Healthy Snacks For After Your Workout

by | Nov 5, 2012
Delicious Nuts

Delicious Nuts

“When I work out at the gym, I am there for a couple of hours and by the end of the first hour, I am still energized but start getting hungry. I read your article on packing food for lunch but wanted to specifically ask if you recommend any specific store bought bars.”

I frequently get questions about different nutrition and energy bars. Generally I think they are a bad idea, since they are usually just processed food with added vitamins and/or other trendy diet ingredients—a hallmark of food from the Matrix.

Energy and meal replacement bars serve only one purpose: convenience. Some may be better than others (check the ingredients to be sure), but don’t fool yourself into thinking these are health foods.

That said, I understand that quick calories can be incredibly useful, particularly when intense workouts are a regular part of your day. If you get hungry and don’t have anything around to eat, the chances of you breaking down and eating something you’ll really regret increase substantially. But I think there are better things to carry around than energy bars.

My quick snack of choice is nuts or trail mix. I always have a small stash of nuts hidden somewhere in my gym bag (which comes with me everywhere). My personal favorites are almonds, pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts. When I’m feeling ambitious I’ll combine a few different kinds together in a plastic zipper bag along with some dried fruit, just to mix things up.

One of the only drawbacks of snacking on nuts is if you are really hungry it is easy to eat too many and ruin your appetite for dinner. Too many nuts can also be difficult to digest. To avoid this I recommend getting into the habit of counting the nuts you eat, drinking water and waiting 20 minutes before eating more. The protein and fat in nuts can be very satisfying, but it takes awhile for the satiety signals to reach your brain.

For almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts 10 is a good number to start with. For shelled pistachios and peanuts, 15-20 nuts is more realistic. You are aiming for a single serving size of 1/4 cup. After some practice, eating the proper amount will come naturally to you. But at the beginning you should either count the nuts or measure them out in advance so it is easier to make good decisions.

There are a few other easily transportable foods that can serve as good substitutes for energy bars. Fruit is a great option, particularly filling fruits with lots of fiber like apples and oranges. Be careful with soft fruits, however, or you may end up with a gym bag filled with goo. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

(Read: How to transport soft fruits and vegetables)

Another option that I don’t often use but am not opposed to is jerky. Beef and turkey jerky are generally high in protein and very satisfying. Just be careful about the teriyaki flavor that is often high in added sugar.

As a final thought, I wonder if you are maybe spending too much time in the gym? For weight loss and fat burning, more than an hour is really overkill and may actually work against you. If you are training for a specific athletic event, you’ve gotta do what you gotta do. But for the rest of us mortals one hour in the gym is more than enough to accomplish our goals. Maybe your hunger is a signal to you that it’s time to shower up and head home?

One of the most essential aspects of a great healthstyle is planning for moments of hunger throughout your day, but processed foods are hardly ever the answer, no matter how convenient.

What are your favorite post-workout snacks?

Originally published November 16, 2009.

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10 Reasons To Never Eat Free Food

by | Aug 22, 2012
By D Sharon Pruitt

By D Sharon Pruitt

Most people’s eyes light up if free food is mentioned. But using “free” as an excuse to eat junk food is nothing to be proud of.

We get excited by the concept of free food because at first glance it seems like a great value. But cheap, mass-produced food isn’t worth much in health, taste or even satisfaction.

Thus one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my 12 years of higher education is:

Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to eat it.

Occasionally someone will offer you high-quality food at no cost, but these chances are few and far between. More often you will find yourself wading through a sea of donuts, pizza, cookies and other junk food.

Your best bet is skipping the empty calories all together when attending meetings, seminars and other public events.

