Humans intuitively know when and how much to eat. Your body gives hunger and fullness signals based on hormonal and physical cues. However, this is not the case when pathophysiological, psychological, and environmental factors disrupt these natural cues.
Caloric needs are highly individual, influenced by factors like age, gender, and activity level. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to "eating less."
Reducing calorie intake should not compromise essential nutrient consumption. A healthy balanced diet is crucial for your health.
Calorie restriction (CR) can offer benefits such as weight loss and improvements in blood glucose and lipid levels, but it's important to consult a healthcare professional before adopting this diet.
Strategies like downsizing portions, choosing nutrient-dense foods, and practicing mindful eating can help reduce calorie intake while meeting nutritional needs.
It's best to consult a registered dietitian or doctor to create a personalized nutrition plan that aligns with your individualized needs, requirements, and lifestyle.
In such cases, individuals may overeat and gain weight over time. This is the situation for many people in our modern world, where crave-inducing and high-calorie foods are widely available. In this article we will explore whether you should really eat less.
Should you eat less?
Whether you should eat less depends on how many calories you need versus how much you're actually consuming. There is no one diet or eating habit that is healthy for all people. However, eating more is easier than ever with processed foods that are in high in sugar, fat, and calories being widely available.
An individual’s calorie needs change based on many factors, including their basal metabolic rate, body composition, age, gender, height, weight, general health status, and physical activity level. As a result, it's not possible to assign a universal calorie number to define "eating less." Caloric needs are highly individual, and calorie reduction should be tailored to an individual's unique dietary and physiological profile.
Is eating less better for your health?
Eating less is a contentious subject. People may have varying views on what "eating less" actually entails. Therefore, eating less is a subjective term, and variation in interpretation can lead to debates about the concept.
For clear understanding, in this article, eating less is used as a reduced calorie intake compared to your diet without restrictions.
While there are studies showing the benefits of reducing food intake, it's crucial to remember that your body requires all the necessary nutrients to properly function. You need to consume adequate amounts of food to meet your body's nutritional needs, which can be challenging if you follow a low-calorie diet.
Potential benefits of calorie restriction
In terms of caloric restriction, eating less can provide some health benefits. Calorie restriction (CR) reduces calorie consumption while maintaining optimal macro and micronutrient intake. Most studies focus on the benefits of 20–25% calorie restrictions, which is equivalent to 400–500 calories for a 2000-calorie diet.
Some studies reported health benefits such as weight loss and decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease in healthy adults aged 50 or younger. Calorie restriction has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress, which is associated with aging and diseases; thus, CR may support healthy longevity.
Remember, eating less is a broad term. What matters most is the type of foods you're eating less of. If you're consuming more calories than you need, you can benefit from eating less by reducing high-calorie, low-nutrient foods while continuing to consume low-calorie yet nutrient-dense foods.
Also, other factors can influence the potential benefits of calorie reduction. The factors can include, but are not limited to, eating schedule, timing, overall nutrient density of the diet, and eating habits.
Some people tend to go extreme with eating less and consume very low-calorie diets, under 800 calories. Very low-calorie diets can be prescribed by doctors for certain conditions in the short term and are not routinely recommended.
Strategies for reducing calories while meeting nutritional needs
Meeting all the required nutrients while consuming fewer calories can be challenging. Adapting practical strategies can help:
- Downsizing portions. Calorie restrictions can be achieved by reducing portion size. It's easier, but you must be sure you're still consuming enough nutrients. If you already have a healthy and balanced diet, this method could help.
- Not eliminating food groups unless it's advised by your doctor. Every food group offers different nutrients in different quantities. Avoiding certain food groups is not recommended because nutrient deficiencies may occur.
- Eating nutrient-dense meals and snacks. Choose a meal that combines nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, legumes, lean protein, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
- Adapting healthy cooking methods. Choosing cooking methods that don't require much oil, such as grilling, baking, or steaming, can help reduce added fats and calories.
- Limiting high-calorie and low-nutrient foods. Packaged and processed foods will likely contain high amounts of added sugar, fat, and sodium, and they mostly have a low nutrient profile. Limiting those foods can help decrease calories and make room for nutrient-dense foods.
- Practicing mindful eating. Focusing solely on eating can help you recognize hunger cues that help you not overeat.
- Staying hydrated. Thirst can be confused for hunger, so staying hydrated can help you to not eat before you're hungry.
Remember that nutrition programs should be created based on your needs and requirements. It's best to consult a dietitian and doctor to find the best diet that is individualized for your calorie and nutrient needs, dietary requirements, physical activity level, and lifestyle.
- Nutrition Journal. Impact of caloric and dietary restriction regimens on markers of health and longevity in humans and animals: a summary of available findings.
- National Institute of Health. Calorie restriction may benefit healthy adults under 50.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 4 Ways Low-Calorie Diets Can Sabotage Your Health.