Friday, February 29, 2008

Diet Crazy

On Michael Ruhlman's blog yesterday, he talked about America's fat problem, and the general public's whacked out ideas on nutrition, that are fed by media buzz and fad diets that villify certain ingredients.

We have a serious fat problem in America. It has nothing to do with our obesity problem. We also have a salt problem, and it’s not about hypertension. Fat and salt are the leading bugaboos in America’s on-going national diet program, the wrench in the spokes of our quest for good nutrition, the evil forces which, in our fearful helpless craving for them, prevent Americans from achieving their whole-grain, high-fiber, all-natural, Rocky Mountain health. And what can we do about it?
Eat more fat! Salt your food naturally.

He goes on to say:
I say unto you: Fat is good! Fat is necessary. Ask any chef. Fat does not make you fat, eating too much makes you fat! We aren’t filling our bodies with sodium because of the box of kosher salt we use to season our food, we’re doing it with all the processed food that’s loaded with hidden salt.

I happen to agree with him, wholeheartedly. I have long been of the opinion that eating healthy food and eating delicious food can be the same thing. There are very few foods that are truly bad for you, just amounts that are bad.

I remember doing a health class exercise in the fifth grade about nutrition. We had to choose cards with the nutrition facts of different foods and draw a bar graph showing the amounts of vitamins, calcium, protein, fats, etc in them. One of the items I chose was deluxe pizza. Of all of the graphs that we lined up on the chalkboards, later, mine had the highest amounts of all of the different categories, and I made some comment about the pizza being the healthiest. Immediately, my classmates began to make fun of me, because there is no way that pizza could be healthy, no matter what our bar charts said. Sure, it had plenty of fat, but between the crust, veggies, meat, and cheese, it was a meal in itself.

I have never been able to stick to a diet, a fact which I'm beginning to believe is in my favor. My weight has had its ups and downs over the years, but not significantly. Not long out of college, I spent a couple of months working 6-7 days a week with our lunches and dinners ordered from restaurants (and plenty of donuts available in the mornings), and at the end of it I weighed 10-15 pounds more than I do now after two children. Breastfeeding has given me a nice metabolic boost with both children, but my weight stayed comfortably at my pre-pregnancy level in between children as well. These days, I weigh about 3-4 pounds less than I did before Charlotte. I chalk it up mainly to eating better.

I don't eat a low-fat diet. I would call it a moderate-fat diet. I don't eat a low-carb diet, though I eat a large portion of my carbs as whole-grains (the rest probably comes from chocolate, lol). I love meat--especially beef, and I can match my husband ounce for ounce on steaks. I love vegetables, crave them, and really hate most canned ones. When we do try to grab a quick bite to eat out, my husband probably cringes every time I say that I want somewhere with veggies (and chips and fries don't count)...we eat a lot of Subway and St. Louis Bread Company. I like salad dressings and butter, and did I mention chocolate? And, I completely count the calcium from ice cream as meeting part of my daily requirement--I also eat it in a coffee cup and not a bowl (easier to scoop out enough to be satisfied without it looking skimpy).

Whenever I eat a lot of truly junky food (greasy burgers and fries, chips, too much caffeiene), I just plain feel yucky and start overeating, probably my body's attempt at filling the nutritional gap. But, I also start having food cravings when I don't get enough fat in my diet, and find myself binging on sugar or bread in an attempt to feel satisfied. It's amazing the difference a little olive oil or peanut butter can make in my attitude towards food.

I prefer my food to be both healthy and delicious. Asparagus? Wrap in prosciutto, or drizzle with olive oil, s&p, and oven roast it. Yumm, I think we have some waiting in the fridge. I always include a dash of salt when cooking my oatmeal (old-fashioned rolled oats, sometimes with rolled barley and/or a sprinkle of flax seed meal), the salt brings out the flavor of the cinnamon and brown sugar. My occaisional coffee? More often than not a decaf mocha with whipped cream (Most places use skim milk these days without having to ask). I doubt a day passes that I don't have a piece or two of chocolate. These days it has to be dark, or I overeat on it too...wonder if there's some nutrient in there that my body craves.

I learned a couple of interesting lessons on that day in elementary school. One is that healthy food can be good food. The other is I can't always convince people to agree with me. I guess that leaves more pizza for me!

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