Sunday, February 10, 2013

I won a book!

Lani Muelrath just published her book, Fit Quickies:  5 Minute Targeted Body Shaping Workouts, and had a giveaway on the McDougall forums.  To enter all you had to do was post your strength and challenge.  Then she did a random drawing.   Yea random number!  I won.   I'm looking forward to getting this book because I'm going to be traveling in a few weeks and am looking forward to seeing if there are some easy exercises to do in my hotel room.

What I'm eating these days

I'm in an enjoyable rut right now.  The oriental yams are really good right now and it's easy to prepare them (bake them).

My breakfast, this week anyway, consists of:   onions, mushrooms, greens, (1/3 cup) beans, (sliced baked) potato or (1/4 cup) oats, tomatoes and spices.  The spices vary from mexican to indian to italian.   It's like eating out at a restaurant to me.   Here was yesterday's.  This is just one of 3 bowls, ha, and no I didn't overeat.  I seasoned it with cumin and chipotle powder and a little lime juice and cilantro.

On weekdays, lunch and dinner are cooked veggies, baked oriental yam (or potato), and salad (lettuce, cucumber, red bell pepper, chia seeds, balsamic vinegar).   Snacks are some raw carrots, jicama and celery.  If I'm hungry late in the evening, I'll have an apple or grapefruit.

On weekends I liked "potato fries" and veggies at least once:

For activity I'm trying to combine exercise with transportation.  It's a little hard in winter but I am walking more.  Taking the stairs at work is giving me at least 15 flights of stairs to climb on weekdays.  That wore me out last week.  Then I'm trying some aerobic and strength exercises in the morning.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Following the Calorie Density Approach

My eating has evolved over the past year and I think I’ve settled on something that is both easy and healthy.   I follow Jeff Novick’s principles of a healthy diet, which he briefly describes as “plant-centered, minimally processed, calorie dilute, low SOS (salt, oil, sugar)” in this interview.   The calorie density approach is summarized in this newsletter article.

Calorie density is the number of calories per weight of a given food.   For most people, if you keep your average calorie density below about 600 calories per pound, you can eat satisfying volumes of food and lose weight without going hungry.  It turns out that a lot of the most satiating foods have a calorie density around 300-600 calories/lb, and the most healthy foods have a calorie density below 800.   So that tells me all I need to know:   Eat mostly foods with calorie density below 700 calories/lb, and consider the higher calorie density foods as condiments, or avoid them altogether.  Here is a table of calorie density of foods:

Foods                                                                           Calorie/lb
Vegetables                                                                     60 - 195
Fruit                                                                              140 - 420
Potatoes, Pasta, Rice, Barley, Yams, Corn, Hot Cereals   320 - 630
Beans, Peas, Lentils (cooked)                                        310 - 780
Breads, Bagels, Fat-free Muffins, Dried Fruit                   920 - 1360
Sugars (ie, sugar, honey, molasses, agave, corn syrup   1200 -1800
Dry Cereals, Baked Chips, Fat-free Crackers, Pretzels    1480 - 1760
Nuts/Seeds                                                                  2400 - 3200
Oils                                                                                 4000

 You don’t have to count calories or measure foods to use this chart.   My approach is to eat mostly from the top 4 lines (vegetables, fruit, starches & grains, beans), consider everything else condiments, and eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.  I try avoid salt, oil, sugar, caffeine, chocolate (yeah, sucks!), and alcohol altogether because of their disease-promoting and addictive qualities.  The rest I limit or avoid as well. 

If you don’t see a particular food on the above table, you can determine its calorie density by looking up its nutritional information (google it or check it out in a calorie counting website, e.g., cronometer).   For example, take popcorn:  Type into google “nutritional info air popped popcorn” and you find that 24 grams has 93 calories.   Divide 93 by 24 to get calories per gram and then multiply by 454 to get calories per lb.  This gives you 1760 calories/lb for air-popped poprcorn!   It’s okay to eat it, but don’t use your stomach sensations as a guide for when to stop—that’s a key point of this is that your satiation mechanisms don’t work well with the high calorie-dense food because they pack a lot of calories in small volumes.   If you use your stomach as a guide, you’ll eat a lot of more the calorie-dense foods before you decide you are full.   Another example is rice cakes, which are right up there with the popcorn.  Meat ranges from 600-1200, and ice cream from 1000-1500.   Isn't it interesting that even fat-free bread, crackers, rice cakes and dry cereals have more calorie density than meat?   This might explain why many diets promote meat and fish over breads and crackers.  However, I would bypass the meat altogether and go straight for the potatoes and vegetables and fruit.

An easy way to follow this plan is to fill “1/2 your plate (by visual volume) with intact whole grains, starchy vegetables and/or legumes and the other half with vegetables and/or fruit.”

Another important point JN makes in his article is to not drink your calories (even fruit juices and smoothies):  “Liquids have little if any satiety so they do not fill you up as much as solid foods of equal calories.”

