Misleading Nutritional Information

Nutrition: Who to Trust?

Weight loss fads have been around for a lot longer than we think.

    • There were corsets to cinch those waists
    • The “vinegar diet” in the 1800’s
    • In 1925 there was a cigarette diet (In 1925, Lucky Strikes cigarettes encouraged dieters to “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.”–wow!)
    • Low carb
    • Low fat
    • The Cookie Diet (come on!)
    • The Grapefruit Diet
    • The shake weight
    • The weight loss belt

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The list of ridiculousness goes on and on. Fast forward to more modern times and you have South Beach, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig,  Atkins, Slow Carb, PhenPhen, and Paleo. Hundreds of years of wacky diets and fads and the truth still remains: there is no quick or easy fix, there is no magic pill

In addition to all these fads, there’s also the hype around food itself. Nutritional facts seem to change almost daily. One day eggs are bad for you, the next they are a superfood. Don’t eat chocolate! Wait, chocolate has benefits, eat it! Sugar is bad for you, don’t eat it! On second thought, fake sugar can cause cancer! Eat the real stuff!

Is your mind spinning? I know mine is. It’s so confusing when you’re trying to navigate through fads, hype, scare tactics and bullshit. Add to that the very scary realities that are slowly coming to light about GMO foods, and truly scary stuff we’re finding out about food. I don’t care how anyone tries to spin that Monsanto is a good company, it’s not. They are engineering food that is going to kill us all. I’ve read many books about the scary food that’s out there; for example: The End of Food. It detailed how modified just about everything is. From our tomatoes to our chickens to the seeds we use to grow corn. I also expressed my desire to go off the grid and grow my own food to avoid the GMOs.

This post isn’t a rant about Monsanto, though, it’s about my confusion as to who to trust. Can you trust your doctors? Can you trust newspaper articles? Will you get good advice from a Nutritionist? (I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me their nutritionist told them to eat less than 1200 calories a day! What?!) What about advice from bloggers who are showing some classic signs of disordered eating? What about Doctor Oz?

My answer is this: do what works for you.

I do what feels good. My body lets me know when I’m not doing the right things. One thing I noticed doing the gluten and dairy-free diet was how much MORE processed foods I was eating. I didn’t like that and my body didn’t like it either. I was trying to find substitutions for foods I was craving but couldn’t eat (i.e. chocolate chip cookies that have both gluten and dairy!). The fake cookies weren’t satisfying. While I was doing the diet I also looked for recipes that would fall under both gluten and dairy-free. What I found more often than not was an ingredient list with things I couldn’t even pronounce, let alone find in a grocery store. I’m sorry, but I think I’d rather skip the treat than eat something with weird chemicals in it.

What are my basic needs?

This is a good question for everyone to ask. What do you REALLY need? Doritos definitely don’t fall under that category! The apple I eat for a snack almost every day is something that fulfills my basic needs: it curbs my hunger until lunch, it’s not fake, it’s sweet but not candy, it has fiber and other nutrients I NEED.

Going gluten-free seems to be the newest fad. Michael remarked the other day that he’s now “THAT GUY”– the Portland-Guy-Riding-A-Bike-Gluten-Free-Guy. They are all over Portland! But it’s true! That seems to be the new thing. I feel badly for anyone who truly has a sensitivity to gluten because I know people that are and it wreaks havoc on their bodies. But what about the people that are doing it just to lose weight? Is it a healthy diet for them or just a fad?

(Check out this awesome post I found: 10 People You Can’t Trust For Diet Advice)

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A few things to keep in mind when researching your own nutrition. Consider the source. Is this person reputable? I don’t watch Dr. Oz but apparently he’s a cardiologist–so why is he giving food advice? If you’re seeing a doctor/nutritionist, do they have a license or degree? Are you surfing the internet? Then beware of what you find!

