For some reason, laziness comes to mind, I don’t get voicemails in a timely fashion. So I got one from my son, asking about shopping choices well after the fact. All I can say is a really hope he reads my blog.
There are a lot of gray areas in eating. This is why they can publish a dozen “Eat This, Not That” books every year. Most of your choices are a question of quality. This is ok, that is better, this is best. Choices of good, better and best are based on your nutrition needs and limitations. Are you vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, pregnant, or growing? Are you eating for your bones, your heart or to prevent cancer?
With all of this in mind, I still think I can safely say there are some foods that are superstars, or always good choices, and some foods that should be relegated to the garbage can. The three “macro nutrients”, protein, carbs and fats, all have their good and bad choices.
Protein: Think lean protein. Good guys are chicken, fish, turkey, beans, and low fat dairy. The bad boys on the block are hot dogs, lunch meat and any kind of highly processed food. Turkey deli meat might be an exception, but it is often processed, more then just cooking and slicing. Red meat falls in the gray area. It is loaded with vitamins and protein, but too much isn’t good for you. I’ll talk more about it when we get to fats.
Carbs: Carbs are not evil. If anyone tells you a carrot is bad for you, tell them to go stick in their ear. Vegetable are your superstars of carbs. Green leafys, like spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens and lettuce should be on your plate as often as possible. Even lettuce can be cooked. Brightly colored veggies are loaded with phytonutrients and vitamins. Squash, beets, carrots, cabbage, broccoli and sweet potatoes are often listed as having more nutrients than the average veggies. Corn, peas, green beans are ok, just not as power packed. Fruits have more sugar,but it is sugar packed with fiber, vitamins and water. Don’t run from fruit, but don’t make it the center of your diet. Whole grains are the last of the good carbs. While many now disagree with the food pyramid about 6- 11 servings, I think it is safe to say you don’t have to go low carb to lose weight. The list of things you just simply should not be eating in carbs is long. Any store bought baked good has a good shot at being a no-no. White flour isn’t good, all the good stuff is stripped out of it. Your starch on your plate is best if it is whole wheat, or even better, quinoa, millet, amaranth or brown rice.
Fats: Fats are not your enemy. They can make you feel full, they make food taste better, and they are essential to your body. This is one area where the official advice is still changing. Saturated fat used to be the enemy, now studies apparently are making this less clear. The advice on dietary cholesterol is changing as well, it appears that dietary cholesterol has less impact on your heart than the cholesterol you make. Having said this, fat still has 9 calories per gram, vs the 4 in carbs or protein, so it can wreak havoc on your weight loss attempts, and being overweight still appears to be the worst component for heart health. Trans fats are the current enemy #1. To be safe, I would still choose low fat dairy, and not eat red meat more than two or three times a week. I personally don’t eat a lot of eggs or butter. Coconut oil has been rehabbed into being a good oil, in spite of it’s saturated status. Despite this, I would be cautious, especially if you have heart disease. I would stick with olive oil, canola, safflower and other unsaturated oils for themajority of my diet.
Last, if something in the store is labeled healthy, chances are it’s not. Protein bars, breakfast bars, cereals and beverages are notorious for making bogus health claims. The healthiest foods don’t have labels- fruits veggies and real meats. Your best beverage is water. If you don’t like that, coffee and tea, black, are good choices, or with real dairy. Right now everyone is on the stevia band wagon. Every other alternative sweetener had it’s heyday, followed by an “oops, we didn’t know this was bad about it”. I would just stick to sugar, molasses and honey to sweeten, and just keep those as low as possible.
I know this has gotten really long. Last thing is a web site I like a lot, Fooducate.