Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Follow-up on The Pyramid and vacation review

Wow, some great comments on my last post!  Just some notes:

I do not mean to bash grains. I love grains.  I think whole grains are a healthy food. I don't even think white bread is going to kill you.  Millions of Frenchmen and women (who eat croissants), can't be wrong, right?  I think most foods belong in a healthy diet (in moderation), but we have to figure out what "in moderation" is?  (Note: it's probably not daily.)

In fact, one of my favorite recent reads is The Blue Zones that chronicles the diet and lifestyle of the areas of the world with the most centenarians.  Several of the areas eat whole grains.  Corn tortillas, brown rice.

You will probably never see me go full-on Paleo or Primal because I love grains and beans.  I've been very nearly vegetarian on many occasions. I have a shelf full of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks.

The issue I have is the Food Pyramid, and it's specification that we eat 6 servings (6-11 actually) of grains per day.  Prior to it's release, we had "Basic 4".  Well, for the last 20+ years, that's what I've based by eating habits around.  Okay, to be honest, I didn't think much about what I ate until I woke up one day at 31 weighing 182 pounds.  But that year, 2002, I put a lot of effort into losing weight via Weight Watchers, and have done really well maintaining that weight loss since.  (With two excursions due to having babies.)

Over the years I've "control-checked" my diet with weight watchers, a dietitian, my fitness pal. or the USDA website,  The thing they have in common is the Food Pyramid.

When I was younger, it was  no problem.
When I was nearing 40 and training for races (half marathons), it was no problem.
When I had a baby at 42, and had a couple of years of lack of sleep, plus stress (layoffs at work), plus injuries (cannot do high impact exercise anymore) = problem.

I'm coming to terms with the fact that I cannot eat that much grain anymore, and still lose weight.  I am  not giving up grain - still eating 2 servings per day - generally a piece of toast for breakfast and perhaps 1/2 c. rice or quinoa for dinner, or maybe crackers in my soup.

What I find interesting about the whole thing is how personal it becomes.  Some people never have a weight problem, and I find it's hard for them to understand.  Several years ago I read Refuse to Regain by Dr. Barbara Berkeley (an obesity doctor).  One thing that she has learned in  her work is that people who are FOW (formerly overweight) metabolize food differently than people who were NOW (never overweight).  Particularly carbs.  So her recommendation for people to maintain their weight loss is to restrict carbohydrates. If you've been overweight, your body stores them more efficiently - you permanently changed how your body works.  (Depressing, huh?)

When I read the book I was happily maintaining my weight loss (this is pre baby#2), so I figured that I was never hugely obese, so I didn't need to restrict carbs like that.  I had some inklings however - I had one friend who I walked a lot with on weekends.  When she was about 62 I noted how trim she'd always been.  She said "I don't really eat that many carbs".  She has oatmeal for breakfast and maybe the occasional bit of rice or potato for dinner.

Just last year I attended a women's retreat run by a personal chef and a personal trainer.  The chef, who is 60, said "well once you are over 40, if you want to maintain a healthy weight, you cannot eat more than X number of carbs per day" (I wrote it down, but do not remember the number.)  I ignored her, of course, because - Food Pyramid.

I have been very resistant to the idea of restricting carbs - but in reality, I'm not really "restricting". I still eat 2 cups of fruit per day.  Yogurt.  Lots of vegetables.  Beans several times per week.  Grains and/or potatoes 2 times a day.  I've just now started to realize that 6 servings a day, at my exercise level and age, is not doable.  And I've also found out that 6 servings a day is a MADE UP NUMBER BASED ON NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE.

Okay, on to the camping review.  We camped 2 nights nearby - El Capitan SB.  We booked in June and there was literally ONE site available.  Man, we got a GREAT one!  One neighbor, lots of shade, lots of space for the kids to run, not TOO close to the RR tracks (but let's face it, the whole campground is near the RR tracks), not near the ocean/cliffs/creek/roads (I have a toddler).

The kids had a great time sleeping in the tent (though the 2 year old slept with me a LOT), eating at a picnic table, and playing at the beach and in the waves.  We used our  new campstove that heats water for coffee WAY faster.

And the big hits foodwise?  Nachos (tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and canned chili on top, with guacamole), and hard boiled eggs.  We ran out of eggs.



Zucchini bread and instant coffee

Our picnic basket which is GREAT for camping

Inside of the basket

The tent


Saturday, August 23, 2014

What to Eat (a brief review) and The Food Pyramid of 1992 - How it Probably F*cked Up My Life

Very deep title there, eh?  Not my usual stuff.

Well the vacation went fairly well.  We didn't sleep that much (it's hard to get the little guy to sleep in a hotel room).  We had fun at Legoland, the Water Park at Legoland, Manhattan Beach, and the California Science Center (got to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor).

Vacation, to me, has always meant reading books.  I love to read.  So does my husband (our dating life was dinner out and then a bookstore, almost every week).  So I took three books with me on the trip (I was reading four at once).  This time around, they were all non-fiction:

Simple Food for the Good Life - Helen Nearing
Death by Food Pyramid - Denise Minger
What to Eat - Luise Light

I bought Death by Food Pyramid on my Kindle, and was in the early stages of it when she mentioned What to Eat.  So I decided to order What to Eat on Amazon (used, for $1.00, plus shipping).

That book was eye-opening, to say the least. She has 10 simple rules for how to eat healthy.  They make so much sense!  And they would have been really helpful in 2006 (when the book came out).

