As a personal trainer I am used to my friends and family asking me for fitness and nutritional advice on the one hand, and on the other, knowing that they desperately hope I won’t judge or comment when they don’t eat well or exercise. I make a point of keeping my professional perspective and opinions out of our interactions (unless of course I am asked). That doesn’t mean it’s easy for me to stay silent (though I do) when I hear that they are “experimenting” with a new approach to their nutrition that I know is not a great choice for achieving lasting fat loss.
But lately I’ve noticed just how badly so many people eat while simultaneously thinking they are eating well. I realize this is due to the widespread misunderstanding of nutrition with most Americans. The average person queried on the street could not tell you what the difference is between organic veggies and non-organic; or what’s so bad about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or what GMO’d food is.
There’s a habit for many to blindly accept mainstream advertising when it comes to what’s healthy and what’s not. Let’s take a look at my first meal of the day (one of six): every morning I have a small bowl of bulk-bin organic oatmeal (not Quaker) with a teaspoon of organic peanut butter (just peanuts and salt), a dash of organic cinnamon, and a drizzle of real Vermont maple syrup. A client of mine said she was eating the same thing, but when I dug a little deeper it turned out she was eating Quaker oats (GMO oats), Skippy peanut butter (filled with hydrogenated oils and refined sugar) and a Aunt Jemima Lite syrup (with HFCS and other unpronounceable ingredients).
Here’s where the confusion sets in. My version actually has more calories, carbs and sugars (if I ate their suggested serving size which is 2-4 times more than what I eat), BUT my version is free from high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and refined sugar. My version is also free of GMO’d products. Now comes big question: what’s wrong with all HFCS, hydrogenated vegetable oils, refined sugar, and GMO’d foods?
In a nutshell all food ingredients that have been altered/tampered by humans so that they can be grown and processed at a faster and cheaper rate, are slowly poisoning us all. Without going into great scientific detail, or quoting a myriad of biologically proven ailments that stem from these “poisons” I will simply give you some basic facts about some of these poisons (i.e., the ones stated above).
HFCS: when you alter the chemical compound of fructose (sugar) they way they have in HFCS, our bodies can no longer manage our sugars (how/when we use it and how/when we store it) in the same way we used to. Therefore you see elevated levels of everything from diabetes to obesity and all the “itises” in between (arthritis, bursitis, etc.)
HYDROGENATED OILS: when you shove hydrogen into a vegetable oil simply for the sake of turning it solid, our bodies see these molecules as foreign and cannot process them. If you eat too much HO, your body will store it in your fat reserves, but never activate it for use like healthy fats, leaving you with higher levels of unhealthy fat.
GMO: when you genetically modify the seeds of corn, wheat, soy, and oats so that they grow faster while having a higher resistance to over-ripening you will see (as we are) a rise in intestinal allergies and digestive auto-immune disorders (celiac’s disease, IBS, MS, etc.).
Now don’t take my word for it – read up on all of these rampant food insertions and changes that our Country is embracing, and decide for yourself. However, the next time you find yourself saying that you’re going to eat gluten free while still shoveling commercial pop corn and large Jamba Juices into your digestive tract, be sure about what you’re eating (or not) and why.
To the untrained eye, lately it would seem that many fast-food chains are offering healthier food options for the growing population that cares about their nutrition. However, the catch here is that “healthier” may not be healthier — don’t be fooled by false advertising!
Take for example a comparison of McDonald’s Quarter Pounder vs. their “fresh menu” Chef Salad. While the salad is lower in calories, and fat and carbs, it’s higher by 15 grams in cholesterol and almost equal in sodium, yet significantly lower in protein. We won’t even get into the fact that the quality of said protein (both the beef and chicken) offered in these two options are sub-grade B and not something I would ever put in my body.
Next lets look at the popular chain Tropical Smoothie (similar to Jamba Juice for those of you in state without this chain). They are currently advertising the following “limited offer” sandwiches as being healthy options: Chipolte Cranberry Turkey Club and Rustic Turkey & Apple Club. Both have over 650 calories, as much as 34 grams fat, 2043 sodium, and in the case of the cranberry choice, 22 grams sugar! If you look at their turkey bacon ranch on ciabatta sandwich (which looks and sounds less healthy than the two specials), it is lower across the board with only 576 calories 20 grams of fat, 1940 grams sodium, and only 8 grams of sugar. Once again, I’m not certain that the turkey being sliced and served is all that healthy, and clearly it comes packed with a whole lot of sodium, but I was amazed to find out that the bacon ranch sandwich was slightly healthier than the Rustic Rurkey & Apple Club!
Following are a few helpful hints to help you manage your fast food choices. By making a few simple changes/choices to your orders you can make a huge difference in the nutritional breakdown of what you eat.
- When ordering Subway or other deli chain sandwiches: ask them to scoop out the inside of the bread, leaving the outside of the bun to hold your veggies and deli meats. (This significantly lowers the carbs and sugars you would otherwise ingest from the bread.)
- Skip the diary – no mayo, no cheese. Use mustard and avocado to smooth out and spice up the flavor of your sandwich.
- When faced with limited choices, opt for simple. The basic and unadorned McDonald’s hamburger is actually healthier for you than some of their salads and chicken and fish sandwiches.
- Avoid obvious salts – bacon added to fast food sandwiches is a horrible addition as it is usually sub-par quality fatty pork, loaded with sodium, nitrates and fat. Same goes for pickle options (jalapenos, pickles, and pepperoncini). I am a lover of pickles so I’m not saying ditch them completely, but I used to put all three options listed above on my Subway sandwiches until I realized how much extra sodium I was ingesting. Now I pick just one.
- Also, when it comes to sandwiches, avoid the traditional “Club Sandwich” wherein an extra piece of bread is inserted into the middle. If this is your only choice, take out that middle piece before you eat the rest. Removing that extra bread can seriously lower your ingested carbs, sodium, and sugars.
- Remember, lighter fare doesn’t necessarily mean healthier. Calories are not the only indicator to the healthy quality of food. They may be lower in calories but higher in sodium and sugars both of which rob your body of nutrients, make digestion slower and less effective, and therefore turn more of what you eat into fat storage.
- Lastly, dink water vs. soda or fruit juices. Your best tool to battle the sodium bloat and digestive slow down from fast foods is water water water – keep your system flushed.
So the next time you get suckered in to a menu offering “healthy” or “light” fare, remember to read between the lines – the nutritional breakdown lines that is.