Tag Archives: obesity

From the Archives: Our Unhealthy Attachment to Volume

This photo has nothing to do with this post, or with food, but it's a good inspiration to get outside and be active!

Maintaining a healthy weight is, for the most part, about what you eat. Yes, working out and being active definitely helps; but, for most people, food is about 80% of weight maintenance. Unfortunately, we’ve developed a really unhealthy relationship, as a country, to food.

From the post I wrote in May, 2011 to kick off my “Back to Basics” nutrition series.

“We’ve been mislead about how to have a healthy relationship with food. For some reason, we’ve been taught to think that “good” or “healthy” eating and nutrition is about getting the largest volume of food into our stomachs with the least amount of calories. I am not sure where this trend started, but it’s definitely perpetuated in our food marketing, media, and a lot of nutrition advice.  Our society’s idea of nutrition has become about how much sheer volume we can pack into ourselves without “exceeding calories.” Read More…

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From the Archives: Your Body Isn’t a Game

No matter how hard you try to crunch those numbers, eating a salad doesn’t make that ice cream have less calories.

“So, stop trying to min-max your diet like it’s a character sheet.

I can’t tell you the number of questions I get about random, weird “diet tricks” and nutrition. These things pretty invariably come from people who want to keep eating an unhealthy diet while griping that they can’t lose weight and keep it off.  Truth for those people: you know what you need to do, so stop trying to play the numbers.” Read More…


From the Archives: Uncomfortable Truths

“There are things people just need to be told, and that get danced around too often. Some of these are uncomfortable, some “gross,” some thing you just don’t talk about in polite society. Unfortunately, these silent issues are hurting our national health, our individual health, and most especially our kid’s health.

This is going to be unpopular. ”   Read More…


From the Archives: The Kids Are Home, Hide the Veggies!

This is, hands down, my all-time most popular post. It was also one of the most controversial, which surprised me . The comments got a bit crazy with people taking things to extremes (like the one person who talks about how dare I and other readers say you shouldn’t cut veggies up for toddlers so they don’t choke, which clearly no one ever said), but many are worth reading (note, there are a lot of them).

I stand by my stance than hiding vegetables by pureeing them beyond recognition and combining them with cheese or in sweets that otherwise wouldn’t call for them (obviously, zucchini bread is called that for a reason) and then pretending kids are eating vegetables is ridiculous, and teaches kids nothing about good eating.  I have no idea how some people took that to mean that if you cut vegetables up and put them in a soup or casserole I think it’s an issue. I don’t. It’s making the vegetables totally unrecognizable as vegetables and tricking kids into eating them by pretending they’re unhealthy foods  (and, incidentally, losing most of their nutrient value and usually adding a pile of calories  in the process) that is the issue. So, what do you think?

NPR did a story about what a great idea it is to get kids to eat vegetables at school by adding vegetable puree to the school lunch cheese sauce at lunch time.  There’s a whole movement, including cookbooks, on how to get your child to eat vegetables by hiding them in brownies, cakes, cheese sauces, etc.  I can’t even begin to express how much I loathe this entire idea. It’s faulty from it’s toes to it’s nose, it’s destructive, and it’s just stupid.” Read more


Predicting the Demise of Paleo, and What’s On the Menu

Before we get to what we’re eating this week, I thought I’d take a moment to make a prediction. A lot of people are having really amazing results in a variety of areas eating “Paleo,” which essentially means lots of meat and veggies, no grains and little/no sugars other than those naturally occurring in fruits and veggies.  There are a lot of pluses to this lifestyle, and the science behind the results is also pretty good.  That said, The End of that success is coming, just as it has for most diets that start out so well from Atkins to vegetarian.

Why? Because the thing is, when most of these diets/lifestyles/whatever you want to call them come out, what is most effective about them is that they 1) limit your food choices and 2) get you away from processed foods. Unfortunately, as soon as they catch on, so do manufacturers. Which means that both of those things go away, and more and more people flock to the diet because they can now have anything they want again! Except that it doesn’t work that way.

When I was a vegetarian, it was next to impossible to be a fat vegetarian, because your options were fresh vegetables and grains (and, in my case, eggs and dairy because I was lacto-ovum). Fast forward to today, and you can get vegetarian “meat,” which is so processed and full of crap that almost nothing on the label is recognizable. Today, we have lots of fat, unhealthy vegetarians. Yes, there are also healthy vegetarians who eat whole foods and at one time, that was a default of being vegetarian; but, since it’s caught on, the lifestyle itself no longer takes real thought about health. Anyone can “be a vegetarian,” and just go to the store and replace non-vegetarian crap “food” with vegetarian crap “food.”

