25 Mar 2015
Typically, I don’t endorse fast food. It’s generally of poor quality, low in nutrients and high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. But sometimes you just have to eat and the only options are quick serve joints such as these. When I get stuck, there are my top go-to options. Remember that none of these are nutritionally ideal – most are still pretty high in sodium and can involve processed ingredients. But eating fast food isn’t about ideal nutrition, it’s about doing the best with what you have where you are.
1. The Burrito Salad
You can actually get this at a number of places – Chipotle and BoLoco for starters – which is why no restaurant name is included. Choose the salad option and top with vegetables, meat of your choosing (preferably grass fed/free range if offered), salsa, guacamole, and beans if you eat them. This will run you in the range of 400-600 calories and provide a filling lunch. The typical chicken salad at Chipotle will also provide 110% of your daily vitamin A, 94% of your daily vitamin C, and 23% of your daily iron needs.
2. The Jimmy John’s “Unwich”
The unwich is any of your Jimmy John’s favorites without the bread. My go to, the Beach Club, is 310 calories, 29 grams of protein, and 8 grams of carbs without mayo. If you remove the provolone too, you’re at 90 calories (in which case you should add something else or order it with half a slice of bread). Either way, you can also add an apple, banana, or yogurt from a nearby convenience store.
3. Sweet Green “Hummus Tahina” Salad or “Harvest Bowl”
While you cannot always assume that salad is the healthiest option (take most of McDonald’s salads), in this case they’re better than what you’ll find elsewhere. And there are now several Sweet Greens (or similar such places) in downtown Boston. My favorite is the mediterranean inspired Hummus Tahina salad (610 calories, not sure who much carbohydrate but with hummus, pita chips, and falafel in there, I would guess about 60 grams. Of course you can always ask those items to be disclosed or on the side) or the Harvest Bowl (685 calories). While neither of these is on the lower calorie side, quality makes up for it, and you can always save some for later (or share – Patrick is usually hungry enough to help me out when I can’t finish something).
4. Starbucks Bistro Boxes
Starbucks is my last ditch choice, but it usually works considering there’s almost one on every corner. Ranging from 270-480 calories, the bistro boxes are balanced and generally filling. The fruit and cheese one is generally my favorite, although all three get my relative thumbs up. As a bonus, they’re lower in sodium than the above options, with my favorite and the Protein Box ringing in at 470 mg (the Chicken and Hummus one is 580 mg). If you’re still hungry, Starbucks has a few other things you can pair these boxes with like bananas, Kind Bars (again, not ideal but not terrible), popcorn, or nuts.
Side note: should you stumble upon a Chik-Fil-A, I recommend you simply enjoy your breaded chicken sandwich or nuggets and waffle fries. You can eat vegetables later
What are your go to fast food meals?
18 Mar 2015
In light of events in the news last week, I need to take a minute to address the ethical dilemma that seems to be plaguing my professional organization (The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).
Last week, it was reported in the New York Times that a new “Kids Eat Right” seal would be appearing on Kraft Cheese Singles. This was also riffed by the Daily Show, who noted “It turns out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is an academy in the same way this is cheese.” Great. To add to my embarrassment, this morning, my mom texted me a picture of an article in her home newspaper (the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel) about how nutritionists paid by Coca Cola have recommended mini Coke cans as a “healthy snack” in a number of blogs/articles during American Heart Month. You can see a photo of the article and my color commentary on Twitter. Her caption for the photo was “I guess there are unethical dietitians”. Ya think?
Did the Academy Have Anything To Say For Themselves ?
After much outcry (and plenty of it from dietitians inside and outside the Academy), yes. The “official explanation”is essentially that Kraft Foods contributes funds to the Kids Eat Right campaign, which “was launched to support public education projects and programs that address the national health concern of obesity among our children,” earning them the seal. In a vacuum that explanation works, but of course in real life anyone with half a brain knows that putting the logo of the professional organization for dietitians on a “food” that cannot even legally call itself real cheese (notice it is labeled as a “pasteurized processed cheese product”) will lead many consumers to believe the product is endorsed by nutrition professionals and thus healthier than it actually is.
