors to weight gain over a span of years, for example.
How to eat fewer calories, lose weight, and get healthy
It’s possible to eat less without going hungry, losing muscle, or destroying your health.
If you’ve been trying to cut down on your calorie intake, and haven’t found a method that works yet, a traditional diet may not be for you. However, these small but effective strategies can help you eat less, lose weight, and live healthier over time.
- Swap out high-calorie dips and spreads for healthier alternatives
- Replace refined grains with whole-grain foods
- Limit your intake of processed foods as much as possible
- If you’re addicted to sugar, quit
- Eat high-protein, high-fiber foods, especially snacks
Don’t forget exercise! Maintaining a long-term calorie deficit, even a small one, can make a huge difference. These workout methods are a great place to start.