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What in the world is a discretionary calorie?

What in the world is a discretionary calorie?

Food provides calories. Calories provide energy. Our bodies need energy so that we can breathe, think, move, and do the things we enjoy like gardening, playing basketball, dancing and taking walks.

A certain number of calories are needed each day to provide energy. Routinely exceeding this number results in weight gain; whereas when you consume only the number of calories you need each day then body weight stays the same. This is known as energy balance. Think of this ideal number of calories as your calorie budget.

You can spend it in many ways. But it’s important to spend it wisely so that you get all of the essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and protein that your body needs. Once your essential nutrient needs are met (in other words, you have provided your body with all of the vitamins, minerals, protein, etc. that it requires), then any remaining calories left in your budget are referred to as discretionary calories.

They can be spent however you wish. Think of it like having extra money in your bank account after all of your bills have been paid for the month. It’s nice to have these extra calories in case you want to enjoy a special treat. Yet not spending these discretionary calories can prompt weight loss.

Consider now how you typically spend your discretionary caloric budget.
Is it a latte each morning?
A soda during break?
A bowl of ice cream before bed?

Most of us can identify at least one source of discretionary calories that we routinely consume. Leaving this one source of discretionary calories out of our day might not be easy but it’s important. By making the choice to exclude this one source from our diet each day, we can move closer to a healthy weight.

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