Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Menu planning... The grand Finale

OK, here it is, I'm going to try and tie all of this nutrition stuff together.

We started with basic bioenergetics. You have to expend more energy than you consume in order to lose weight. That's it, there's nothing else to it.

We then talked about choosing good carbohydrates that are filling and minimizing (eliminating) simple carbohydrates that contribute to hunger. Foods that are higher in fiber and less processed are generally more filling.

Our next topic was Protein, which is the most satiating macronutrient. Although animal products have long been thought to be the best source of protein, meat consumption is closely linked to obesity and many people are getting their protein from a variety of plant sources like beans, lentils and whole grains.

Finishing off the macronutrients, we talked about Fats. Saturated fats are bad, MUFAs are neutral and PUFAs are good as long as you get the right PUFAs. To improve your fat consumption eating less meat and processed foods and more wild fish and plant sources of fats.

The last post that I had was on food processing and how foods in their natural state are more likely to fill you up in the long run than are processed foods.

I'm going to give some vague guidelines for choosing foods and allow you to make these guidelines work in your life. If you have questions, post a comment and I will respond, but the most important attribute to a successful diet is that you have to be willing to follow it forever.

When you choose foods, choose the foods with the least packaging. That's it. The more processed a food, the more packaging a company puts around it and the more processed (least like you would find it in nature) a food is, the more it contributes to weight gain. I get my cereal out of the bulk section, or sometimes in 50# bags of oats, barley, etc. Most breakfast cereals come in a bag that is contained within a box. You can get long cook and instant oatmeal in similar containers, and the long cook is much better for you, but generally this rule stands.

I will make an exception with vegetables. Buy them fresh when you can (especially from farmer's markets), but frozen vegetables are essentially the same (and during the off season they can be superior). Canned is fine also, except they often add salt or "cream o'". In my opinion canned vegetables just taste bad, so I don't eat them.

Grains, we buy ours whole and then grind them ourselves. They store forever whole, but once you crack the berries they will go rancid (if they still contain the natural oils). They should go rancid if you leave them out, that means they contain everything that they did when they were harvested. Buy foods that go bad, it's a natural process that should occur. (Don't eat food gone bad, but foods that don't go bad have been "modified" so that they won't go bad and that wasn't done for the benefit of your waistline.)

Protein should come primarily from beans, lentils and whole grains. This is important and something I'm struggling with now. You cannot get vitamin B12 from a vegan diet, so I'm not vegan. I eat fish at least a couple times a week (for the B12 and good fats in fish). I also eat eggs on occasion (once a month?) They are a great source of B12 as well as other nutrients. I don't think that you have to be vegan or even a vegetarian to eat a healthy weight loss diet, but making a conscious effort to avoid meat makes you conscious of what you are eating which is critical in weight loss. If you want meat in your diet, watch for meat processing. Of course bacon, sausage and bologna are processed, but what about your average cow, pig or chicken that is pumped full of hormones and fattened up as quickly as possible to aid in the fattening of the farmers wallet. The vast majority of meat available at the store is from poor conditions that make the animal less healthy.

I want to talk more about this, take fish for example. I've said many times that fish are a good source of n-3s which are an extremely healthy fat. Salmon is the best source of n-3s, but only if it is wild caught salmon. They have started farming salmon in little pens where they are fed corn. Farmed salmon are nearly as low as beef in n-3s. Similar can be said for beef, chicken, pork, etc. The fast growth techniques used by farmers are depriving the consumer of nutrients, so try to stick with wild game or at least free range animals. I recognize that wild game will not sustain a population, so decreasing meat consumption is something everyone should be doing.

I've talked a little about the fats in salmon, but manufacturers are going beyond that. The community is demanding that we get rid of trans fats, so manufacturers are engineering new margarines that are trans-fat free. That's wonderful, except the vegetable oil that they use from engineered vegetables is made up of almost entirely n-6 fats which will further increase our problems getting enough n-3s.

So what you end up with for an ideal diet is vegetables composing nearly 50% of at least two meals a day (lunch and dinner). Add fruits to your diet a few times a day. You should have some protein in the form of nuts, beans or lentils with every meal to help with satiation. Whole grains should be the primary component of breakfast, and brown rice, whole grain pasta, potatoes (which aren't a grain and are a fairly simple carbohydrate that should be limited to a certain extent), beans, and a variety of grains that you can learn more about should be a part (25%) of lunch and dinner. Fish should be consumed about twice a week (more you risk mercury issues, less you aren't getting your n-3s). Other meats should be consumed sparingly. Sparingly doesn't mean a little with each meal. Sparingly means once or twice a week is more than enough.