Aso for the Cola article, the Academy isn’t really to blame for that. That one falls on the individual RDs (although they do take a good deal of sponsorship dollars from Coke, that’s a topic for another day).
Why Am I So Mad?
Because this is both embarrassing and unethical. Actually, the cola thing is beyond unethical. I spent 5 years in college and an intensive supervised practice internship learning about fundamentals of science (chemistry, biochemistry) and nutrition, how to use nutrition to treat and prevent disease, how to counsel clients, to communicate information, and how to interpret and incorporate scientific evidence into my practice. So for someone who has done the same to accept money to tell the American people that a beverage composed entirely of chemicals and high fructose corn syrup is a healthy snack is beyond unethical. Essentially, these “professionals” are using their credential to perpetuate the bad information – and help sell a product – that has had a hand in destroying a number of peoples’ heath and driving chronic illness to record highs. Think about all the quality of life lost to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease (among others) over the last 20 years, and the role soda and junk food has played. Then think about a credentialed health professional promoting some of those products. Almost inconceivable.
The Good News?
I’m not the only one who is upset. Many dietitians feel strongly that the Kids Eat Right seal should be repealed. There’s even a petition on Change.org that has over 4,000 signatures and a hashtag #RepealTheSeal with over 1,000 tweets since the news broke last week.
Why Am I Telling You This?
I hope many if not all of you view me as a credible nutrition resource, and I wanted to let you know that I don’t support unethical and deceptive practices in exchange for sponsorship dollars. When I make recommendation about what is a healthy snack or how to choose supplements, I am making it based on the available scientific evidence and my experience. I hope you’ll continue to trust me, even if there are a few bad apples in my profession.
11 Mar 2015
I have to apologize for such a late post. I am out in California for work and got caught up enjoying the sunshine (OK, OK I was working).
I recently contributed an article to Box Pro Magazine on the 7 mistakes you might be making in the box. Some of these are things I’ve seen in our box, and some are just things I’ve seen around CrossFit. I’ll let you read more about the problems and my suggested fixes over at Box Pro.
04 Mar 2015
I have written two meal plans in my 5 years as a dietitian (excluding hospital menus, of course). I wrote the first one because I thought it was a good way to expand what I was able to offer, and help people in a different way. The second one was more of a diet template, written for a friend. Based on my experience with the first one, I decided this was not something I wanted to offer. Why?
For starters, it’s a lot of work if done right. There are numerous factors that determine the best diet for someone to follow, including:
- Past medical history
- Current lifestyle
- Client goals
- Diet history
- Fitness capabilities
- Dietary preferences
When creating a meal plan for 30 – 90 days (the length of time I usually see them offered), you need to make sure they are meeting their calorie goals, getting all the right micronutrients, eating foods they like at times convenient to their lifestyle, all while making sure there is flexibility because life happens. I just wrote the first draft of May’s CFB programming, and that was a walk in the park compared to writing a 30 day meal plan. I spent about 10 hours doing this, which makes it either expensive for the client or not that profitable for me. The only way to make money off of a meal plan is to create something completely generic at a couple of different calorie levels and sell it to as many buyers as possible.
Second, buying a meal plan is like paying the smart kid in class to do your homework for you. You might pass algebra that month, but what happens when you can’t rely him anymore? If I write out everything you should eat for an entire month, you will see results if you follow it. But you won’t gain much else, like knowledge of how to read labels, find recipes, plan your own meals, adjust your diet based on goal and lifestyle changes, etc. Meal plans make you the client reliant on me for guidance. I don’t want anyone relying on me. I don’t want to give you a fish, I want to teach you how to fish.
My point is, if someone wants to sell you a meal plan, think twice. Sometimes, meal plans can be useful (as discussed below), but all too often “gurus” out there sell you the nutrition and fitness tools that work for THEM. And while they may work for you in the short term, ultimately you want to find what works for you long term (and be knowledgable enough to make adjustments on your own with occasional guidance from a professional). Imagine what the gym would be like if coaches only programmed what worked for them, ignoring the needs and wants of our community. I can tell you there’s be a lot of running and pull ups in May (OK there is a good amount of running in May but that’s because it’s finally going to be WARM out!).
