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The Calorie Budget: Smart Spending

Following flexible dieting means that you have freedom in your food choices.  You are able to incorporate the foods you like and want without fear or guilt. However, that doesn't mean that flexible dieting is a license for a junk food free-for-all. Spending your calories and macros should be done smartly to ensure a balanced diet that supports health and performance. So how can you spend smartly and still incorporate all foods? 


A simple analogy that everyone can relate to is a financial budget.  To start, think of your total daily calories in terms of spending money, and your food and drink choices as expenses.  Within a budget, there are essential and nonessential expenses.  We need to pay things like the mortgage or rent, utility bills, and groceries first.  Then whatever money is left over can be spent on nonessential, fun, and frivolous items like a new luxury car, electronics, travel, etc.


A calorie budget can be thought of similarly.  We first pay the essentials by meeting our macro goals, getting sufficient fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  Whatever calories are then left over after our required needs are met can be spent on less nutrient-dense “treats”.  In terms of food choices, the essentials are going to come from a variety of whole, nutrient-dense foods – high quality proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and a variety of fats.  These types of foods will best support health and performance as their quality is higher.  Like any properly balanced budget, a properly balanced diet will majorly focus on the essentials; discretionary choices will only be a small percent.


Financially, staying within your budget will help you to avoid debt and can allow you to save.  Nutritionally, staying within your calorie budget, will allow you to manage your weight.  Eat too many calories and go over your budget, you will gain weight.  Eat too few calories, and you will lose weight.  Depending on the context and individual goal each has its place. 


An important consideration is that everyone will have different calorie needs depending on their individuality and goals.  Some will have much higher budgets than others, allowing them to afford more discretionary choices after meeting their essential needs.  Smart spending, regardless, will allow you to ensure that you are meeting your needs to support performance, function, and most importantly overall health.  

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