This was the same with, say, Atkins. It started out being highly effective because it really limited food choices and took away the vast majority of processed foods.  When people have limited food choices, they tend to eat less. This is true of processed foods, as well, and has the added bonus of getting rid of the fat-packing empty calories and weight-gaining chemicals.  Once manufacturers caught on, they started producing “Atkin’s Friendly” crap, which consumers snatched up like the world was ending. Which is when the diet began to fail, because two of it’s primary components of success were taken away for most people (especially those who decided to switch to the Atkins lifestyle without bothering to read the book).

Paleo is catching on. Whatever you think of it’s ethics, it’s also very effective for weight loss and maintenance, at least in part for the same reasons vegetarianism and Atkins initially were. Which means that, if it hasn’t happened already, we’re going to soon see “Paleo friendly” processed junk hitting the market, mostly stuff that wouldn’t otherwise be on the diet. I betcha a dollar to a donut that if it’s not already out there, we’ll see Paleo bread mass-marketed within the net 12 months. Yes, there will still be the people who do it right, but there’ll be a whole lot more who do it wrong. Again. Because they want to believe in magic.

So, with that out of my ranting way, here’s this week’s On the Menu:

Dinners

Sunday:  Chicken tikka masala over saffron rice. Okay, you have to use local or organic chicken with this, just just do. I admit I used neither, since we had some chicken given to us that wasn’t and it needed to get used. It turned out awful. Well, the sauce was great, but the chicken itself was appalling. Every time this happens, I remember why we don’t eat conventional chicken. Ick.

Monday: Sloppy joes with 3-potato salad and green beans.  Mmmm… grass fed beef with homemade sloppy joe sauce. So good! The potato salad was leftover from our weekend picnic with friends, and fresh green beans.  You’re going to notice that most of our menu this week is geared to limited cooking, and some batch cooking. It’s just too darn hot to do anything else!

Tuesday (tonight): Sliced, cold London Broil over fresh greens, with steamed cauliflower. We grilled the London Broil on Sunday, so no cooking tonight. The broil came out great–the grass fed makes a huge difference.

Wednesday: Chicken & vegetable kabobs over black rice. The kabobs were also done on Sunday. We’ll just reheat them quickly, and I’ll make the rice outside on the deck with my rice cooker.

Thursday: Falafel with mujadara. The heat is supposed to break, so we’re making homemade falafel and flatbread, as well as mujadara (an lentil-parsley-rice salad).  I’ll whip up a tzaziki sauce, and it’ll be served with fresh tomatoes.

Friday: Black bean & banana empanadas. It’s time to make a huge batch of these up again and toss them in the freezer for quick lunches.

Saturday: Leftovers day. Time to clean out the refrigerator!

Breakfasts are kefir, yogurt, fruit, granola, eggs, and homemade toast. Lunches are leftovers and smoothies (I don’t eat much when it’s hot out, so I drink a lot of smoothies).

How are you keeping cool and eating well this week?


Volume Discount. Or, Stop Playing With Your Food!

We’ve been mislead about how to have a healthy relationship with food. For some reason, we’ve been taught to think that “good” or “healthy” eating and nutrition is about getting the largest volume of food into our stomachs with the least amount of calories. I am not sure where this trend started, but it’s definitely perpetuated in our food marketing, media, and a lot of nutrition advice.  Our society’s idea of nutrition has become about how much sheer volume we can pack into ourselves without “exceeding calories.”

This is not a healthy way to eat. It’s not a healthy relationship for our nation to have with food. If it were, we wouldn’t have the skyrocketing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related disease rates we do today. The answer is simple, but it goes against the unfortunate American value that “bigger is better,” and the more you have the more you’re worth. Ergo, the more you can eat and stay “skinny,” the better you are, the healthier you must be.

There are many reasons that most people who lose weight put it back on, but one of the biggest is this: they have not changed their relationship with food and food culture. We’ve gotten used to feeling “full” all the time, and believing that it is necessary and good to feel this way. That we should be able to eat large amounts of food without gaining weight. That we all “deserve” to be able to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and that it’s nutritionally reasonable to poke, pull, and tweak foods to fit into what we want them to be instead of what they are.  That we should be able to eat the way we want to eat, instead of the way we need to eat, without consequences. All of this despite demonstrable evidence that it’s a failing formula.