10 reasons to never eat free food

  1. It’s cheap. You might think that free food is a bargain, but if you think about what you’re really getting it won’t seem like such a good deal. Cheap food means low-quality, mass-produced calories made from industrial processes. That’s the stuff we want to avoid.
  2. It’s flavorless. The right combinations of sugar, fat and salt, pretty easily deceive your brain, as these ingredients strongly activate your neural reward pathways. But if you try and focus on the true flavor of food and eat mindfully, you’ll learn to taste the difference between real food and the flavorlessness industrial stuff.
  3. It’s bad for you. Processed foods are responsible for almost all “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. When you wolf down a few of those Costco brownie bites at happy hour, you are directly contributing to your likelihood of developing these chronic diseases. Is that value?
  4. You aren’t saving money. You may tell yourself that this free meal will keep you from eating later, but there’s a good chance you will eat again anyway. Processed foods do not satisfy you, but actually stimulate your appetite and strengthen future cravings. Also, if you factor in your future health care costs, what you save by eating that $2 slice of free pizza starts to seem rather trivial.
  5. You’ll feel gross later. Junk food makes you feel bad, both physically and mentally. If someone offered you a free headache, would you take it?
  6. It screws up your metabolism. Highly refined foods can induce insulin resistance over the next few hours, making your next meal more fattening. If you make a habit of eating cheap abundant food, this condition can become chronic and develop into type 2 diabetes. What a bargain!
  7. You’ll gain weight. With insulin resistance comes weight gain, and with time you will gain more weight eating fewer calories. Unfortunately, people aren’t often giving away free plus-sized jeans.
  8. You’re eating empty calories. When you submit to eating cheap food, you are also choosing not to eat nutritious food. Choosing a diet rich in vitamins and other essential nutrients is necessary for reducing risk for sickness and disease. Foods typically offered as free don’t even fulfill our most basic nutritional (or emotional) needs.
  9. You don’t need it. Chances are you get plenty of calories in your typical day. So why do we feel like we need to eat junk food just because it is free? Healthy food does not have to be very expensive.
  10. It isn’t worth it. The truth is free junk food isn’t really free. Even if processed foods don’t cost you money, they still cost you your health, happiness and sense of well-being. You can do better.

Why do you eat free food? Originally published September 21, 2009.

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Is It Healthier To Eat Like A Caveman?

by | Mar 7, 2012

Photo by Lord Jim

“What do you think of the Paleo diet which advocates zero grain consumption?”

The Paleolithic diet is one of the most rapidly growing diet trends of the past several years. Followers of the Paleo diet argue that humans have not evolved to eat agriculture-based foods and can only achieve optimal health by consuming a hunter-gatherer style diet. Thus the Paleo diet is completely devoid of grains and legumes, and also shuns dairy, salt, refined sugar and processed oils. The diet is composed primarily of meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, roots, nuts and seeds.

(The Wikipedia article on the Paleo diet is actually pretty good if you’d like to read up on the details. I particularly like the Opposing views section.)

Like most diets the Paleo diet has a little bit of good science behind it, but also a lot of logical leaps and baseless assumptions. The evolutionary argument that humans are somehow maladapted to agriculture-based diets is particularly unconvincing (resting on many unproven assumptions), yet is the fundamental premise on which the Paleo diet bases its recommendations.

The reasoning behind the Paleo diet is less interesting to me, however, than the impact of the diet itself. Will “eating like a caveman” really help you be healthier?

Possibly, but not necessarily.

The most obvious advantage of the Paleo diet is the lack of processed foods. There is ample evidence that societies on traditional diets boast far better health than those on modern, Western diets–and the hallmark of modern diets is food processing. Paleo diets therefore are low in sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, excess salt and pretty much everything else that leads to “diseases of civilization.”

Paleo diets are also abundant in healthy, nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and meats. I have no doubt that anyone willing to stick to a Paleo eating plan will have a healthy weight and remain virtually free of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and may even have lower rates of cancer.

But the question still remains, is it necessary to eat Paleo to be healthy?

This is where I take issue with the Paleo philosophy. While a diet completely free of processed foods is undeniably healthy, the Paleo diet goes beyond this and demands considerable sacrifice.

Paleo diets do not allow for any grains or legumes. This pretty much eliminates every traditional cuisine on earth including Japanese, Italian, Indian and Greek. Not only is this a culinary tragedy, it ignores the fact that these cuisines feed some of the world’s healthiest and longest-lived individuals.

Traditional, global diets that exclude highly processed foods but also include grains and legumes have been some of the most successful for health. Diseases of civilization are only problematic in Western cultures where processed foods make up a large proportion of the calories and few whole food are consumed.

