Nutrition Q&A: the Go-to Snack and Macros vs. CaloriesThough macros are important, we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is a quality balanced diet of whole foods that we enjoy in the quantities (overall calories) that help us achieve our goals. Personally, the major things that I pay attention to are overall calories, quality of my food choices, and balancing meals.
Question from Andrew
What’s your favorite go-to snack when you’re on a road trip and stuck with gas station options?
That depends on whether I’m biding time to get to my next meal or if what I’m going to get is going to be my next meal.
If it truly is a snack, and I will be eating from someplace with fresh whole food options within a few hours, then I will opt for a balanced snack of about 300-400 calories that will satiate me and keep me from crashing along with water. Typically, this is a piece of fruit and some almonds or cashews. If I’m starving, I might get an individual cheese stick as well. In this case, I’m not that concerned about the total protein grams as I’ll be eating a nutritious meal later. I’m more concerned with stabilizing my blood sugar and energy levels until I get some real food. I go into the store thinking, “What will make me feel good for the next few hours and keep me from making a poor choice with food when I get to my destination?”
If the gas station stop is going to be my meal, then I start by choosing a protein first, which is likely going to be a couple of hard-boiled eggs or a pre-made protein shake. I opt for something minimally processed without a ton of sodium or nitrates. Those things tend to make me feel awful, especially on a road trip where I’m sitting for long periods. Next, I’ll choose a carb or two with high water and fiber content like an apple or banana and carrot sticks. Finally, I’ll choose a fat which is typically nuts or a small quantity of cheese. Once again, I’d make sure that I have plenty of water.
Personally, I avoid junk food at gas stations (even though I love candy) because I’d rather have my treat at a time and place that I can enjoy it to the fullest.
Question from Robert
I would be interested in how close you are on your macros/total calories per day. While I do a lot of meal prep on Sundays, I still have major pain points picking out “what goes together” on a daily basis, and I find myself often eating things like steak with cereal because it “fits my macros.”
Excellent question, Robert! This is one that I get asked frequently. Though macros are important, we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is a quality balanced diet of whole foods that we enjoy in the quantities (overall calories) that help us achieve our goals.
Personally, the major things that I pay attention to are overall calories, quality of my food choices, and balancing a meal (avoiding lots of carbs by themselves) so that my energy levels and blood sugar remain relatively constant. I keep it simple. If I want to put on mass, I stay at a slight surplus for two weeks, then do a week of maintenance and continue that pattern. If I want to lose body fat, I stay at a slight (tolerable) deficit most days until I get to where I want to be. I eat the foods that I like and don’t try to fill voids with foods that “fit.”
I set targets for each macro, but on any individual day, I can probably be as off as much as 20-25%. If I examined my macros over a week’s time, however, I’d probably hit within about 10% of my desired goal for each.
To even further simplify, most of us are not that dialed in. If we were to only focus on hitting a few key things, they would be:
- Setting an approximate calorie target that coincides with your goal of losing, gaining, or maintaining
- Having a minimum amount of protein and fiber to hit per day
- Filling the day with mostly nutrient-rich, minimally processed foods that you look forward to eating.