By Carolyn Twesten, Weaver Street Market Produce and Meat Merchandiser
It’s that time of year again, when we’ve all over-eaten our way through the holidays and are ready to embrace the New Year with resolutions for healthy change. I’m guilty of succumbing to the temptation of over-indulging myself, as my well-meaning co-workers and friends came bearing cookies and sweets by the dozens. I also can’t ever seem to decide which of my family’s favorite holiday foods to make, so I make them all, and eat them all in abundance!
Holiday transgressions aside, the past 18 months or so have marked a new journey for me with regards to health.
I have been a sugar junky and overall carb addict for most of my life. Having grown up on Cocoa Crispies, Coca-Cola, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and other such non-foods, it is a miracle that I ever ate a fresh vegetable, much less became the foodie and produce enthusiast I am now. Even as my eating habits improved with adulthood, my sugar addiction persisted. We have all experienced the afternoon energy crash that results in us slamming a scone, cookie, or sugar-laden coffee drink, only to find ourselves crashing again an hour or so later. My sugar addiction sometimes had me up in the middle of the night, eating a bowl of sugary cereal or chugging orange juice from the carton. And, as I crept into my mid- and late-thirties, it was starting to show around my middle and in my health screenings. Something had to give!
A New Diet
In spring of 2016 our general manager, Ruffin Slater, introduced us to a new book by Dr. David Ludwig: Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently. As part of Weaver Street Market’s 2020 Vision, our first goal states “Make healthy eating accessible, tasty, and fun.” Dr. Ludwig’s book supports that goal by educating us about the dangerous results of the Standard American Diet and consumption of empty calories from sugary non-foods, and encouraging a shift to eating REAL food. What is real food? It’s the fresh fruits and vegetables you find in our produce departments; healthy proteins like nuts, eggs, meat, and fish; and whole grains that your body takes time breaking down, as opposed to the white pastas and rices that rapidly turn to sugar in the body.
What does such a shift in behavior mean, exactly?
Conventional wisdom used to teach us that calories-in minus calories-out equals calories stored, and that all calories are created equal. All that mattered was how many calories a person consumed. Not only that, fat calories were demonized for the past fifty or so years. The USDA recommended a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, and as a result, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates skyrocketed.
Now however, research from doctors such as David Ludwig is turning the tide, showing that sugar and carbohydrates that rapidly break down into sugar are more problematic than fats, and that not all calories are equal. An example given by Dr. Ludwig is this: A can of cola has the same calories as a bowl of full-fat yogurt and nuts. When we drink the cola, however, our body reacts to the rush of sugar in a bad way that results in a buildup of body fat. When we eat the yogurt, however, our body processes the foods more slowly, and the same number of calories does not result in the fat cells that cause obesity. Even the USDA has revised their daily nutrition recommendations to reduce the amount of carbohydrates consumed, while increasing intake of whole fruits and vegetables.
After reading Always Hungry? I embarked on what was previously unthinkable: going a whole week without ANY sugars or grains. That’s right, no bread, rice, pasta, not even honey in my tea. This was phase one of Dr. Ludwig’s diet. After completing all three phases (about a month) of the program, I felt amazing: my moods and energy levels were stable, and I didn’t wake up starving in the morning or suffer from sugar crashes in the afternoon. Eighteen months later I’ve been able to maintain a low-carbohydrate diet, even going for months or more at a time without any refined sugars. And, with the addition of a fitness program, I lost the excess weight around my middle. I feel better than ever.
So, back to where I started: healthy resolutions. As my healthy diet slipped over the holidays, I am prepared to double-down on my vigilance as I head into the New Year. Here are some of the staples that help me curb the cravings, increase satiety, and improve overall health:
- Amazing Grass Protein Superfood and Greens Superfood.
These nutrient-dense, plant-based supplements are a great way to start your day with a nutritious and great-tasting smoothie! I use a scoop of each in my morning smoothie, along with fresh or frozen fruit, nut butter or coconut milk for healthy fats, and almond milk to blend it all up. The Protein Superfood has 20 grams of protein and 2 servings of veggies, and the Greens Superfood packs an extra antioxidant punch.
High in protein, fiber, and healthy fats to help keep you satisfied, almonds are a great snack to keep at hand if you need a little something to get you through the day.
There’s been lots of controversy surrounding the health benefits (or harmfulness) of eggs over the years but happily, nutrition experts are now coming around to the good of eggs. Eggs are great sources of protein and fat, and the yolks are especially dense sources of vitamins and minerals. I like to keep a half dozen or more hard boiled eggs around for a tasty lunch salad addition.
- Apples and citrus
Eating whole fruits is always preferable over juice extracts or sugary sweets. Eating fruits whole doesn’t affect your blood sugar like drinking juice does, as the fiber helps your body to slowly digest the fruit while assimilating the nutrients. And it’s just so fresh and delicious. I choose apples and citrus fruits especially because they have a lower glycemic index and are high in fiber.
I used to think, “I don’t have time to drink eight glasses of water a day,” which is probably true if you start your day out with a big glass of OJ, follow with a few cups of coffee, have a soda with lunch, and a sweet tea for dinner. Yeah, you should just cut out all those other pointless beverages and drink enough water, about half your body weight in ounces. Your body will thank you.