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Day #19: Be conscious of your food choices

Posted Jan 27 2010 3:55pm
You know if you run comfortably at 10 minutes per mile you aren't going to run a 20 minute 5K at your next race. It is quite clear that you can't be comfortable with your current routine if you want to see a change in your routine. That's not to say that you can't enjoy your training routine but your body appreciates variety, especially when it gets bored with the same thing, day after day.
The body has strange ways of telling us that we are doing something right with our exercise/training routine. Your clothes begin to feel a bit looser, your muscles become more noticeable (that's a good thing ladies), you have more energy on a daily basis, workouts become easier and you learn to enjoy the soreness in your quads after a hard spin class or hill run. Personally, my body has a way of telling me that I swim way too much but I've learned to love my chlorine skin since I began competitive swimming in 1994. :)
Our body also has ways of telling us that we are doing something right with our nutrition habits. Your clothes begin to feel a bit looser, your muscles become more noticeable, you have more energy, workouts become more efficient, your skin, nails, teeth and hair look better, your bowel movements become more regular and most of all, your outlook on life changes.
Speaking of changes, I recently watched Michael Pollan, who was on Oprah today (1/27/09). He was discussing his 2008 documentary FOOD, INC.
http://www.foodincmovie.com/about-the-film.php

If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. I am not one to preach about nutrition and food, I am here to educate. I do not feel that everyone should be a vegetarian nor do I feel that your diet needs to be organic. I have thoughts regarding exercise that go against current ASCM recommendations and I have my own beliefs on sports nutrition for an Ironman triathlon.
I enjoy watching documentary's because they are eye-opening. They make you think. Sometimes documentaries make me upset but sometimes they make me want to change something in my life.

Here's a blurb about the movie:
How much do we really know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families?

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.


Karel and I watched the movie (I think pay-per-view) when it came out and it was really hard to watch. Informative but ethically uneasy at times....especially for a big animal lover who is also a vegetarian. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've seen the movie.

When it comes to food, I think we all have our own ideas of what food can do for the body. For us athletes, I think we could all agree that food is fuel. We fuel and recover with food in an effort to perform. For many people (athletes included), unfortunately, food is the enemy.... "It makes me fat". While some food is too good to resist other food is "bad".

After watching the Oprah show today, one big issue came to mind. What are we eating?
Here's my idea of a typical breakfast for the person wanting to start eating "healthy"





I thought about adding grapes

but that might be seen as a "bad" food due to the "sugar" in grapes.

I'm sure we would all agree that a healthy diet is not rich in fat-free, sugar-free, calorie-free foods. However, I would be a hypocrite if I said that you shouldn't have these foods in your diet.
I choose real shredded cheese over fat-free cheese, whipped cream cheese over plain fat-free cream cheese and slow churn or yogurt-based ice cream over fat-free. But I enjoy low-sugar jelly and fat-free sour cream instead of the real thing. Specifically because I don't really notice (or mind) a difference between the real and sugar-free/fat-free version. However I do mind eating fat-free cheese because I use to eat it religiously because I thought that cheese was bad due to fats (back in my "diet" book days when I was trying to learn to be healthy) and I learned that I would rather eat a little of the real stuff than a lot of the fake stuff. To no surprise...I didn't gain weight with the real stuff!
While choosing a reduced calorie, sugar or fat food will certainly save you calories, it is not wise to replace a perfectly healthy food with a "fake" and processed food. I recently read in my Nutrition Action newsletter that women should have no more than 100 calories (or around 25g) of added sugar per day and men should have no more than 150 calories (or around 35g). I think we would all agree that choosing low sugar or sugar-free jelly over the jam will save you calories and sugar in your daily diet.
But when it comes to whole grains, healthy fats and lean and low fat protein, what's the purpose of choosing Light bread when there are several breads on the market (Nature's Own) that offer more fiber and a similar number of calories in one slice than in 2 slices of the "light" version. When there are many health-benefits of honey, wouldn't it be better to choose real honey over sugar-free honey or sweet n' low when adding sweetness to your oatmeal or smoothie? Additionally, if are avoiding potatoes due to the "carbs" but choosing to eat fat-free pringles instead, I have a feeling that your GI system would appreciate an olestra-free version in an effort to help you feel less bloated and healthy in the inside.

