Sunday, August 27, 2017

Rules of Thumb: BMI = 32

As my diet has been evolving, I've been developing some rules of thumb to help me make quick choices on the foods I'll eat. Although avoiding added sugars will help you meet most of the following criteria, I've decided that perhaps some simple rules of thumb might help me identify 'problem foods'.

Let's start with calories. You need to at least be informed as to how many calories you should be eating in a day. If you are done growing and aren't a competitive athlete then your calories shouldn't exceed 3000 per day. For a small, sedentary woman around 50, you likely need at least 1500 calories per day. I'm quite tall and my job is physically demanding, but I'm old and my athletic days are behind me - so I've decided to shoot for 2000 calories per day.

Now I don't snack. I work in a restaurant so, yeah, from time to time I steal a stray fry or lamb trimming. To that end, I feel my meals can top out at 600 calories and I'll be fine as long as my diet is balanced. A Cajun chicken Caesar salad might sound healthy because it is a salad but if the website for the restaurant tells me that salad has 1200 calories then I need to accept either skipping a meal or giving that salad a miss. I don't skip meals.

Now let's check sodium. Health Canada says my sodium should be between 1500 mg and 2300 mg per day. If I distribute that across my three meals, then I can have no more than 750 mg of sodium per meal. So, if I find a prepared meal that is actually under 650 calories then I need it to have less than 750 mg of sodium. That eliminates almost every item on almost every menu at almost every restaurant. That also eliminates almost every prepared meal I can find at most grocery stores. Is the picture becoming clear?

When I pick up a can of stew or ravioli, whatever, and I see that the recommended portion is half a can then I have to ask myself if half of that can is going to get me through to my next meal. If that portion only has 300 calories then it is unlikely to sustain me to my next meal. Often that portion has over 700 mg of sodium. I can't eat that. If I eat the whole can I'll get enough calories for one meal but my next meal will have to be almost sodium free. That's doesn't sound very balanced to me.

I do let myself have one indulgence meal per week. That meal might be 50% more calories than I normally allow, and maybe twice the salt that I find acceptable; even so, most restaurant and prepared meals don't even meet those guidelines. I have to cook most of my food from scratch, even my indulgence meals, to get acceptable nutrition.

Breakfast is easy because I eat hot cereal, fresh fruit, 1% milk, and a little orange juice. The other meals can be problematic because I'm trying to eat more whole grains and veggies without added sugars or too much salt. I don't add up my daily totals but opt, instead, to ballpark each meal as I go. Checking that a meal doesn't go over 30% of my recommended max for sodium is a quick reference that keeps me eating right.

When it comes to added sugars, bread can be a problem. You can't make bread without sugar because bread is not bread unless it is puffed up by gasses produced by yeast that is nourished by sugar. How much sugar? Well, no more sugar than yeast, for most types of bread. To that end, being that ingredients are listed in descending order, find a bread with no more than one type of added sugar where that sugar is listed after the yeast. I found a loaf of bread today that had no added sugars before the yeast and only one sugar listed after the yeast. That means the loaf had less sugar than yeast, so I bought it. It's salt content was a little high for my liking but I figure if I put plenty of veggies like tomato and cucumber in my sandwich then it will balance out - I hope.

I am trying to eliminate processed meat so I buy roast beef and/or pork. I don't want it to feel rubbery like cold-cut sandwich meats, I want it to retain the texture of roasted meat. I've already admitted that I should just roast it myself, but I only eat about a kilo of meat per week now and want variety so it seems pretty ridiculous to buy a half kilo of beef, half kilo of pork, and then roast them and buy a meat-slicer to help me portion them out. I'm not happy that the seasoning on these meats includes some maltodextrin (added sugar) but it's listed at the tail end of the seasonings and not with other forms of added sugars, so I let myself pay for the convenience of home-style roasted meats, sliced into 1 to 1.5 ounce slices that I can quickly add as 'lean protein' to any meal.

If you follow me through the grocery store, you'll see that I frequently pull out my reading glasses. I picked up some capers today and opted to pay a bit more for the brand that had white wine vinegar rather than the brand that had added sugars. I check that my dijon has no added sugars, and grimace that it has so much salt but then reckon that it's only a component of my mayo, to which I will be adding a bit more salt anyway, so I buy it knowing I can still control my added salts.

More and more my diet gravitates towards a healthy vegan diet with about 150 grams of lean protein per day. I fully intend to keep the lean proteins in for nutrients that are harder to find in plant material. I make a vegan mayo with aquafaba not because I want my mayo to be vegan, but because I want sugar-free mayo and replacing raw-egg yolks with aquafaba gives my homemade mayo a longer shelf life. To that end, I have now added low-sodium chick peas to my diet. Today I also added raw broccoli to my diet.

I've ordered a Hamilton Beach digital steamer from The Bay. I do a lot of cooking in a steam oven at work and can make veggies that have a lot more flavour than old-fashioned hospital food by tossing them in oil with salt and pepper and then letting them stand a bit before steaming. I'm hoping I can replicate this at home.

I've come to realize that my story of dropping my BMI from 43 to under 25 will never be a best seller; I can't give you a couple recipes that will change your life. The 'secret' to my diet was gaining control of my eating and then evolving it to meet the Canada Food Guides. The lynch pin was putting myself in a personal diet rehab for 2 months, struggling to eliminate snacking, day by day, so that I could start choosing healthy foods.

I'm eager to offer advice to anyone who is interested but I won't be telling you anything that can't be found in the Canada Food Guides: other than to take them very seriously. You need to eat a healthy, balanced, breakfast. The Catch-22 is that it is hard to wake up early and eat a healthy breakfast when you don't have a healthy diet in the first place. If you are skipping meals, replenishing with snacks, eating a lot of added sugars and too much salt, then no recipe is going to save you from yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment