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MaxDiet Week: What to Eat?

Refined flours and sugars are out. Meat is out. When people hear this, they often say, "wow... what's left?"

It's a sad statement on our current food system when that question is asked, because it shows how far from eating healthy we've gone. The two least healthy things a human can readily digest have become our bread and butter, so to speak.

What happened to beans, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits?

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In my last blogpost, I ended by writing: “When people ask me which diet or recipe book I recommend, I tell them that I have no idea, because I don’t know what kinds of food they eat. I could tell you which diet to follow or which foods to eat, but if you don’t like them, or they don’t fall within your religious or ethical constraints, or if you’re allergic or intolerant to them, then it doesn’t do you any good. When it comes to diet, the principles of weight loss are simple: Increase consumption of nutrient dense foods, decrease consumption of calorie dense foods, control portions sizes and don’t drink your calories.”

Following that formula then, you can turn nearly any recipe or meal into a higher-nutrient, lower-calorie one that falls in line with your weight loss goals. Here’s how:

1. Start with fresh produce – lots of it! It doesn’t matter whether you don’t like most vegetables. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like /any/ vegetables. So choose two or three of your favorites and make them the base of your recipe. (If it’s breakfast you’re cooking, then maybe fruit is a more appropriate choice.) The key here is the word /fresh./ Out of season, it’s fine to use frozen fruits or vegetables, but make darned sure there isn’t any added sugar, salt or other stuff you don’t want. Canned fruits and vegetables are a last resort, but there are some decent varieties out there – read the labels!

2. Reduce fat and processed carbs. You can usually cut between 50 and 200 calories from a meal simply by reducing or eliminating the amount of oil you cook with and/or by substituting more vegetables, fruits or whole grains for processed carbs. I always reduce the amount of oil any recipe calls for by half the first time I make it, and often times, I find that I can get by with even less. Where carbs are concerned, try using a lettuce leaf instead of a tortilla; substitute crisp apple wedges for potato chips; or dip carrot or cucumber coins into your salsa instead of corn chips.

3. Add a lean protein. If you eat animal products, your best options are lean poultry or fish, egg whites and some plain yogurts (Greek style generally has the most protein). You’re aiming for more calories from protein than fat – not more grams! A gram of protein has 4 calories, and a gram of fat has 9 calories, so your protein choice needs to have more than twice as many grams of protein as fat. If you eat a plant-based diet, then you’re already ahead of the game, since lightly processed plant proteins are usually very low in fat. Lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan and quinoa are all great plant sources of protein.

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