The single biggest thing that I got out of this whole book is this: Luise Light was the nutritionist in charge of creating the USDA Food Pyramid in the late 1980s.  She had a team of experts collecting data, reading the literature, studying results of tests comparing dietary factors and disease.  She was very proud to submit her recommendations to the USDA.

And then...what came back bore little resemblance to her pyramid.  So the experts did their due diligence, made their recommendations, and politics changed the food pyramid in response to industry pressures.

I am so disillusioned.  Why, you ask?  Well.  The Food Pyramid came out when I was in my early 20's.  It's been a HUGE part of my life - HUGE as I've been interested in health and fitness.  And I have struggled with my weight. I have lost weight on Weight Watchers and by using a variety of other plans.  Most of which were based on the food pyramid.  Every dietitian I have worked with, or have read, discusses the food pyramid (low fat/ high carb).  Lots of whole grains, low-fat cheese, skim milk, you get the picture.

In the last year or so, I've found alternative eating plans that have called for a major reduction in carbs.  (For example: Primal Blueprint, 21-day fix).  And while I followed them, or tried to, in the back of my mind I always thought "but 2-3 servings of carbs a day is NOT sustainable, the Food Pyramid/ USDA recommends 6!  Eating vegetarian/ high carb is better for the planet, better for your health."

And it was all a LIE!  The original food pyramid submitted to the USDA?  2-4 servings of WHOLE GRAINS per day.  TWO (for most women, more for men and teenagers). In addition, the dairy recommendation was only 1-2 servings.  Is it any wonder that I have a problem losing and maintaining weight?  All of those people who eat "low carb" were pretty much right.  I thought it was a fad - but really 2 servings of grain a day is a LOT closer to the Paleo/ Primal/ Low carb lifestyle than it is to the USDA recommendations of SIX servings.

So for fun, I went to the USDA website CHOOSE MY PLATE and put in my age, sex, and weight and said "I want to lose weight".  It recommended a reasonable 1500 calories per day.  Commercial programs recommend 1200 to 1400.  It also recommended SIX servings of grain, THREE servings of dairy, etc.  I decided to use the Supertracker to simulate a basic day's eating plan based on their minimum recommendations.  What did I get?  2000 calories!  Despite their recommendation of 1500 calories a day, if I eat six grains, three dairy servings, etc., I end up with almost 2000 calories.  Is it any wonder I am fat?

So I played around with Supertracker and here is what I found:

Using the USDA recommendations 1951 calories - probably won't make me fat, but no wiggle room for anything extra.

Cutting grains down to 2-3 servings per day 1707 calories.  Still probably not enough for weight loss.

Cutting grains down to 2-3 servings and dairy down to 1 to 2, 1458 calories.

And here was my actual intake for this particular day, 1455 calories.

So right now, this very moment, I am in mourning for my grains.  I am trying to come to terms with 2 servings a day.  At least Luise Light is a little bit easier than the 21 Day Fix.  21DF lumps beans/ legumes/ peas and potatoes in with carbohydrates.  Luise Light allows for potatoes as a vegetable and beans as a vegetable or a protein.

How do you adjust?  No more sandwiches!  I mean, a single sandwich is both  my grain servings for that day.  What about a burrito?  Yep, a burrito with rice would put me over.  And pizza!  Well, I guess pizza is an occasional food anyway. What is guacamole without chips?  Bruschetta without the bread? I've been trying to focus on what I SHOULD eat, not what I SHOULDN'T eat.  It's going to be a challenge, that's all I can say.  And from a "frugal cooking" standpoint, even more so.  Grains are cheap.

Even now, when I google "How Much Grain Should I Eat?" the first many many pages are based on the USDA recommendations. :(

How much grain do you eat?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Vacation Packing

Am I one of the few crazy people who packs food for vacations?  And I mean real food, not just snacks or sandwiches.  Well, The Prudent Homemaker does - check out her blog for her recent summary of their road trip to a wedding.

A friend of mine gave me a revelation when she mentioned she pre-cooked food for a camping trip.  I tend to take easy-to-cook things for camping.  And I pre-cook food on the weekend.  Why did this not occur to me?

So we are headed out on a road trip (about 4 hours away), and I have been busy prepping food.  Now, why would I do that?  Isn't eating out part of vacation?  I would say, most certainly, yes.  But things have changed over the last few years:

1.  I have a toddler.  It is not fun to eat out with a toddler who cannot sit still.  Age 2 to 4?  Not fun.
2.  I have an 8 year old.  He's a fan of McDonald's, Chik-fil-a, Chipotle, but doesn't like "fancy food" because it "makes him sick".  (i.e., he doesn't have the patience to sit an order a meal and wait for it.)
3.  I have two kids.  I hate to repeat myself, but eating out with them is not fun.  They want their food NOW.  And it's expensive.
4.  I have a weight problem.  Generally food that you eat out is not as healthy as you could make yourself.
5.  Eating out is expensive.

So we are going out of town for four days.  The first two nights we are in a nice hotel with a microwave and a mini-fridge.  We get free breakfast.   The second two nights we are in a hotel with a fridge.  No microwave.  Husband upgraded for $10/day total for four breakfasts.

Here's the general plan, I tried not to overdo it.

I packed enough sandwiches, eggs, bread, fruit and veg for two lunches.
I packed spaghetti and meatballs for one dinner (out of 4). Depending on timing, we can probably grab dinner at a grocery store.

Generally, I could probably plan to pack enough food for lunch and dinner all four days, but my family would probably protest.  And it's my vacation too - I don't relish washing dishes in hotel bathroom sink.  So I opted for about 1/3 of the meals either already packed or purchased at a grocery store, 1/3 will be free breakfast, 1/3 out.

This is just a sampling of what we have in store: