Monday, August 25, 2008

Foods to Avoid

When trying to make a major lifestyle change like this it's far better to focus on what you should eat instead of what you shouldn't eat. You can check out that list under the label "Foods to Eat".

Having said that you shouldn't focus on what you can't eat, it's important that you understand some of the foods that could be stumbling blocks for you and how to read ingredient labels so you know what to avoid.

First let's start by talking about the major foods and food groups you'll want to avoid to improve your health and lose weight. One important thing to understand is that in the beginning you need to be more strict with yourself until you can find your personal "happy place" with carbohydrate consumption. I'll give you my individual take on this after I explain the basic rules. Also, I won't go into the science here, just the basics on what foods to pass on.
  1. Grains - white, brown, or otherwise you'll want to skip these. That means avoiding rice, wheat, oats, corn (a grain, not a vegetable). Basically anything made with flour, anything breaded, pasta, any cereal is off limits. There are a couple low-carb cereals out there, but if you're just starting out, I'd skip them unless you absolutely can't find anything else to eat.
  2. Sugars - this on is trickier than grains. Sugar goes by many names, but a good rule of thumb here is that anything that ends in -ose is a sugar. The exception to this rule is sucralose, an artificial sweetener also known as Splenda. When you read an ingredient label look for: high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, lactose, galactose, fructose, cane juice, evaporated cane juice, and beet sugar. All of those should be avoided.
  3. Starchy vegetables - potatoes and sweet potatoes. Both of these pack a big carb punch and you ought to avoid these completely. As you get close to your goals, you may be able to have the occasional sweet potato, but don't load it up with marshmallow, sugar, or syrup as some do. Sweet potato fries are a super special treat to indulge in as you get close to your goals.
  4. "Sugar-free" or "No sugar added" or "low-glycemic" foods - I know these seem like they must be on the wrong list, but they're right where they ought to be. First off, beware foods made for diabetics. They are often made with fructose, fruit sugar. I don't believe that fructose is particularly problematic when consumed in the form of whole fruit, but refine it and use it to sweeten things and you've got some bad news. I promised not to go into the science here, but let me warn you that too much fructose will increase your blood fats like triglycerides. Don't trust me, look it up on one of the sites in the blogs list. Skip agave nectar and other fruit juices or concentrates. Some of these products may be okay, but it will all depend on the individual consumer and how the product is sweetened. If it is sweetened with anything ending in -ose (other than sucralose), that means it really is sugar, just not counted that way by the FDA/USDA. If the product has ingredients like glycerin, aspartame, acelsufame potassium, or ingredients ending in -ol (sorbitol, maltitol, lactitol) then it is probably safe for moderat consumption. I find it best to retrain your sweet tooth to get used to fruits or some dark chocolate as a sweet treat, but, to each his own.
  5. Legumes - peas and beans. This are nowhere near as insidious as grains and sugars, but for those of you who have a lot of weight to lose or your health has a long way to go, you may want to lay off these until you learn a little more about how your body reacts to different levels of carbohydrates.
The best rule of thumb is that you don't eat anything not on the list of "Foods to Eat". Remember that this is a learning experience about yourself, so feel free to experiment with what works for you, but don't let yourself believe that eating some grains or sugar every once in a while will help keep you on the plan. For most people, this will derail you very quickly because you'll probably feel really crummy and your cravings will go through the roof.

Now for how I have applied these to my lifestyle. I pass on the diet drinks. I think they perpetuate sweet cravings and may, depending on who you ask, sabotage you long-term success. The only grains I eat are the occasional low-carb whole wheat wrap made by Mission, found in the refrigerated section of your supermarket. I enjoy fruit in moderation, the occasional "no sugar added" ice cream, and once in a great while dark chocolate.

My experience tells me it is best to avoid anything sweetened and all grains for the first month. Your cravings will be intense for the first few days if not longer, but if you push through it and commit yourself to try it for a couple weeks, I think you'll find that your cravings and hunger will diminish substantially.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

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