My tip for day 19 is to be conscious what you eat. When you read food labels of "lighter" foods, do a comparison of the sugar, calories, fat, etc. When something is taken out, something is added. If a cheese is reduced fat, it is likely higher in sodium than the regular version (believe me, I've checked). If a food is fat-free, it likely contains sugar or as many calories (if not more) as the real food. Furthermore, for my savvy shoppers, generic foods are typically identical to name brands. If you are choosing a named-brand low fat yogurt for 60 calories at 80 cents, over a 90 calorie yogurt at 34 cents, think of what 30 calories would really do to your daily caloric value. Furthermore, if you are like me and stock up on 10-20 yogurts per week, you can save up to $10 for 20 yogurts/week just by choosing the "higher" calorie, yet more affordable, yogurt.
My next suggestion is to fill up on the natural foods first (whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean/low fat protein) with very few ingredients and then add in your fat-free, calorie-free, sugar-free items. My hope is that these "fake" foods (just read the ingredient list) will become minimal in your diet as you find other healthy ways to add flavor and nutrients to your meal (think sodium-free spices and herbs). There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing sugar-free jelly on your whole grain, high fiber bread but in an effort to feel satisfied with your meal, add natural PB and a piece of fruit. Now that's what I call conscious and healthy eating.

I don't believe in sticking to "rules" with eating. There are certainly foods to emphasize and de-emphasize but no food will make you "fat" if you eat it once. You may feel bad after eating it, but surely, your butt will not grow by eating 1 french fry.
I believe in eating consciously and loving what you put in your body. If you eat well most of the time, you don't have to worry about the rest of the time. :)

Here are Michael Pollan’s Top 20 Food Rules from Readers:
*I agree with most, but not all, quotes. However, they all make you think.

1. Don't eat egg salad from a vending machine.

2. Don’t eat anything that took more energy to ship than to grow.

3. If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry.

4. Eat foods in inverse proportion to how much its lobby spends to push it.

5. Avoid snack foods with the "OH" sound in their name: Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, Hostess HO HOS

6. No second helpings, no matter how scrumptious.
*my exception to this rule is if it fruits and veggies..then keep going back for more :)

7. It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor.

8. You may not leave the table until you finish your fruit.

9. You don’t get fat on food you pray over. (Meals prepared at home, served at the table and given thanks for are more appreciated and more healthful than food eaten on the run.)

10. Breakfast you should eat alone. Lunch you should share with a friend. Dinner, give to your enemy.

11. Never eat something that is pretending to be something else: e.g., no "textured vegetable protein" or veggie burgers (fake meat), no artificial sweeteners, no margarine (fake butter), no "low fat" sour cream, no turkey bacon, no "chocolate-flavor sauce" that doesn't contain chocolate, no "quorn". If I want something that tastes like meat or butter, I would rather have the real thing than some chemical concoction pretending to be more healthful.

12. Don’t yuck someone’s yum. There is someone out there who likes deep-fried sheep eyeballs and, well, more power to them.

13. Make and take your own lunch to work.

14. Eat until you are seven-tenths full and save the other three-tenths for hunger.

15. GO HO – incorporate five different cooking methods, GO SHIKI – incorporate five colors, GO MI – incorporate five flavors.

16. The law of diminishing marginal utility reminds a person that each additional bite is generally less satisfying than the previous bite. This helps a person slow down, savor the first bites, stop eating sooner.

17. Don't eat anything that you aren't willing to kill yourself.

18. When drinking tea, just drink tea. This Zen teaching is useful, given an inclination toward information absorption in the morning, when you are also trying to eat breakfast, get the dog out, start the fire and organize your day.

19. When you’re eating, don’t talk about other past meals, whether better or worse. Focus on what’s in front of you.

20. After spending some time working with people with eating disorders, don’t create arbitrary rules for eating if their only purpose is to help you feel in control.


ABOUT MICHAEL POLLAN
Pollan is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was named one of the ten best books of the year by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. Pollan appears in Food, Inc. a food industry documentary and The Botany of Desire, recently broadcast on PBS. Pollan is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley.
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