So it’s gearing up for summer and you want to lose weight – what do you do? If you take a leaf out of any mainstream book (or magazine) chances are you are counting calories, or limiting them at least. This is certainly what I used to do myself when trying to lose weight – everything would be measured and entered into a calories counting app to ensure that I worked off at the gym whatever went into my mouth. Food choices would be dictated not by the taste of something or it’s nutritional properties, but by the amount of calories or grams of fat – the fewer, the better!
So whats wrong with eating this way? Well, for a start –
THESE FOODS TASTE LIKE C R A P !
I mean, really, who wants to spend life eating bland salads consisting of just some leafy greens and a fat-free (and tasteless) salad dressing, followed up by a Weight Watchers cookie for dessert? Anyone that has ever tried a Weight Watchers cookie will know that asides from not being any good for you, once again – they taste like crap!
But lets look at how these foods get to be how they are. Most packaged “health” foods – particularly those that are labelled as low fat, low sugar or low calorie, have gone through an incredible amount of processing and altering to get them to their current state. Low-fat products often go through a process of removing the fat and replacing it with sugar to save some of the taste, and sugar-free options often forgo the sugar completely, replacing it instead with an artificial sweetener which thus completely forgoes any taste benefits it may have once had.
These products are manufactured to remove the “bad” (ie high-calorie sugars and fats) and replacing them with artificial sweeteners, flavours and additives – ie chemicals – to try and retain some of the taste. So even though the product may seem healthier, in most cases it’s usually not at all.
There have been quite a lot of great articles written over the years about exactly why calories counting and eating these “healthy” lower calorie foods is not a good idea – Lesh Karan explained how eating low fat foods could be making you fat, more recently Alice Nicholls has taken a detailed look about what exactly goes into the aforementioned Weight Watchers cookie and their other products, arguing that Weight Watchers products should never be eaten, and Jacques Peretti showed us in his brilliant documentary “The Men Who Made Us Fat” the multi-million dollar industry behind there so-called “healthy” processed and packaged food options, which perhaps starts to put things into perspective a little.
In fact, if you do a quick Google search, you’ll find an abundance of articles on why low calorie may not always be the best option for us. It is, however, big business, and therefore unfortunately it continues to prevail as the preferred option among the masses when it comes to weight loss, despite not always being the best option – particularly when we’re talking manufactured and packaged low-calorie products.
So whats the alternative?
If you are aiming to keep your calorie intake down, aim to eat foods which are naturally low in calories – the most obvious choice here is lots of fresh vegetables, especially the non-starchy varieties. It is very hard to eat 500 calories of kale – you would need to eat a whole kilo of the stuff just to get that amount of calories, and I don’t know about you but its not very often I would eat a whole kilo at a time of any vegetable!
Not only are these veggies low calorie, they are also naturally low in fat, and for the most part naturally low in sugar. And the best part, is that
EATING A DIET HIGH IN VEGGIES WILL LEAVE YOU FEELING A M A Z I N G !
Along with all these veggies, you should supplement your diet with smaller amounts of natural, whole foods – nuts, seeds, fish, free range eggs, legumes, fruit and full-fat organic dairy. And despite what mainstream media may tell you – you don’t need to be scared of fat! Eating fat does not equate to gaining weight – in fact, it may be well be the opposite. We’ll get into more detail about that later this month as part of our Shaping Up For Summer – the Healthy Way series – but for now, I’ll leave you with the words of Michael Pollen – which I’m sure you’ve seen around here before, but he does say it so very perfectly.
Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.