Sometimes, Meal Plans Can Help
I feel like I can’t conclude without pointing out a couple of the times meal plans are pretty useful. If someone is completely new to healthy diet and exercise, a generic hypocaloric diet (providing fewer calories from food than is burned by exercise and metabolism) can be a beneficial kick start. A one week sample plan can help someone starting a new specific diet – like gluten free, paleo, or vegan – to understand what a healthy version of that diet looks like. They can also be helpful for someone following a complex clinical diet, like the renal diet.
What do you guys think of meal plans?
A few years ago, when I was drinking the paleo kook-aid (yes, I drank it, yes I know “paleo kook-aid” is an oxymoron), I used to bristle at the advent of plant based diets and things like “Meatless Monday”. I felt tired of people pushing the no meat thing, annoyed that vegetarian diets are always deemed healthier despite the fact that studies on them are essentially comparing a group who has made a conscious decision about their health to a wider group of many who haven’t, and that many people do it wrong and just eat lots of pasta, rice, and bread. And THAT IS NOT HEALTHIER, I ranted.
The Plant Based Diet
Given that I’ve just written much of the above paragraph in the past tense, most of you have correctly guessed that my attitude has changed. The more I look at my own diet, at the paleo diet, and at research, the more I’m convinced that plant based diet IS the way to go. But what is a “plant based” diet? Based on a Google search, “plant based diet” is poorly defined (kind of like “fitness” before CrossFit). So, I’m making one up. According to the dictionary of Alexandra Black MPH, RD, LD, a plant based diet is:
A diet in which plant are the foundation of the diet. This diet consists primarily of non-animal nutrient sources. This includes vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, and grains, although some animal foods – meat, eggs, dairy – can be included from time to time.
Of course, as with any diet, there are healthy and not-so-healthy plant based diets. Eggo waffles with Aunt Jemima syrup for breakfast, vegetable pizza for lunch, and a rice and beans Lean Cuisine for dinner is plant based, but not so healthy. Whereas a banana with peanut (or almond) butter for breakfast, vegetable stir fry with quinoa for lunch, and grilled chicken with vegetables and baked sweet potato for dinner is much healthier.
Plant Based V. Paleo
The thing is, right now the consensus among experts is that eating meat at every meal increases your risk for heart disease, among other things. Right now there isn’t enough good research contrasting the “meat eating diet” (which, in most studies, is anyone who eats anything) compared to meat eaters who choose predominately organic or grass-finished animal products. There also isn’t any good research I”m aware of comparing vegetarians to the organic meat eaters. So it’s kind of a “what we know right now says X but we think it might say Y if research was different”.
Another point I’d like to make is that most of our paleo ancestors also likely ate a plant based diet. Excepting the northern populations like those on the Aleutian Islands, most paleolithic people ate a lot of plants. They couldn’t go into the supermarket and buy all the meat they needed for the week at anytime. They had to hunt and kill their meat, so they only got it when they were able to do that. Otherwise, they ate plants and fruits and whatever else they could gather.
So yes, plant based diets and paleo diets can – and should – live in harmony. Paleo is not supposed to be an excuse to eat bacon everyday, it is supposed to be one of many ways to find a healthful, sustainable diet.
18 Feb 2015
Yes, you heard right. After 40 years of warnings that the amount of cholesterol in the American diet was a public health concern, the nation’s top nutrition advisory board is this year planning to do away with that warning. Because what fun would it be if we weren’t changing our minds about what’s healthy every other decade? You can read a little more about the announcement in the Washington Post.
Does This Mean All The Eggs And Bacon You Can Eat?