The fix for this is simple, and the more research that is done, the more it’s holding up: eat quality, whole, nutrient-dense foods, and eat them in an appropriate quantity.

A skin-on, bone-in chicken breast has only 50 or so more calories than it does skin off, and only about 2.5g saturated fats.* If you’re watching your weight, the answer isn’t to skin your chicken to save 50 calories, it’s to eat less chicken or do more exercise. In my last series about nutrition rules, you’ll note I said eat more veggies, and stop eating whole cuts of meat as frequently. Why? Because it makes far more sense to eat more vegetables and get the fiber and nutrients, while eating less meat and dairy but still getting the complete and natural fats, than it does to find “work-arounds.”

But what about those FDA “portion” sizes? It’s important to remember those are generalizations (and, frankly, bad ones). For a smaller/shorter person, a reasonable portion is much less. For a taller/larger person, much more.   Yes, as a small person I’ll be able to eat less skin-on chicken or whole milk than my partner, who is extremely tall, will be able to eat. And, that’s okay. It’s okay to eat less food, or less than than an “FDA” portion of a certain food. It’s okay to stock up on green veggies and take a smaller portion of the whole higher-calorie whole food, of which more and more studies are showing that removing nutrients (including fat) has detrimental effects (or, at the very least, removes potential beneficial effects and essential nutrients). Saturated fats are now being shown to help balance HDL and LDL cholesterol, for example. Which doesn’t mean an overabundance of saturated fats are good for you, either. Again, the answer is simply to eat it, just eat less of it.

This isn’t a new or even radical viewpoint on my part. Pretty much this same thing has been said in countless works on the subject, including the best-selling “French Women Don’t Get Fat.”  French cuisine isn’t exactly known for it’s use of skim milk, margarine, or skinned chicken. Yet, despite it being a best-seller and making the talk-show rounds, eating habits in the US have not changed. We still demand larger and larger portions, and try to find ways to make those portions contain less and less calories.

And yet, as a nation we continue to wonder why we’re getting fatter and sicker.

(Author’s note: Any inflammatoy/name-calling/trolling posts or off-topic vegan/paleo/locavore/whatever proselytizing comments will be deleted.)

* Info from Julie Upton, dietician writing in “Eating Light” magazine. I don’t have this online, so you’ll need to find the issue for yourself.


Back to Basics: Nutrition Rule #8

Plan your meals.

This is something to start small with, but it’s a very necessary step for most people who want to eat a healthful diet based on whole foods.

WHY

-Eating spontaneously leads to poor food choices. When we’re hungry, we don’t usually want to fuss with making something that might take a bit of preparation, we just want to eat.

-Meal planning means have all your ingredients to-hand, while eating on the go means more shopping trips, which make it easier to overspend on groceries and make less ideal food choices.

-It gives you a road map for food preparation, so you can plan time to eat healthfully and meet your nutritional goals.

-It relieves a lot of the stress around meals. Once you get used to doing this, meal times become much more fun and easygoing than having to come home from work, figure out what you’re going to make, run to the store, and then try to cook everything in 15 minutes so you’re not eating at 9PM.

HOW

-Start small. Make a list of 10-14 dinners (depending on how your weekends usually go) that you (and your family) will eat. This is your starting point. Some people, such as ourselves, like to decide which meals will go on which nights. We tend to have kind of erratic schedules, so it helps us to plan who is cooking on what night, what meals will best fit our available preparation time, etc. But, some people do just find with having weekly dinners set up and the groceries purchased, and deciding between those meals each night. Find what works for you.

-Once you have this laid out, you can start adding or switching dinners to your lists each week. Use your meal lists to make your grocery lists.

-Each week, look at your list and assess how healthful the dinners are. If they could use some tweaking, try to do one or two meals a week with simple things, like adding a vegetable or switching from white to brown rice. This makes the transitions a bit easier than trying to do it all at once.

-Allow children who are old enough to help with the plan. They’re more likely to eat healthful foods if they help plan and prepare them!

-Once you’ve got the hang of making a dinner plan, try either breakfasts or lunches, whichever makes more sense for you. We plan most of our dinners to give us leftovers for lunches, which works well for us, but it may not work as well for others.

This will take some getting used to. Most of us are used to eating on the fly, and eating “what we’re in the mood for.” Unfortunately, that’s one of the ways we’ve gotten to be such an unhealthy nation, and it needs to change. Make a solid family commitment to meal plan for at least one month of dinners, and by the end of it, you may find yourself thinking “how did I do this any other way?”