You might be wondering:  Aren’t there certain foods we should eat every day because they are so important?   JN says there are no superfoods in this article.  If you don’t like a particular food, that’s okay.   However Dr. Esselstyn suggests we eat leafy green vegetables at every meal, or at least, regularly.  I eat a lot of the green and yellow veggies (e.g., kale, collards, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower) and salads and raw vegetables.   I also eat potatoes, sweet potatoes, intact whole grains (rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat), and beans.  And I eat some fruit, and very occasional nuts, dried fruit, and avocado.  That’s all there is to it.  If you want added insurance that you are getting enough essential fats, add a tablespoon of some ground flaxseed or chia seeds.  But Drs. McDougall and Campbell say it’s not necessary if you eat leafy greens and don’t consume oil (I talked about it more in this post).

Since the low-calorie dense foods regulate appetite, and are also the healthiest,  it’s win-win to eat this way. 

I asked JN some followup questions about how this works, and you can see his replies here.  

If you follow this approach, it ends up being very similar to that outlined by Dr. McDougall for his Maximum Weight Loss plan (summarized here and here) and by Dr.Esselstyn for reversing heart disease.

The calorie density approach is explained more in this DVD and this newsletter article

Entertaining a Visitor

Here is how I managed a 2-day visit from a good friend and colleague.  I wanted to minimize effort, eat my preferred food, and accommodate his preferences.   My visitor has a favorite restaurant we went to a few times and I prepared the other meals.  My strategy was to buy some foods the visitor will like and these could supplement foods I prepare.  For the restaurant, I tried two strategies, as I’ll describe.

Groceries I got for the guest were (warning:  unhealthy foods approaching):  bagels, bread,  butter, cream cheese, jam, parmesan cheese, tostada chips, and salsa.   I figured these could serve as additions and appetizers to the foods I cook.

Here were our meals.

Thursday lunch at his favorite diner.  I tried a salad-and-supplement strategy:  I looked at the menu, found out what all the raw veggies are from the various salad offerings and asked them to make a big salad consisting of lettuce, spinach, shaved carrots, mushrooms, green onions, and radishes, with dressing on the side.   I supplemented with food I brought:  a baked oriental yam (sweet potato), some cooked broccoli, and dressing made from raspberry balsamic vinegar and chia seeds.  Boy was that filling.  However, the salad ingredients were all kind of limp and old looking.  I had a stomach ache for the next 15 hours and I wonder if it was from less-than-fresh lettuce and spinach.   As usual, I had to conclude that I like my own food better, and it doesn’t give me a stomach ache.

Thursday Dinner.   I had baked a butternut squash earlier in the day, and had some cooked rice and beans in the fridge; and some frozen veggies: corn, peas, green beans and carrots. I had half a squash with a little bit of rice and beans, and veggies on the side, which I enjoyed very much.  I offered my guest parmesan cheese but he was happy just having the squash and veggies.   He also had the chips and salsa.  And I cut up some carrots and sugar snap peas to snack on, which he enjoyed.   Later on we shared a grapefruit.   Visitor enjoyed the last of the scotch that I brought back from Scotland a while back.   I had some gas that night—maybe from the icky salad and the beans?   Lesson learned:  avoid beans when entertaining guests.  Haha.

Friday morning I threw some potatoes and sweet potatoes into the oven and cooked up some veggies (Brussels sprouts and cauliflower).  I made some snack bags for me and visitor with sliced carrots, jicama, sugar snap peas and celery, apple, and orange.   My visitor was very happy about this.   We  went to the Y for some exercise while the potatoes cooked.   I made some teecchino and soy milk and put it in a thermos.

Brunch at the diner.  I was not in the mood for more restaurant food after my salad stomach ache, so I ordered some herbal tea and tried to be a little discreet about eating my baked oriental yam and cooked veggies (Brussels sprouts and cauliflower).   We gave the server a 40% tip so she would earn the same amount as if I had eaten an entrée (it was still cheaper for me than if I had ordered an entrée).

Friday Lunch:  I had a baked potato and veggies.   We nibbled on the veggie and fruit snacks during the day.   We took a coffee break and I enjoyed my favorite drink (my thermos of teecchino and soy milk) and so did my visitor (a mocha coffee drink).

Dinner:   potato fries and veggies.   Visitor enjoyed some more chips and salsa, as well as the potato fries, veggies, and sugar snap peas.  Alcohol is the hardest thing for us to deal with because we used to enjoy drinking together.  I feel uncomfortable because I know I’m disappointing him, and I also worry: what if we can’t have fun without drinking?  He offered to buy some alcohol-free beer but that doesn’t appeal to me much.   I offered to buy wine but he didn’t want to drink alone.   Fortunately, we managed to have fun after all.

Saturday morning, he had a bagel and coffee and I had oatmeal and teecchino, and we said our goodbyes.   Everything turned out okay I think.