No, this does not mean you can pull a Ron Swanson. Basically, they’re saying the concern is less about dietary cholesterol itself, which isn’t really linked to blood cholesterol levels, and more about too many portions of foods high in saturated fat. The nutritionists list whole milk and butter as concerning, but I disagree a little bit. As I said in an earlier article on saturated fat, some of the traditionally forbidden foods – red meat, butter, whole milk, can have nutrients if you’re getting them from the right source. I am far more concerned about saturated fat from processed foods than I am about organic, pasture raised cream in your coffee. As an example, one serving (4 oz) of 85-15 lean ground beef has 6.6 grams of saturated fat. That’s comparable to 12 Oreo cookies, 5 Eggo waffles, and 2 hostess cupcakes. While 5 waffles or 12 oreos sounds like a lot, they’re not completely unreasonable portions for the average American. But while the ground beef has nutrients like protein, zinc, and iron, the other foods just offer sugar and and refined carbohydrates (not that carbohydrates are not a nutrient, you just don’t need that many poor quality ones).
So, enjoy your eggs and bacon. In moderate portions. And maybe lay off the Oreos
I normally like to write my own blog posts, but I saw this post by Eat This, Not That, and it was so damn perfect I had to just re-share it here. The article highlights six foods we normally think are “healthy” (OK, maybe four, because I know you guys knew all about the Egg Beaters and grains), and what we should eat instead.
In the article, ETNT targets:
- Dried fruit
- Low fat PB
- “Made with” whole grains
- Ett Beaters
- Skim milk
- “Protein packed” foods (ok, you should know about the one too, because I already wrote about it)
Read the full article. Anything missing from the list?
Walgreens, GNC, Walmart, and CVS don’t always sell supplements. But when they do, they’re fake. Oh wait, they actually DO always sell supplements. And they’re still fake. At least according to New York’s Attorney General (aka my new favorite politician), who is going after these fraudsters. My previous rants on supplements and GNC have focused on the fact that a teenager making minimum wage with no nutrition experience or education can advise you on dietary supplements that are very poorly regulated by the FDA if he happens to work at GNC (or Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, etc).
This time though, the focus is on the fact that not only did these four retailers try to sell you poorly regulated crap you don’t need, they also lied about the crap that was in it! According to a write up in the New York Times:
“The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.”
In addition, some supplements at Target also tested negative for the herbs on their label. Basically, those ginkgo baloba pills you bought for “vitality” were really powdered garlic and powdered rice. Hell, I could have just made you some stir fry!
The New York State AG sent cease and desist letters to those four retailers. And of course industry reps are trying to pass this off as “bad practices from fringe companies”. Sorry guys, CVS is not a “fringe” company.
The morel of the story (rant)?
If you put it in your mouth, it should come from a trusted source (I know, I know, that’s what she said). Don’t get me wrong, I like CVS and shop there often for anything from bandaids to makeup to all of my life saving insulin prescriptions (although if you’ve read my blog long enough you know I can’t stand GNC and Vitamin Shoppe). I just don’t think you should be getting your supplements there.
Think You Need A Supplement? Follow these steps:
- Identify exactly what problem or deficiency you are addressing with it, and if you can reap the same benefit from a dietary change. For example, if I am tired all the time and find I have low iron, I may choose one of the following: take iron supplements, increase my intake of iron rich foods, or take iron supplements for a few weeks to replete my stores, while increasing iron intake from food over the long term.
- Do your research, to make sure that supplement actually addresses your problem. To use the iron example above, it is pretty well established that taking an iron supplement improves blood iron levels. It is not as established that garlic pills promote weight loss, that a cranberry supplement can prevent UTIs (there is some evidence this works for some women, but nothing is concrete), or that ginkgo paloba will increase your vitality.
- Make sure you get it from a safe, quality source. Third party tested products are best, and NSF tends to be the cream of the crop of that testing. If a supplement is tested, it will have a label on the bottle indicating so. You can also search the NSF International Directory for certified products.
You can read the full article about what the NY AG is doing in the New York Times.
If you can think of a better blizzard food than chili, I’ll be surprised. And with a few months left of winter to go, there’s bound to be a few more snowed-in days like yesterday. Everyone seems to have their own chili recipe, perfected over many tries and prepared when the weather starts getting chilly and football games begin to dominate Sundays (or Saturdays, if you’re one of the rare college football fans in the Northeast). Below is my (OK, Pat’s) go-to Chili recipe and as a bonus, a few paleo game day snacks. Share your favorite chili recipe in the comments OR your favorite Super Bowl snack (preferably that is Whole Life Challenge Compliant).
