Friday, January 26, 2018

Fruits and Vegetables: BMI = 29.3

The Canada Food Guides recommends a diet that is rich in vegetables and fruits. The micro-nutrients they provide are essential to good health and boost your natural defenses to certain forms of cancer and heart disease. Please take the time to consult the Canada Food Guide for how many servings of vegetables and fruits you should be eating each day.

So how much is a serving? The best way to find out is to Consult the Canada Food Guide, but, as a general rule for non-leafy veggies, a half a cup is usually one serving. At least one serving a day should be a dark-green vegetable like broccoli or spinach (1 cup raw spinach is one serving).

At least one serving of produce per day should be from an orange vegetable or fruit such as carrot, butternut squash, or papaya. Again, in most cases, one serving of non-leafy produce is half a cup. Ensuring you get one serving each of a dark green and an orange vegetable each day will help you get enough folate and vitamin A.

Although juice is an acceptable source of fruit, the Canada Food Guide recommends having actual fruit more often than juice. I have a small glass of orange juice everyday but other than that I avoid juice.

My groceries are now mostly fruit and vegetables. It took me about seven months to go from The Inverted Diet to eating like this and I must admit that I still don’t like raw broccoli unless it is in a salad with dressing. Since my diet became balanced, though, I now find that I sometimes actually crave some carrots or sliced tomato and that is the sort of thing I reach for as a snack now.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Weight-loss Plateau: BMI = 29.4

Last January I lost about 30 lbs. This January my weight-loss just stopped. I’m eating a more balanced diet than ever so it’s a bit disappointing to see zero reduction in my BMI this month. I have been tempted to cut back on calories but that would mean eating less than the recommended servings of whole grains each day.

I decided to do an audit of things that have changed this January. One big change is that I’m drinking less wine. I made a New Year’s resolution to cut back on the vino, and I think I the sudden stop in my weight-loss might just be the result of being more hydrated when I do my morning weigh-in.

The other thing that has changed is that I’ve started working out. I’ve been very sedentary for the past 10 years so even though I’m just doing a home-based endurance workout, I might be seeing a beginner’s surge in muscle tissue that is common when one first starts a workout routine. At the very least, I might also be retaining more water as my body has to work to repair my lean tissues after each workout.

For the time being I plan to just continue reducing my wine-intake and increasing the intensity of my workouts. My diet is still balanced and is closer than ever to meeting all the recommendations of the Canada Food Guide so I’m not going to cut calories at this point.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Healthy Hearty Salad: BMI = 29.4

Looking for a healthy yet hearty meal to keep that New Year’s resolution going? I’ve got a salad that offers 3 servings of veggie, 2 servings of whole grain, and one serving of lean meat. The real bonus to this salad is a sugar-free dressing that is easy to prepare.

For the veggies, I start with 1.5 cups of chopped veggies. I go with carrot, broccoli, tomato, radish, red onion and red pepper. I choose dense veggies like these because lettuce just doesn’t fill me up. Be sure to include a dark green veggie like the broccoli and an orange veggie like carrot or butternut squash.

For salad dressing, I just mix together some apple cider vinegar, grapeseed oil, mustard, and usually some sambal. It’s not a rich and creamy dressing like Ranch or Caesar, but if you go light on the oil this dressing will have much less fat than those and if you choose a mustard without added sugar then it also ends up having zero added sugars.

For whole grain, I like to make some croutons by breaking up Ryvita crackers. The rye and oat bran variety contain whole grain rye flour, oat bran, and a little salt. They are 70 calories each, so you can use 3 of these giant crackers to make a really crunchy salad without adding too many calories. Each cracker only has 0.5 grams of fat and 25 mg of sodium.

For lean protein, I like to go for 2 ounces of tuna (or roast beef/pork/chicken). I try to have a couple ounces of fish twice per week. I don’t buy processed meat anymore so I’m lucky to have found a grocery store that sells sliced roast beef and pork. For chicken, I just buy a whole rotisserie chicken and then pull out all the meat to store and use 2 ounces at a time.