Proponents of the Paleo diet argue that it is necessary to eliminate grains and legumes because they contain “antinutrients,” substances that can interfere with the body’s absorption of other important vitamins, minerals and proteins. However, well-nourished individuals who eat a varied diet of unprocessed foods (including grains and legumes) are not nutrient deficient and are generally healthy.

Given that it is possible to thrive on a diet that includes some grains, legumes and even small amounts of processed foods, one must question if giving up the culinary joys of travel and global cuisine are really worth the sacrifice.

In my experience, food substitutions and modified recipes designed to mimic traditional meals can sometimes be tasty but can never replace true authenticity.

Another contention I have with the Paleo diet is the assumption that the same eating patterns will work for everyone. People’s lives differ in countless ways. We each have different levels of daily activity, demands on our time and food preferences. We also have different genetic backgrounds, which can result in significant differences in metabolism and hormone levels. These individual variations make dietary needs different for each of us.

Because of our individual differences, there is undoubtedly a percentage of the population that thrives on the Paleo diet and finds it easy to stick to and achieve results. Hooray! However there may also be a segment of the population (myself included) that finds living without grains and legumes to be chronically unsatisfying and unsustainable.

Try telling a foodie they can never eat cheese or drink wine again and see how far you get pitching a Paleo diet.

If you currently eat a typical Western diet with little variety and many processed foods, tend to have better success following rigid diet plans, and have no qualms about giving up or modifying traditional meals to meet your dietary demands, then you might have luck following the Paleo diet. However there is no reason to believe it is the only path to good health.

The best diet is the one that works for you. Finding a healthstyle you can embrace and enjoy is essential if you want to build a lifetime of healthy habits.

Do you follow a Paleo diet? What do you think?

Originally published February 22, 2010.

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Why processed foods are so bad, artisan vs grocery store bread, and finding time to cook healthy food – Episode 11 – Summer Tomato Live

by | Aug 17, 2011

This is one of my favorite discussions on health and processed food so far, thanks everyone for your questions. As always, show notes are below.

August 17, 2011 | Episode 11 of Summer Tomato Live will be here tonight at 6pm PST. The format is a little different this week. Instead of covering one topic, I’ll be answering 3 recent subscribers questions. The questions I’ll be answering are:

  1. What’s the deal with processed foods, why are they so bad?
  2. Are artisan breads as bad as grocery store breads?
  3. Cooking healthy food takes me forever. How can I make it quicker and less overwhelming?

Summer Tomato Live normally requires a subscriber password, but since we have so many new readers this week (thank you TIME Magazine!) I’m going to leave this episode open so anyone can participate.

Also to celebrate making TIME’s list of best websites, for the rest of the week I’m offering one free month off a new Tomato Slice subscription. So if you’ve been thinking about signing up, now would be a great time.

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter.

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted. I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

See you soon!

Show notes:


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For The Love Of Food

by | Feb 11, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

If you haven’t yet, please vote at Quirky to help us pick the final look of my farmers market bag. We’re almost done!

Great reading this week about why the case against saturated fat isn’t as strong as you thought, the role of fish in vision maintenance and the importance of childhood nutrition.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete list of my favorite stories check out my links on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Intact Grains vs. Whole Grains

by | Nov 29, 2010

Photo by Venex_jpb

Photo by Venex_jpb

If there is a single subject that befuddles the health-conscious eater, it is undoubtedly carbohydrates.

Most of us have seen the impressive results of at least temporarily restricting carbs, but studies examining the long-term effects of carbohydrate restriction are often ambiguous. Also, while some experts argue fervently for a low-carb lifestyle, some nutritionists still warn about the dangers of eating too much fat or protein.

So how do we know what to believe?

A full examination of the science behind carbohydrate metabolism is beyond the scope of a single blog post, and is in fact not entirely understood by the scientific community (for a thorough review of this topic read Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I have reviewed here).

However, there are a few things we do know about carbohydrates that are worth pointing out.

Lesson 1: Refined grains contribute to nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

It is universally agreed in the nutrition community that refined, processed carbohydrates are the worst things to eat on the entire planet.