The best way to figure out which nutritional information is right for you is to experiment on your own. For me it was going gluten and dairy free for February. In doing so, I did my own experiment and concluded that there was no drastic change that told me I needed to completely eliminate these things from my life. Michael, on the other hand, noticed a huge change eliminating gluten from his diet! It reduced the swelling in his esophagus and reduced his snoring! That’s an awesome change that will positively effect his life and healthy. It worked for him.

So, be careful who you take advice from. Each body is different. Do what works for you and makes your body feel good.

QUESTION: Where do you get your nutritional info and advice from?

Nutritional Facts and Fauxs

Recently I went out to lunch with some coworkers to celebrate another coworker’s birthday. It was a different kind of birthday celebration, more a memorial. Some of you long term readers might remember last August, my office experienced some tragedy. It was a really sad, dark time and no one should ever have to attend two funerals in one day. But this post is not about sadness, it’s about food!

So to celebrate Flo’s birthday, we all went out to lunch to her favorite place, Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Portland. It was a nice way to kind of honor her memory. It’s still weird not having her in the office and I think we all think about her pretty frequently still.

Anyways, back to the food. I rarely eat at chain restaurants. Michael and I are kind of foodies and love trying new (or new to us) restaurants. Portland has a fantastic food scene, many restaurants boasting Michelin chefs, so it’s fun exploring that. In preparation for going out to lunch, I checked out the Rock Bottom menu online to see what they had. This is the norm for me. I like going into a restaurant prepared. This doesn’t mean I always go with the “healthier” option but I at least try.

I was happy to discover that this place offered nutritional stats for all their food! You have no idea how exciting that was (I know, I live an exciting life). It’s just rare that I get to know ahead of time actual stats.

I’d already decided I was probably having a salad or soup. That’s what I was craving. I looked through their stats and was shocked. Here are a few of the ones I had considered getting:

Blackened Chicken Salad – 1026 calories

Salmon Spinach Salad – 927 calories

Crikey! That’s too many calories for a salad. But guess what I discovered? Those calorie counts do NOT include salad dressing. There’s a whole section for that. And that section was really eye-opening.

Balsamic Vinaigrette (the one I usually order because it’s a “safe” bet) – 200 calories for 1 ounce

Caesar Dressing – 174 calories for 1 ounce

I’m not sure how many ounces of dressing a typical salad has, but it’s probably not one. Counting calories is tricky enough, it’s even harder when you realize that you’re not counting correctly! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mislead by a tricky label that doesn’t clearly state it’s multiple servings, or restaurant foods with hidden add-on calories that I forget to count. It’s easy to miss these little things, but doing the best you can is better than throwing in the towel completely.

Being tricked by labels and servings is easy to do. Look at that above label. What the heck is it telling us? Can YOU figure out how many calories are in whatever that was? I sure can’t. I think I need to sit down with a calculator, a protractor and some graph paper to figure it out…

I ended up ordering the soup of the day, creamy chicken with artichoke. It was fantastic! I am definitely a fan of creamy soups, which I know can tack on the calories but they are simply my favorite. The calories for a bowl of the soup was 183 calories according to their website. I rounded up and called it 220 just in case my hunch that they were a bit off was right. It also came with a roll.

The soup was creamy and had carrots, artichoke and celery in it, too. I loved the flavor and creaminess. I definitely detected a heavy-hand with the salt, though. I’m really glad I ordered what I planned on ordering and I managed to stay within my calories for the meal.

A few of my coworkers ordered the Chicken Fried Chicken–it was Flo’s favorite thing. Fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and coleslaw. It looked absolutely decadent. Another coworker got the nachos–which ended up being big enough for 5 people to share! Way too much food. (I realize this post is kind of all over the place, forgive me!)

We reminisced about the old days and Flo. She would have been 56 this year. Her cancer took her really fast and it’s still weird that she’s gone. I was glad we could all get together to remember her and have a laugh about the old days.

QUESTION: Have you been tricked by deceiving labels before?