PHIL KAPLAN'S FITNESS TRUTH - Nutritional Confusion

I'm Confused About the Eating Thing

QUESTION: I work as a waitress at a resort and you conducted a seminar there last summer. I have to admit, I just stopped in for a minute to see what all the noise was about, and I didn't leave until the seminar was over (if you want me to send you a check I will). I missed a lot of it but I got the jist of Supportive Nutrition. I understand why sugar is going to make fat loss a struggle, I understand why fat free doesn't mean "good for you," and I can honestly say I learned more about reading food labels than I ever thought there was to know. I also have the exercise part down. I'm just confused about the eating thing. I've been doing OK, and I lost 22 pounds (I know I'm not supposed to weigh myself, but I knew it would be good news) since the seminar, but now I want to start to do it perfectly. I really think I can get myself into the kind of shape the fitness girls are in, but I'm not sure how to improve my eating. I still live at home and my parents always eat beef and pork. I'm driving them crazy trying to get them to eat better. Can I eat lean ground beef? Is there a cut of steak that's OK? Can I eat pork? Can I eat penne pasta with fat-free spaghetti sauce? Is seven-grain bread OK (it has sugar on the ingredient list), and can I use bread crumbs or some kind of breading on my baked chicken breasts? You can see I'm confused. Help!

ANSWER: Hmmm . . . . the first question is, do I answer someone who admits "sneaking into a seminar" without buying a ticket? Well, since you were complimentary . . . why not?

Before I answer the questions you asked, let me assure you if you've lost 22 pounds and maintained or gained muscle, you're doing great. Sometimes little shifts in training and/or slight adjustments in caloric intake can be all you need to take things to the next level.

After a brief response, I'll refer you to some other articles that might help you get a better grip on Supportive Eating, and you can always order my EAT! book or ENJOY! recipe guide for actual meal suggestions.

Lean ground beef is OK, assuming it's really lean. As I'm sure you've found after coming to understand label deception, many foods labeled "lean" get 40% of their calories or more from fat. Always look at calories per serving and calories from fat and try to opt for protein foods that get less than 20% of their calories from fat.

Flank steak is typically leaner than most of the already ground beef you're going to find in the meat section. You can always ask the folks who work in the meat department to grind up chicken breasts or flank steak if you want to make burgers and meatloaf that is supportive.

The leaner the pork, the better. Think of it as a matter of degree. No food is necessarily "bad," but you want to make the best choices that are both possible and comfortable.

It's far simpler to get lean cuts of chicken breast and turkey breast than it is to find equally lean cuts of beef or pork, but you don't have to eliminate beef and pork if they're foods you enjoy.

Don't attempt nutritional perfection, as it really isn't possible. What I try to do is provide people an awareness and then empower them to make better choices. If you're going to use no fat spaghetti sauce, that's fine, but choose the one with the lowest sugar content. Also note that you don't have to use an entire serving. With sauces and dressings use just enough to provide the taste you enjoy.

The less sugar something has the better. If there are a few grams in a meal that's high in protein, complex carbs, and fiber, it's OK. Pastas, breads, and breading are not going to be optimal. They are manufactured and refined which means a machine somewhere did some of the work your body was going to do. That makes the meals less "thermic" and less likely to contribute to a metabolic boost. Refined carbs are easily converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. That doesn't mean never eat bread or pasta. Just don't consider them staples in your nutrition program if fat loss is a goal.

You can make the best bread and pasta choices possible so explore ingredient labels and you'll likely find the better options in a natural market (as opposed to a mainstream supermarket or grocery store). Continue to examine labels. The words "bleached, processed, and enriched" can be translated to "return it to the shelf." Look for breads made with whole grains, recognizable grains, such as oats, rye, etc.

Also be on the lookout for hydrogenated fats. I hope that's enough to put your mind at ease and allow you to take things to the next level as far as your own fitness. If the day comes that you ever opt to compete in a fitness competition, give yourself 8-12 weeks before the event to eat "really clean," avoiding breads, pastas, etc. completely and striving to make every meal a supportive balance of vital nutrients.

The following articles might also help:

[ Supportive Eating ]
[ When Supportive Eating Gets Boring ]
[ Healthy Foods? ]
[ I Know What I Should Eat . . . But . . . ]
Nutrition 101 ]

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