Here it is, the conclusion. I want to preface this with the fact that my diet ideas are based on a master's degree in exercise physiology and nearly a degree in nutrition. I'm also currently working on a PhD in health promotion and that is where I came up with the ideas. Another of my passions is the environment. Notice that the diet I just outlined is one of the most eco-friendly diets possible. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lentils all grow readily around the world. Meat consumption uses LOTS more water and causes LOTS more pollution than a plant based diet. This eating plan is not only the best way to conserve your health, it is also the best way to conserve the planet.

I may talk calcium and bone health next time, or I may talk about the exercise component of weight loss. Let me know what you want to know about and I'll accomidate.


Chad said...

Hey Sans,

I’ve really enjoyed your series on nutrition. I’ve been re-reading it this morning instead of working, so you’re partially responsible for my low productivity at work today. Don’t feel bad; if it wasn’t you, I’d find something or somebody else do distract me.

After reading your nutrition series, I feel like my diet is generally heading in the right direction, my love of taco stands notwithstanding. Perhaps avoiding them for Lent is only the beginning? But I have a few questions for you.

First of all, I know you don’t like milk, but I really enjoy a pint of chocolate milk after a race. I rationalize that it’s got a good balance of carbohydrates and protein, and is much cheaper than any of the recovery-specific drinks on the market. What do you think of this? I buy organic chocolate milk when I can find it. And what do you think of the whole protein after exercise for muscle recovery trend, is it for real?

Next, my wife and I won’t buy anything with high fructose corn syrup in it, but it’s in so many things that it’s nearly impossible to avoid. Our families think we’re nuts about this, because we don’t know exactly why it’s bad. Even you said a little fructose was OK, so what’s the difference? Is it mostly because foods with HFCS are also highly processed and have long shelf lives? Or is it inherently evil because the corn lobby and powerful congressmen from Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas have pushed it on us? Now they’re plugging ethanol as the answer to our energy woes.

Sorry I was getting off topic, but there was just one more thing. Can you send me some good bean and lentil recipes? How ‘bout some for the crock pot, since that is the outer limit of my culinary skill.


Norm said...

I suppose I'm mostly interested in your comment on paleo versus non-paleo diet. A lot of people in your shoes, as well as the medical industry, would disagree with you about where your protein should come from. Personally I derive my protein from both lean meats/fish and grains, so I don't really subscribe to either pro/anti paleo.

I don't drink milk but I also don't necessarily buy that humans shouldn't, especially in light of the recent findings that seem to suggest descendants of Europeans have actually developed the ability to digest milk perfectly well. That would be in-line with rapid evolution (as opposed to allow linear evolution).

I guess what strikes me most is the "should" versus "should not" tone the series of articles takes. I'm pretty interested in all of this so of course I have my formulated opinions on everything under the sun, and as expected I agree with some (but not all) of what you write. I think there are some absolutes (no to hydrogenation, yes to whole foods, etc) but there are a lot of grey areas such as nuts, meats, grains and dairy that can be argued either way.

Regardless, it's a good series of articles and I think you could spring off some tangentials before you get into bone density and so on. Such as the debate on milk, or the Paleo debate on grains. I also think a good article (or 2) on using whole grains as a practical matter would be of great benefit for some of us who are interested. I currently use amaranth, spelt, quinoa, oats, and brown rice. But the thought of grinding my own wheat never crossed my mind. Maybe just a cross section of the grain you use, how/where you buy them, how you store them, how you grind/prepare them, and how you eat them.

Thanks for the efforts!


Anonymous said...

hey sans

can i call you sans?
great wee articles
bought some brown rice, oatmeal, beans and lentils yesterday - so see you are changing the world
(or well you will be if i ever eat them - but of little acorns etc.)

i would certainly vote for a ca++, vit d, bone health thing
i think here in the frozen north low bone mass in kids is almost becoming an epidemic

also i would like to know your thoughts on supplementation - do you think it is necessary? and if so with what?

otherwise keep up the good work



Taylor said...

I love your column and I'm heading in the direction of your diet recs.

If I'm not a raving tree-hugger like you are you still convinced that this diet is the absolute best?

Emily said...

Yay! I love your articles and I have learned a TON! Thank you very much. Keep them coming. I think you are good at dumbing down the nutrition facts for us normal folks. Last week we went shopping and bought most of our groceries in the fresh vegie and fruits section. I think our transition to a better diet will be slow, but i think it will last.
Thank you for helping us!