During the first Nutrition Workshop last night, Dr. Lowry drilled this point home. “Food is not entertainment. It is fuel for your body. Food is ENERGY.”
Um, yeah. Don’t tell that to The Food Network with its 24-hour food programming schedule. Or TLC, home of Cake Boss. And what about Bravo’s Top Chef?
I beg to differ Dr. Lowry. Food is definitely entertainment.
Seriously, I get what he’s saying. He’s talking about why we eat, not what we watch on TV.
Most of us eat for pleasure. We select foods we enjoy, which are typically not what our bodies need. (Don’t believe me? Check out America’s obesity rates in this report.)
The long forgotten truth is, we need to eat to survive. That’s what our bodies are designed to do. Convert food into energy to support life. Food is not entertainment. Food is ENERGY. Amen. (Except for Top Chef, I love that show.)
As a self-described Nutrition Nazi, I feel like I’m already up to speed on the types of food I should be eating. What I never understood, however, is why ice cream is that bad for you, from a physiological perspective.
Dr. Lowry explained that “bad foods” such as ice cream, white potatoes, candy, cookies, chips, etc. all have one thing in common; they make your body produce high levels of blood sugar. Blood sugar is important because it is the basic fuel for every cell in your body. And insulin controls blood sugar levels. So, when your blood sugar goes up, your body’s natural response is to produce higher levels of insulin. The insulin in turn, converts the blood sugar into energy.
Sounds good so far, right? Well, guess what happens when you sit at your desk all day and don’t use up all the energy the ice cream produced? Insulin stores the leftover energy as fat.
Ice cream makes you fat because it produces a lot of extra energy in your body. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats are good for you because they produce normal levels of blood sugar.
Ok, so now I’m a believer. I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid from the Church of Nutrition, or in this case, tomato juice, and I’m ready to eat healthier. How exactly do I do that?
Thankfully, as part of my Wellness Evaluation, Dr. Lowry sat me down to discuss my individual meal plan. He outlined the number of proteins, carbs, vegetables, dairy servings etc. I should have on a daily basis and even planned out a typical day for me. Attached to my plan is a total daily calorie consumption number—1400.
Oh, I thought, here it is, the fine print in the program. It’s a calorie counting diet. Well, it is and it isn’t.
Calories are important to understand because that number determines how much your body needs to survive and function optimally. The staff at the Centre realize that not only are we making bad choices, but we’re eating too much as well. They are battling our “super-size me” culture.
Most Americans have no idea what a normal portion size is. We tend to think in terms of value—getting more for our money. Well, value is a great concept for purchasing homes, cars and appliances, but it has no place in our food consumption. Personally, it makes me want to overbuy and therefore, overeat.
An easy way to monitor portion size and force better choices is to track daily calories. I’ve found that establishing a daily food journal helps me understand exactly what I’m putting into my body. And knowing my true calorie needs for the day, helps me make better choices. Knowledge is definitely power.
Below are two websites that are really helpful in shining the light on the calorie content of food.
- Calorieking.com (You can go on here and look up the caloric content of almost anything—even restaurant food. It’s all under “Food Database” and it’s free.)
- Livestrong.com (Under "Tools for Your Health" is a section called "My Plate." There is a food database as well, plus you have the ability to set up an account and track your daily food intake. It’s basically an online food journal, only better, because it does the work for you in counting your calories. It’s free too.)
What I’ve discovered after using these sites is how small choices can add up to big savings. For example, a Red Robin Caesar Chicken Wrap (which sounds healthy, right?) has 1200 calories. That’s almost all the calories I need for a whole day, in one meal. Add an apple and a glass of milk and I might as well go to bed.
I don’t know about you, but I like to eat all day. Skipping meals makes me hungry, not to mention cranky. And my health goals do not say, “I want to look like a Sumo wrestler.” They only eat twice a day.
No, I plan on making healthy choices, eating five times a day, and spending a lot of time in Kroger’s produce department. I want to fit into a cute swimsuit this summer, not a Japanese diaper.