PAT’S PALEO CHILI
- 2-3 pounds of lean ground beef (90-10)
- 2 green peppers
- 2 red peppers
- 2 orange peppers
- 2 onions
- 2 cubanelle peppers
- 2 poblano peppers
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
- 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
- 1 8 oz can of diced tomatoes with green chilis
- 1 16 oz jar of chunky salsa
- 2 tsp each of: hot Hungarian paprika, cumin, cayenne, ground coriander
- 1 TB each of: garlic powder, onion powder
- 3 TB chili powder
Cook bacon in bottom of a large pot until browned to your liking. Remove, chop, and set aside. While the bacon is cooking, brown meat in a separate pan, drain, and set aside. Add onions and peppers to bacon grease and saute until soft, stirring frequently.
When veggies are cooked, mix in ground beef, bacon, and spices until well blended.
Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and salsa. Cover and simmer 2-3 hours. Enjoy!
GAME DAY FAVORITES
Bacon and Guacamole Sammies from Nom Nom Paleo (just be careful to make them right before game time, or you’ll be battling enzymatic processes all afternoon). http://nomnompaleo.com/post/2538959456/bacon-guacamole-sammies-dont-these-bacon-and
If you’re eating dairy… goat cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped jalapeños http://brittanyangell.com/bacon-wrapped-goat-cheese-jalapeno-poppers-glutengrainegg-free/
Other easy ideas include veggies with guacamole and deviled eggs. I don’t have a great deviled egg recipe, so someone please share theirs!
21 Jan 2015
I know a bunch of people in the gym are either doing the Whole Life Challenge or a variation of cleaner eating to kick off the new year. While this is all good news, it can also lead to some pitfalls. One of these, as I’ve mentioned in Paleo posts before, is carb intake and bonking. What is bonking? It’s basically hitting the wall in a workout. It’s not fun.
Why Do We Bonk?
Bonking generally results from not having enough energy to finish your workout (or feeling that way). When you are eating your “standard” non-challenge diet, you’re likely eating some grains, potatoes, etc. Your carb intake is definitely higher than it is when you’re in challenge mode unless you eat a lot of bananas and sweet potatoes. Your body is used to working out at that higher carb intake, and can take a while to adjust. And when you start a paleo or clean eating challenge, your diet usually ends up being low carb (at least at first) even if you don’t mean it to be. The change can be especially drastic coming off of holiday food and cookies. Your body will adapt to the lower carb intake over the next few weeks as the sugar withdrawals subside and blood sugar levels normalize. But still, keeping up a consistent carbohydrate intake is important if you want to get the most out of your workouts. I’m not saying you need to eat 60% of your calories in carbs, I”m just saying you need to get enough for YOU to feel good during workouts and have energy throughout the day.
Tips To Avoid It
- Make sure you’re getting enough carbohydrates throughout the day. Unless you’re into doing ketosis, you need roughly 130-150 grams of carbohydrates a day for basic brain function. Obviously you need more than that if you’re coming into the gym regularly.
- Time carbs to the workouts, and bring backup. While your body adapts, it helps to consume more carbohydrates around your workouts. If say, you have a banana for breakfast and still feel like you hit the wall, bring some juice (I would imagine 100% juice with no sugar added in very small amounts is OK, but I have not double checked the rules), coconut water, or dried fruit to nibble on between the strength and WOD part of the workout. You could also eat a Fuel For Fire (again, if compliant). A little bit of glucose here will go a long way.
- Get a good night’s sleep. I’ve already said a lot about sleep during the last challenge so I won’t bore you further.
How’s The Whole Life Coming?
Sometimes eating clean with no cheats for a long period can get rough. Here are a few recipes I like, as well as where to get a good lunch in downtown Boston.
Pulled Pork, Sweet Potato, and Pear Stew. A friend made this but added cumin, which sounds awesome.
Fig and Apple Butter. Modified from Pale-OMG (I used no sugar in mine). Great for a pre/mid workout boost.
Grain Free Spaghetti With Bison Meat Sauce . Adapted from my granddad’s meat sauce.
Any favorite recipes to share?