I toss the meat/fish and veggies in some of the dressing and then top it all off with the Ryvita croutons. This is a very filling salad that is chock full of micro-nutrients.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Overton Diet: BMI = 29.4

I’ve usurped a term from political science to develop a concept I call The Overton Diet. Essentially, it is a set of dietary norms that are socially acceptable. In political science, it has long been recognized that pushing for ideas just outside the window of acceptability effects little to no change in public opinion. Espousing ideas that are extreme, far beyond socially acceptable, on the other hand, can greatly shift the public view of what is acceptable.

Our view of what is acceptable to eat is largely based on our exposure to very extreme dietary options. The cereals above run a close second to eating a bowl of candy for breakfast in the bad dietary choices race. Why are such cereals even still available when we know obesity is an epidemic? In short, keeping these cereals in the breakfast aisle normalizes less unhealthy choices like Honey Nut Cheerios.

When my grandmothers began shopping for groceries, a healthy breakfast was porridge. They had their choice of Sunny Boy, Red River, Quaker Oats, cracked barely, corn cereal, and cream of wheat. None of them had added sugar, and most were composed of whole grains. Ready-to-eat (rte) cereals were already on the shelves back then, but they would have thought it scandalous to be seen buying such things for their family. Even in the 50’s, some sugary cereals were being marketed to children – in an effort to normalize more adult rte-cereals like corn flakes.

My cereal aisle still has Quaker Oats, but to get either Sunny Boy Cereal or Red River Cereal I must order on the internet. I found a nice multi, whole grain cereal locally but I had to go to a ‘health food’ store to do so. For simply wanting some variety without added sugar for breakfast I have to go to a health food store – that’s how far our dietary perspective has been shifted since my grandmothers began buying groceries. At least I found some other good sources of whole grains without added sugars while I was there.

The granola bar section no longer exists at my grocery store. They don’t even bother calling it the ‘breakfast bar’ section anymore. It’s simply called the ‘tender bar’ section. Beside chocolate covered nougat and brownies, the nutri-grain bars look like a healthy option.

Don’t let your view of what is healthy be swayed by the most extreme foods on the shelf. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that just because you didn’t buy the brownies your other choices must be healthy. The dietary standards that are generally acceptable these days are terrible.

We are faced with more nutritionally egregious choices all the time and it has skewed our perspective to the point that a healthy diet now seems like a radical idea. When is the last time your grocery haul looked like the following picture?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Beef, Barley, and Veggie Stew: BMI = 29.4

This stew is a nutritious, filling, and balanced meal that also qualifies as comfort food. Be careful portioning this out because this is the first balanced meal I’ve found that could drive me back to overeating. I’ve designed this recipe to make one balanced portion, so you can multiply for the number of people you are feeding. Seriously, don’t make a big batch of this or you’ll find yourself overeating.

1/3 cup barley

1 cup low-sodium beef broth

Season to taste

I start with hulled barley or pot barley. Hulled is the best for fiber with pot barley running a close second. Pearl barley is like white rice – too much fiber has been removed. Bring the barley and broth to a boil then cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. I only seasoned this with Mrs. Dash and pepper but feel free to add some thyme and a bay leaf for extra flavour.

1/2 cup diced carrot

1/2 cup peas or some other green veggie, chopped if needed

60 grams of lean roast beef

While the barley simmers, prepare some veggies and lean meat to add to the stew. Carrot is ideal for this dish and the Canada Food Guide recommends having at least one serving a day of an orange vegetable. Butternut squash could be substituted. For the other serving of veggie in this meal, go for a dark green veggie. I think a half cup of chopped up Brussels sprouts would be even more nutritious than the peas I used. Go easy on the meat – I used 60 grams of ready cooked roast beef, but you could go as high as 75 grams and still call this a balanced meal.

After the barley is almost chewable, add the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes. I let my stew finish in my steamer, but you could just continue in the pot on the stovetop. Bring the mixture back to a boil and then drop down to a simmer. As soon as the barley is soft, the stew is ready to serve.

This was a perfect meal on a cold winter day. It gave me 2 servings of whole grain, 2 servings of veggie, one serving of beef, and a very full tummy. I won’t lie, though – had I made a double batch, I probably would have eaten it all.