Stop Counting Calories—Practice These 5 Nutritionist-Approved Habits Instead

nutritionist advice
Photo: Sakara Life

Here at Byrdie HQ, we think the idea of a “perfect body” is as outdated as snake-oil diet pills and spandex-clad workout icons. But that doesn’t mean we don’t talk about our bodies—the opposite, in fact. We’re all about body acceptance 24/7/365, but this week, we’re serving up some extra love: Meet Byrdie Body Week. Consider it a love letter to the weird and wonderful vehicles we inhabit, as well as a deep dive into all the body questions that plague us (such as Will my laptop really fry my ovaries?). We’ll also be spotlighting all that’s new in the product world (fake nipples—yeah, we’re going there). Let’s all agree to be a little kinder to our bodies this week (and month and year), no? 

Counting calories is not only one of the toughest, most restrictive ways to diet—it’s also the least accurate when it comes to nutrition. The problem with counting calories is that oftentimes products saying “only 100 calories” on the package are overly processed and unhealthy. Meanwhile, natural foods like avocados have a high-calorie count, but they’re rich in necessary nutrients. All calories are not created equal. Counting calories is also stressful, and stress creates cortisol, which in turn makes you hold onto belly fat. Ready for a better way to eat healthily? Keep reading for tips to keep you on track without having to crunch numbers.

Eat When You're Hungry

One of the most important things to do is to listen to your body. Try to stay aware of when you’re reaching for food out of boredom, rather than hunger. But beware, don’t mistake dehydration for hungr—sometimes all you need is a big glass of water to quench those midmorning hunger pangs.

Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods

Stay clear of any processed, packaged foods, refined carbs, and sugar, which are filled with empty calories. For example, a bag of chips—you will eat them, not feel full, and want to reach for more. Instead opt for whole foods that make you feel grounded, like root vegetables and whole grains that will keep you full for longer.

Be Mindful While Eating

Enjoy your food—don’t rush through it. That means sitting down and eating at a table. Don’t eat while on the go, whether it’s while running from one appointment to the other or sitting in a car. It also means chewing your food properly before having another bite, savoring the flavors, and being in tune with how the food is making you feel.

Move Your Body

Having a regular exercise routine will make you more aware of the kind of foods you are putting on your plate. Feeling fitter will automatically help you reach for healthier options. It’s much more tempting to reach for that burger and fries because you have been sitting at a desk all week. That doesn’t mean having to spend hours at the gym—even regular, brisk walks can make a vast improvement in how you feel.

Go With Natural Options

Eat foods that taste good to you and are as close to their original state as possible. Eating healthy doesn’t mean it has to taste bad—quite the opposite. Once you get your body used to eating nutrient-dense and satisfying foods, that’s all your body will crave. Trust me—I am living proof. I would much rather eat a delicious quinoa salad full of veggies and topped with avocado than a greasy pizza any day.

Need some recommendations to start? Keep reading for the ingredients Rountree always keeps stocked in her pantry.