And it is impossible to overstate how remarkable this is.

The nutrition community is one of the most disagreeable bunches in all of science. But across the board–from vegans like Colin Campbell to carnivores like Robert Atkins–not a single one of them considers processed carbs to be nutritionally neutral. They all consider them dangerous.

Without question, refined carbohydrates contribute to poor health.

Lesson 2: Vegetables protect against nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

Where things start to get more complicated is with unrefined carbohydrates, and the various iterations of this definition. There is ample evidence that the carbohydrates contained in vegetables are not harmful, and possibly beneficial.

To call these vegetable carbohydrates “fiber” is to oversimplify the science, but suffice to say that vegetables are good for you and contribute to your good health.

This is also generally agreed upon.

Lesson 3: Whole grains are different from intact grains.

Few people will argue against my first two points. But bring up whole grains and you will unleash a fury of controversy. Some people believe whole grains to be the cornerstone of any healthy diet, while others consider them superfluous and possibly detrimental to good health. You can find dozens of PhDs and MDs to back up your claims no matter what camp you align with.

So why is there so much disagreement? What does the science say?

The problem is that nutrition science conducted in free-living humans is virtually impossible to interpret. This is largely because the studies are so difficult to control and people’s behavior and self-reporting are so unreliable. Another problem is that the definition of “whole grains” has been watered down to a point where it is virtually meaningless.

One reason whole grains are hard to identify is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a definition that is friendly to food companies, but not to consumers.

The FDA requirements for a manufacturer to use the term “whole grain” on its label (along with the respective health claims) are as follows:

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis - should be considered a whole grain food.” (emphasis added by me)

Get it? To be considered “whole,” grains do not actually have to be intact.

Thus food manufacturers create products using this loose definition to their advantage, demolishing grains as normal, then adding back the required ratios of grain parts (germ and bran) to meet the standard.

This is how products like Froot Loops get spiffy health labels claiming they lower heart disease when any unbiased nutrition scientist would agree that, with 41% sugar by weight, Froot Loops almost certainly contribute to heart disease.

On the other hand, there is compelling data that intact whole grains contribute to better health.

Lesson 4: Eating grains is a personal choice, not a nutritional imperative.

The good news is that it is really easy to tell the difference between fake “whole” grains and intact whole grains. If a food actually looks like a grain (i.e., it retains its original form and bran covering), then it is an intact grain. If it looks like a Cheerio, chip, loaf of bread or pasta with a “whole grain” label, then it is a fake whole grain.

People following a primal or paleo diet will argue that this difference is irrelevant and that all grains (and legumes?!) are unnecessary for good health. Personally I disagree, but remain fairly neutral on the personal choice of removing grains from the diet entirely.

Grains do not appear to be necessary for survival (Inuit tribes survive without them), but optimal nutrition may require slightly more effort than would be necessary following a traditional balanced diet.

This is generally how I feel about all healthy, restrictive regimens such as vegetarian, vegan and raw diets. You can make it work for yourself if you are willing to make sacrifices and put in the effort.

However you should be aware that for many people, myself included, cutting whole grains out of your diet completely is extremely difficult and, if you ask me, unnecessarily painful.

Conclusion

When making food choices about grains, the critical question is not whether or not a food is “whole” grain but whether the grain is intact. For this reason, it matters very little if you substitute “whole grain” products for regular refined products such as pasta.

Examples of intact grains are oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa (sort of) and faro. White rice is not a whole grain, and is closer to a refined grain than a whole grain.

For optimal health, processed and refined grains should be eaten very sparingly. Small amounts such as those eaten in traditional cultures can be part of any healthstyle, but including them is a personal choice that will depend on your own goals and preferences.

The irony is that if you are able to remove processed foods from your diet, the way you eat could probably be described as low-carb. But this label really undermines a healthstyle based on real food.

Though I eat relatively few grains compared to most Americans, I cringe when I see the shining example of low-carb living, The Atkins Diet website, with images of fake pancakes and pasta plastered all over it. If that is what low-carb is, I want nothing to do with it.

