Over the next several blog posts, I would like to discuss the three factors that play a role in your health and weight. Know that the idea here is not to have the body of an anorexic looking model, but instead to be at the right weight for you and to be healthy about it. The three factors are: your diet, exercise, and your mindset. Today, we will cover diet, meaning “what you eat.”
After this month’s Second Tuesday, I was curious about how many calories were in the Mexican Wedding Cake cookies I made and found a great website to answer this very question. It is called Calorie Count, and it allows you to cut and paste the ingredients for your recipe and enter the number of servings. The output is a calories per serving figure. Sadly, one Mexican Wedding Cake cookie is just over 200 calories. ONE cookie!
This reminded me of a great book I read years ago and have since dusted off so I can share with you some key information. The book is called The Glycemic Index (GI) Diet by Rick Gallop who overcame his own weight issues and was the President of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. I loved this book because it does not talk about “dieting,” which really means “I am going to temporarily eat well and exercise so I can lose the weight, but once I do, I will go back to what I was doing before.” Instead, it talks about what you eat and how it impacts your body and your weight.
This may sound simplistic, but we must face that our weight has to do with the formula
Mr. Gallop reminds us that a pound of fat contains 3,600 calories, which means that if you want to lose one pound per week, you would need to consume about 500 calories less per day. This is to lose one pound. Therefore, if we are trying to lose a few pounds, getting to that point involves more than avoiding a cookie or two after dinner, but that cookie or or two does have an impact as seen with my 200-calorie Mexican Wedding cookie.
Mr. Gallop argues that the keys to losing weight and being healthy are to eat low glycemic index (GI) foods, which are slower to digest and thus keep you feeling full for longer periods of time, and low-calorie foods. (So that’s why I am starving soon after I eat certain foods!) In his book, he divides foods into “green light” (good to eat), “yellow light (treat with caution), and “red light” (avoid). For example, if you are a rice lover like I am, it might be time to toss the white rice – it is a “red” food. Instead, switch to basmati, wild, long-grain, or brown rice. And be sure not to overcook that rice as that also increase the GI. Instant oatmeal is out, but steel cut oatmeal is in. All unsweetened juice was listed as “yellow” while the associated fruit itself was “green.”
One of the interesting categories he labeled red, yellow or green were nuts/peanut butter. According to the book, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and pistachios are all “green” nuts. However, regular and light peanut butter were “red” while natural nut butters and natural peanut butter were “yellow.” I guess it is a good thing I switched from peanut butter and jelly on a whole wheat English muffin to steel cut oatmeal for breakfast!
I would also like to emphasize the importance of reading the ingredients rather than relying on the marketing package of your food products, which can help you keep up with eating low GI foods. For example, many breads advertise that they are whole wheat. However, you must look out for the following:
- Make sure it is advertised as 100% whole wheat, otherwise, it is not.
- The first ingredient must be whole wheat flour or whole grain.
- Words such as “unbleached” should demonstrate that this is a bread to put back on the shelf.
Unfortunately, this plan does not exist everywhere, but I have a few ideas we can control how much we eat. One is to start serving your food on a smaller plate, which will help you avoid filling an unnecessarily large plate with way more food than you should be eating in the first place. If you are out at a restaurant, ask whether they serve half portions, and if not, ask them to bag half the food. You can also measure your food out based on the portion per serving listed on the food label. For instance, one serving of pasta is 2 ounces, which is about a half cup. Thus, when the water is boiling, rather than pouring in the pasta until it looks to be enough, grab your measuring cup! That way, you aren’t tempted to eat until the pasta is gone, because you have only cooked that which you should eat in the first place!