Sunday, January 24, 2016

Nutrition Hot Topic: Is it bad?

This month, I have written several posts dedicated to nutrition. I hope you've read them and gotten something from them.  If you haven't had a chance yet, the links are at the bottom of this post.
If you are overweight, if you have battled with the scale for most of your life, you have probably tried just about every diet under the sun.  I know I have.  Many diets tell you what you can eat and can't eat.  They tell you what is bad and what is good.  They recommend certain combinations of foods.  Eat an apple with a piece of chicken.  Eat beats with plain tuna fish.  Some fad diets have no scientific basis to even support their claims.  Others are completely impractical.  I follow flexible dieting because it allows  me to eat what I want, as long as I am within my daily calories and aim for my macro goals each day.  Let me repeat that.  I can eat what I want.  There are no restricted foods.

In Secrets to Success, I told you there are no bad foods. And this is true. However, in this post, I want to talk a little about foods to avoid or have very sparingly.  I will also share some wise substitutions for the ones you may normally favor.

One: to start with, you want to limit anything and severely restrict foods refined sugar.   

I love sugar and sugary sweet everything, but Sugar is Enemy #1.  If you turn on the news or any talk show, you're sure to hear about how bad it is and how much sugar Americans eat.  Before I started this journey, the news reported that sugar is an addiction.  I thought, "Yeah, I can see that, but sugar is in everything, so how do you live without it?"  I also thought, "Ok, it used to be that eggs were bad for you.  Then it was fat that was bad for you.  Now it's sugar."  How do you really know what's good and what's not?  How can you be sure?

What I found is this: if I eat something sweet or high in carbs, I crave more.  If I have a handful of peanut m&m's, it turns into two or three.  If I have one serving (1/2 cup)of Breyer's coffee ice cream (only 100 calories for 1/2 cup, but 12 grams sugar), I need MORE.  If I eat one oatmeal raisin cookie, I need a second or third.  The more sugar I have, the more I desire.  I recently read an article about this.  When you eat any carbohydrates, your pancreas sends out insulin to process the sugar.  If it releases too much insulin, it wants more and more.

If you are trying to lose weight, you obviously know you need to limit cookies, cake and candy.  But you want to be aware of the amount of sugar in everything you eat.  Look at the nutrition facts on your labels.  Read the ingredients.  If you drink 4 oz. orange juice, yes there is sugar in the OJ, but there isn't added sugar to the beverage (unless you buy something orange flavored).  But if you eat a 100 calorie granola bar, you're left hungry for more.  In the past, I bought Kirkland's granola bars.  The ingredients include molasses, sugar, fructose and liquid invert sugar.  The 100 calorie bar only has 6 grams of sugar, but that's enough to disrupt your blood sugar levels.  Watch the labels, read the ingredients.  Pay attention to not only the number of grams of sugar, but also the sugars it contains.  Anything that ends in "ose" is sugar:  dextrose, fructose, maltose.  Anything that says "syrup" contains sugar.  Look too at salad dressings, condiments and cereals.  One tablespoon of ketchup has 4 grams of sugar! When was the last time you had only 1 Tbsp. ketchup?  My raisin brand has 16 grams of sugar in one serving!

Two:  limit your starchy foods.  

Starchy foods are breads, pasta, rice, potatoes and corn.  Anything made with these ingredients would be considered starchy (crackers, cereal, and chips).  Starches are carbohydrates, but these particular ones tend to spike your blood sugar levels (glycemic index), unlike fruits, vegetables and legumes.  For the most part, I really don't eat bread or white potatoes at all.  If I do, it's rare.

From Healthy Eating:

If you are trying to lose weight, keeping your daily starch and sugar intake down can be beneficial to promote fat burning. Consuming too many carbohydrates, whether they come from starches or natural or added sugars, triggers the release of insulin from your pancreas, which inhibits fat burning and promotes fat storage. To lose weight, reduce your intake of starchy carbohydrates, including bread, rice and potatoes, to a minimum until you start losing weight at a healthy pace of 1 to 2 pounds a week.

Three:  cut back on processed meats.  

Last October, a panel of experts from the World Health Organization came to the conclusion that processed meats like ham, bacon and hot dogs cause colon cancer and that red meat probably does too.  You probably  heard about it.  It was all over the news.  I've read the reports and I don't know what the chances are of contracting cancer from bacon, but I do know that processed foods are best eaten sparingly.  We do love hot dogs in this house.  That's a hard one for us to give up.  But I can tell you, I eat very little of this kind of food.  It's not even so much that it's processed or that they think it might cause cancer, it's all the junk inside of them that makes me pause:  sodium nitrate and sugar (or corn syrup) are the two biggies.

While you might like your hot dogs or bacon and eggs, have it once in a while, not every day or even every week.  Limit your intake.  Instead of eating deli meat, make your sandwich with left over chicken breast.

Four:  Better options.

I'm a huge proponent of changing your nutrition to be healthy, but at the same time what you can live with for the distance.  That's why I like flexible dieting so much.  I have all but cut out certain foods (like pasta and gravy).  What I have done is substitute foods for others I used to favor.

Sweet Potatoes vs. Spuds (White potatoes)
London Broil, broccoli and sweet potatoes.  Delicious!
I have learned to love sweet potatoes.  Not only are they delicious, but they are easy to prepare and taste as good (or even better, IMHO) than regular spuds.  I have baked, mashed, roasted and served them as fries.  Regular spuds are not bad.  Really, they aren't.  It's just that I want butter and sour cream on my baked potatoes, whereas I can eat a baked sweet potato plain.  Just mash it up with my fork and viola!  Sweet potatoes are slightly better for your glycemic index, which is why I eat them over white spuds.  Both are rich in vitamins (albeit different ones).  It's really the toppings you have to watch out for.  So, if you have to have your baked potato (white), skip the butter and try topping it with plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.  Just make sure you add the yogurt to your calories (or points) for the day.

