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. Iâ€™ve written before about how my body and mind respond well to a high-protein / low-carbohydrate diet. When I am eating that way, itâ€™s probably more of a 60-5-35 dietâ€”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 33-33-33â€”equal amount of calories coming from fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
Self magazineâ€™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 donâ€™t have to be a mathematical genius to calculate caloric ratios for yourselfâ€”but youâ€™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
Doesnâ€™t that sound easy? Well, youâ€™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
Hereâ€™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. Thatâ€™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, youâ€™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 itâ€™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 didnâ€™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. Itâ€™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 didnâ€™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.
Iâ€™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.