For the past year, my doctor has been trying to get me to try to eat a 30-30-40 diet. In a 30-30-40 diet, 30% of the calories come from fat, 30% of the calories come from carbohydrates, and 40% of the calories come from protein. I’ve written before about how my body and mind respond well to a high-protein / low-carbohydrate diet. When I am eating that way, it’s probably more of a 60-5-35 diet—a lot of protein, even more fat, and very few carbs.
Because each patient is different, the caloric ration your doctor recommends for you may be different than 30-30-40. The most common is probably 33-33-33—equal amount of calories coming from fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
Self magazine’s NutritionData.com site has a huge database of foods and their nutritional value and they even have a Caloric Ratio Search tool that allows you to find foods in their database that meet the caloric ratio you need. Unfortunately, in the search for 30-30-40 foods, there is only one that is exactly 30-30-40 and only seven that are within a 2% variance of these values. Combine that with the fact that most meals are composed of a variety of different food items, and this tool offers very little help.
You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to calculate caloric ratios for yourself—but you’ll probably find it easier if you are. All you have to do is:
- Look up the grams of fat, carbs, and proteins of the food or foods you are considering eating
- Add all the grams of fat together and multiply by 9 to get the total calories from fat
- Add all the grams of carbohydrates together and multiply by 4 to get the total calories from carbohydrates
- Add all the grams of protein together and multiply by 4 to get the total calories from protein
Doesn’t that sound easy? Well, you’re not done yet. There are a few more steps:
- Add all the calories from fat, calories from carbohydrates, and calories from protein to get the total calories
- Divide the calories from fat by the total calories to get the percentage of fat calories
- Divide the calories from carbohydrates by the total calories to get the percentage of carb calories
- Divide the calories from protein by the total calories to get the percentage of protein calories
Here’s an example of what that looks like. This is for a ham and cheese omelet with a side of Raisin Bran in 1% milk.
So, after all that, I know that this is a 35-39-26 meal. That’s a long way from 30-30-40. So, the next thing to do is to take out some foods or add some foods and then do the whole thing all over again. Of course, you’re doing this while you are hungry, so it can be quite a challenge. Yes, there are apps that will do the calculations for you, but it’s still quite a bit of hassle.
After my last visit with my doctor, I was thinking that here had to be an easier way to do this. Maybe even a way that I could eliminate the multiplication and division entirely. As I thought about it, I realized that I didn’t really care what the percentages of each were. What I really cared about was how close they were to my 30-30-40 target. Shifting my thinking from calculating percentages to aiming for a target was just what I needed.
With a target ratio in mind, I created a printable table of the grams for various calorie amounts. This was something I could keep in my wallet and refer to it as needed. In the example above, I can stop after adding up the total grams of fat, carbs, and protein, look at the table to see where 25.6 grams of fat falls. It’s roughly right in the middle between 23.3 and 26.7.
With this amount of fat, my target carb grams should have been about half-way between 52.5 and 60. 64 grams of carbs meant that I had too many carbs. I needed about 75 grams of protein, so I was way low with only 43 grams. It didn’t really matter which number I started with, if I zeroed in on the protein, I could see that both carbs and fat were too high to meet my target.
I realized that this might me a little more useful if I allowed a percentage of variance, since few meals are going to be exactly 30-30-40. I created a spreadsheet to do these calculations for me. I also added the option to change the targets for each one as well as the variance. While I was at it, I added a chart with targets for total grams per day based on the number of calories per day you should consume. I also added a chart to show target calories for each meal, based on the number calories you want to eat each day and the number of meals you eat in a day. There is a lot of information in this chart. Here is what it looks like for a 30-30-40 ratio wtih a 1% variance.
This is the chart I keep in my wallet now.
I’m making this spreadsheet available for anyone who might want to use it to print their own chart for their own.
If you find this useful, please leave a comment below to let me know!
Note: Most other resources refer to the caloric ratios in the order of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. I use the order of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins because that is the top-down order on most Nutrition Facts labels.