Spaghetti vs. Squash 

I'll be honest.  I tried spaghetti squash.  I don't like it.  For me it was a pathetic substitute.  I got to thinking about it and I realized the spaghetti squash doesn't really tasted like spaghetti, the texture is weird and that is what threw me.  Since I really love Ratatouille (made with marinara sauce), I thought, "Why not try zucchini instead of spaghetti squash?"  I love it.  Now when I make Italian for dinner, the family has pasta and I have zucchini.  I don't bother to spiral cut the zucchini, I just thinly slice and steam it, serving the sauce over the squash.  I add a little parmesan cheese to it and am happy as can be.  If I make the sauce with ground turkey or make turkey meatballs, I will eat LOTS of this and even allow myself a piece of garlic bread.  We are having Italian on Tuesday for dinner and I can't wait.

Raisin Bran vs. Oatmeal
Which one would YOU pick?
To be honest, I rarely eat cereal.  I have found that I need protein first thing in the morning or I don't function well for the rest of the day.  My breakfast is typically an egg frittata with vegetables (and possibly feta cheese) or a protein shake.  There are days when I want cereal, so I'll eat some Kashi Go Lean Crisp.  The sugar content in most cereals is too high for me.  If my blood sugar spikes in the morning, I struggle all day.  I do have cereal in the house for my family, but I don't eat it.
My morning protein shake.  I made this one with unsweetened pumpkin.  
I was eating instant oatmeal at night if I needed extra calories.  But the sugar...  I haven't quite gotten used to the idea of eating plain oatmeal, so I have never eaten that. I have a recipe with chia seeds, almond milk and a banana.  I'm going to try that this week and see how I like it.  If it goes well, I'll post a picture and put it up here.  I am always trying new things.

Oats and oatmeal are really good for you.  They are an excellent source of fiber and have a low glycemic index.  This magical combination promotes heart health and supports weight loss, just to name a couple benefits of oatmeal.  Since I'm a pretty wary of adding sugar, I've shied away from the oatmeal breakfast. I do substitute oats for white flour pretty consistently.  I just put the oats in my blender (or food processor) to make my own flour.  I also use oats in my protein pancakes and homemade granola (which I eat during cycling season).

Oatmeal wins hands down.


I don't eat bread.  I do eat bread, but hardly ever (occasionally garlic bread).   If I do eat bread, it's either double protein or double fiber or a sandwich thin.

I don't eat much bread because I want my carbs from other sources.  There is nothing wrong with bread.  Really, there's not.  But I want my carbs to come from fruits and vegetables.  Bread, like a bagel, leaves me feeling hungry within a short time and uses up most of my carbs for the entire day.  For lunch, I prefer eating a salad with LOTS of protein, leaving me feeling satisfied for hours.  If I feel like I need carbs, I eat a piece of fresh fruit.

When I am riding my bike, I need more carbs, especially simple ones my body can use right away.  It took me a LONG time to give in, but Dmitriy told me to eat a PBJ sandwich on white bread right before a ride.  White bread, really?  There is no nutritional value to white bread?  What the?  When I am riding, my body needs a lot of fuel, in the form of carbohydrates.  If I don't give it what it needs, I hit a wall.  So I listened.  It worked.  The first PBJ sandwich I had tasted like heaven.  Pure heaven.

So, if you are a runner, if you are doing a lot of cardio or are training hard, you can afford more carbs, in fact you need more carbs.  But if you are trying to lose weight, skip the bread as often as you can.

To close, I want to refer you to this fantastic article by  Eat More Food to Lose More Weight.  It is one of the best articles I have read about nutrition in a while.  It's worth the read.  Check it out!!

Here are links to other posts where I discuss nutrition.  They are worth a second (or first) view if you are serious about flexible dieting as an option.

Carbs:   The first in a two-part series dedicated to carbs.  What are they?  Why do we need them?

Carbs 2 Part two.  WHY are carbs such a struggle?  What's good?  What's better?  What's best when consumed sparingly?

Fabulous Fiber:  A brief discussion about the benefits of a high fiber diet.

Successful Secrets:  Two simple strategies I practice every day which helped me to lose weight and to now keep it off.
Successful Secrets: Part Two:  How planning my week's meals helps me to stay on track.  Menu and recipe ideas.

Nutrition 101, I talk about meal prep and provided you with several recipes and meal suggestions to get you started.  Check it out!

Flexible Dieting Basics:  A basic explanation of flexible tracking calories and macronutrients has been the most successful way for me to lose weight and keep it off.

Tracking Calories with MFP:  Some features of MyFitnessPal (MFP) explained.  This post has some tricks of the trade.

Foods to Try:  These are foods I try to always keep on hand and a couple recipes too.

Cravings:  Some tips on how to stave off and handle cravings when they hit.  

Wonder Woman:  I explain how I got the nickname "Wonder Woman" by tracking all my calories and macronutrients.  I give a brief explanation of macros here.

A Calorie is Not a Calorie:  This post talks about the different effect foods have on you.

Questions for you: 
(Answer in the comment section below.)
How was your weekend?  What was the best thing you did or ate this weekend?

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