Processed food is still processed food, whether the carbohydrates have been synthetically removed or not. Stick to eating real food and you’ll never have to worry about carbs.

Do you count your carbohydrates?

Originally published November 25, 2009.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Nov 5, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week I was introduced to the concept of food “ultra-processing”, learned how to best convince friends to eat more vegetables and was re-horrified at a fellow scientist’s ignorance of the relationship between dietary cholesterol to personal health.

On and unrelated note, I’ll be at the Foodbuzz Festival this weekend. If you’ll be around, come say hi :)

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Aug 13, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week I found an exceptional number of articles supporting the value of minimally processed foods (shhh, even the one that tried to argue the opposite). Also some useful tips on juicing and weight lifting (not together, of course).

I’m also happy to tell you that the print buttons are working again :)

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on the new Digg or StumbleUpon. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 23, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m excited to announce this week the launch of my personal blog daryapino.com. It’s still very much a work in progress, and there’s a decent chance it may change a lot in the coming months. But since it is meant to be a more informal peek into my personal healthstyle (which I get asked about all the time (???)), I figure there’s no harm in announcing it at this point. There are a few posts up there now, including a review of Anthony Bourdain’s new book Medium Raw, to give you an idea of what to expect. Let me know what you think.

I found a ton of interesting links this week ranging from really cool scientific discoveries on the benefits of whole foods to frightening food safety issues and vegetable MRIs. I also found some proof that organic tomatoes are better for you than the tasteless kind.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on the new Digg or StumbleUpon. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

  • USDA Admits Link Between Antibiotic Use by Big Ag and Human Health <<The horrendous conditions that exist in industrial feedlots require the animals be given huge doses of antibiotics to  stay alive long enough to be profitable survive. This overuse of medicine creates superbugs, antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are becoming a serious problem in our very own hospitals. Solution seems obvious to me. (Huffington Post)
  • Good cholesterol may mean little for statin users <<Interesting new data showing that statin users get no extra benefit from having high HDL “good” cholesterol. I’m a little surprised by this, and will be following this research closely. (Medline)
  • Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes <<Translation: Organic tomatoes are more nutritious than conventional tomatoes in a well-designed 10-year study. Why this research didn’t make the news is beyond me. But of course if a poorly designed study shows no difference in the nutrition of organic foods then it’s front page material (in science we call this a negative finding and it should require EXTRA proof). So I’m calling BS of the week on the lack of press here. (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry)
  • A rose may be a rose but perhaps a calorie’s not a calorie <<Cool study showing that whole foods use more calories during digestion than processed foods, even when the meals have the same number of total calories and are almost identical. (Weighty Matters)
  • The Claim: Artificial Sweeteners Can Raise Blood Sugar <<Yes, yes they can. Artificial sweeteners have never been shown to have any value, and they also taste pretty bad. I vote for natural sweeteners with real calories. Just use them sparingly. (New York Times)
  • Why Toasting Dried Chiles Matters <<Cool experiment on the flavor added by toasting dried chilies before using them. I’m totally trying this. (Serious Eats)
  • Your Salad – Is the convenience worth the risk? <<This is a subject that has been bothering me a lot lately. Industrial lettuces have been getting E.coli and salmonella like crazy this year, so even vegetarians and generally conscientious eaters are at risk unless they buy produce directly from farms (which can be impossible for many people). I don’t know what to say except rinse your bagged salads well. (Marler Blog)
  • WTF Should I Do with All This Summer Fruit? <<Tips on freezing fruit so you have a stash come winter. (Chow)
  • Inside Insides <<One of the coolest geeky food blogs I’ve come across. They take MRIs of fresh produce!!
  • Tarragon Egg Salad <<I love egg salad, and am learning to appreciate tarragon. I declare this recipe on the menu! (Simply Recipes)

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 18, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Some great reads this week. There’s scary news for those of us who spend a lot of time at the computer, as well as a terrifying example of what it means to be a food-like product. On the other side, there’s some good news about cholesterol.

I’m still participating in the Inkwell interview at The Well with David Gans and Diane Brown until June 23. Have questions for me or just want to eavesdrop? Come join us! http://bit.ly/9n1v8O

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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