My Nutrition Philosophy (or Chris’s Magical Miracle Diet)

I’ve never been fat in my life. My brothers were all large at one point growing up (they’ve since yoyo’d, though one is skinny now), my Dad is, but I was always the skinny one. I have a few life experiences that have punctuated my nutritional beliefs. The first I recall is when my older brother, who was quite chubby in his early teen years, but a sports fanatic, keep harping on needing more carbs, how carbs were good for you, and you needed to eat carbs to be healthy. I always thought it was total calories myself. Anyways, someone should have told my brother that yes, Lance Armstrong needs carbs, but if you eat more than you burn those carbs will turn to fat.

Perhaps the way some other countries do it is better, they don’t list fat, they list lipids. See, here in the US so many people think if you eat fat it becomes fat, if you eat protein it becomes muscle, and if you eat carbs it becomes energy. This is of course not true. All three get metabolized and turned into compounds your body can use for energy, any extra left over gets stored as fat no matter how it started.

The other experience was my Dad trying Atkins and insisting that ring baloney was good for you because it was high in protein and low carb.

But back to me, I was always skinny, and then I went to college. Dorm food is evil. 3 meals a day (well, 2 most days) of a full 3 course meal, gravy, desert, juice. I felt I was poorly educated on nutrition at this point in my life, and I didn’t eat well. I gained 40 pounds in 6 months. I’m 6’5 though so its not like I was huge, it merely increased my waist from 32 to 36, but still.

I’ve lost the weight since and I’ve found that I developed a core nutrition philosophy over the years of doing it, and this philosophy was directly responsible for the weight loss. This philosophy is culled from varying diets, medical information, nutrition information, my own tastes, and good plain common sense.

There are a few key components to my diet:

1. Eat lean protein as much as possible.
2. Eat only complex carbohydrates.
3. Portion Control, Portion Control, Portion Control.
4. If still hungry, fill up on calorie sparse foods rather than calorie dense foods.
5. Make sure every calorie has nutritional value.

Eat Lean Protein
Most people do not get enough protein, especially men as we have high protein needs. They say you need 1 gram per day per pound of body weight, check your food, do you get near enough? This is doubly true for people who are trying to build muscle (and what guy isn’t?) they say you need 2 grams per pound of body weight if you’re trying to build muscle.

Protein is also one of the best food to eat. It is less calorie dense than fats or carbs, it is also complex and takes awhile to break down so you feel fuller, longer, and your blood sugar doesn’t spike.

You also need complete protein. The only places you can get complete protein are from dairy products or meat. Veggies and even eggs do not have complete protein (all amino acids present).

Now, when I say lean protein, I mean low in fat. Beef is a great source of protein, but it is too high in fat and cholesterol to be healthy. Instead, try buffalo, fish, chicken, turkey. You can get protein from beans, peas, legumes, nuts (but watch the fat with nuts), and milk. Milk is a great nutritional food. Personally I drink whey protein shakes every day for lunch.

Eat only complex carbohydrates.
Refined sugars are evil. This is sugar and refined “white” flour. Complex carbohydrates in whole grains (oats, etc) or in veggies are much better for you.

When you eat refined sugars you digest it quickly, your blood sugar spikes & crashes which encourages more binge eating, and you’re getting 0 nutritional benefit most of the time.

Complex carbohydrates stick with you longer, take longer to digest, and at the very least have fiber if not other nutritional value.

So, the lesson here is no white bread, and use sugar substitutes as much as possible when cooking. No sweetened fruit juice, no regular cola. Check the sugar content of everything you eat. Even so called healthy “protein” bars usually have as much as 30 grams of sugar. That is as much as a candy bar. Don’t rely on how something is marketed, check the label.

Portion Control, Portion Control, Portion Control.
This is the most important thing possible, the most helpful thing, and the hardest thing to accomplish. Good portion control is a change in behavior rather than merely grocery shopping.

You need to train yourself to eat less, do not eat until you’re full, eat until you’re no longer hungry.

Also, you need to limit your portions of calorie dense foods. For instance I will still eat beef, but I limit myself to 8 ounces at one meal. No more 14 ounce ribeyes for me. (I also try to get leaner cuts like tenderloin or sirloin). An 8 ounce sirloin steak is very calorie light, so you can eat it and maintain a healthy diet (except the cholesterol, which is another issue).

I also now only allow myself to go back for seconds on vegetables, not the meat course, but that falls more under…

If still hungry, fill up on calorie sparse foods rather than calorie dense foods.

You can eat your fill of certain products. Berries, especially strawberries, watermelon, green beans, zucchini, squash, eggplant, carrots, these are all calorie sparse foods. Learn what these foods are, buy these foods, and when you’re still hungry after finishing your portion, eat these foods. Many have nutritional value beyond merely filling you up, so you’re doing good on that level as well.

These can also make good deserts or late night snacks.

Make sure every calorie has nutritional value.
This one is extremely important to me. I don’t try to eat well just so I look good, I want to live a long time. I try to eat foods that don’t just keep me trim, but also ones that fight cancer, heart disease, and anything else that can happen.

I need to eat, and I need to limit how much I eat to maintain my weight, so I want to be darn sure that every calorie I take in benefits me in some way. So I seek out foods high in antioxidants (blueberries), I look for fortified foods, foods high in protein, foods high in fiber. Colorful vegetables filled with vitamins.

So, for instance, pasta. Pasta isn’t really that healthy being a starch product, but I don’t get plain refined starch pasta. I buy whole wheat protein & omega 3 fortified pasta. It tastes great, gives me fiber, protein, and omega 3 fatty acids (good cholesterol, the stuff in fish and nuts). So, it is still 250 calories or whatever a serving, but they’re all calories with nutritional value, so I consider it okay.

For desert sometimes I will make a blueberry cobbler sweetened with Splenda with a cinnamon and oat topping. This is just under 200 calories in total, which isn’t much less than a small candy bar (Reese’s Big Cup is 220 calories). But since I’m getting great nutrition from the food I don’t mind the calories.

So that’s it, that is my nutritional philosophy, and when I post about healthy cooking in this blog, it is in regards to this philosophy that I mean.

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