Guide to Eating Well: One Week of Food

Last night, I watched the rest of two documentaries on my to-do list, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and “Forks over Knives.”  I highly recommend both films when you have time (I also have critique that I will readily express, if requested). The gist of these films: “increase vegetable consumption; avoid processed foods and animal products.” No doubt, a vegan diet that is properly prepared can meet nutritional needs and reduce the risk of a variety of chronic diseases. However, (I believe) following an animal-free diet is not essential to good health or toward achieving a healthy environment.  What is essential to good health and leaving behind a small ecological footprint is to (a) reduce processed foods, especially those with trans-fat, added sugar and added sodium, and (b) choose healthy grass-fed versions of animal-based foods when possible.  Read some more of my key takeaways at the Full Engagement Center (note: the post is not a formal critique of the movies).

Takeaways …  Jumbled with recommendations (that come from years of study and reading about nutrition!)

  • I believe (most) men associate “eating red meat and no veggies” with being manly (a mistake)
  • I believe our primary nutrition focus as human beings should be to increase consumption of vegetables and plant-based proteins (legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and grains)
  • I believe a plant-based diet (the majority thereof) versus an animal-based diet of meat/eggs/dairy (the majority thereof) will avert and also reverse many chronic diseases (including high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, cancers, etc) ALONGSIDE reductions in ALL processed foods, especially those with trans-fat, added sodium and added sugar
  • I believe when it comes to nutrition, we need to adopt the following mindset: once you realize you’re not depriving yourself if you reduce certain foods, but instead, depriving yourself if you do not reduce them, you have begun to understand the impact your food choices have upon your overall health and your ecological footprint
  • I believe it is best not to avoid but to limit eggs/meat/dairy (choose healthy grass-fed versions of each when possible)
  • I believe we should spread out dairy, meat and eggs throughout the week (i.e., it is best to consume some of each animal group throughout the week but not all groups at all meals everyday)
  • I don’t believe in “juice fasts” but I do believe it is ONE WAY to “get back on track” if necessary (I wouldn’t recommend the length of time suggested in FSND; 10 days should be the limit, if that, and the fast should be monitored by a doctor and/or registered dietitian)
  • I don’t believe we should limit fish, as FoK suggested – that is an asinine and misinformed recommendation; fish (namely the omega-3 fatty acids) are essential to good heath (vegetarians should consume flaxseed or algal oil or a DHA supplement)
  • I don’t believe increased meat consumption is linked to cancer; I believe increased processed meat and all processed food consumption (especially those with HFCS and trans-fat) are linked to cancer.

Menu of Options

These takeaways above led me to create my own version of what foods to include in your diet every week (depicted in the graph below).   By the mere act of listing it below, it means I DO recommend that you include these foods into your diet in the frequency specified.  If it is not listed, it means you should rarely if ever partake in the behavior (e.g., adding sugar and salt to food, drinking > 2 diet sodas/day, eating spam :)).

I made this version as straight-forward as I could, but there is (lots of) room to iterate.  How to read:

  • Dark blue boxes: specify how often to eat a certain food per week
  • Light blue boxes: specify how often to eat a certain food per day
  • White boxes: specify the certain foods to consume in the specified time frames

As mentioned above, it is okay to consume meat if it’s from a healthy animal; but most of the time we get meat products from local delis (Subway, Quiznos), and those meats are not only high in saturated fat and cholesterol, but are also full of the cancer-causing chemicals we want to avoid (nitrites) – more about nitrates/nitrites here if interested.

What a sample (and staple) day might look like:

  • Breakfast: Egg whites (one whole egg tops) mixed with favorite veggies and 1 slice cheese on grainy whole wheat toast. (optional: 1 pat butter) OR Greek yogurt with flaxseed meal, wheat germ and berries (optional: sprinklings of favorite granola)
  • Lunch: Salad (base: dark greens like spinach or arugula) with favorite veggies (onions, tomatoes, corn, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms) and beans/legumes (chickpeas, bean salad), olive oil and vinegar, whole wheat roll as a side.  (NYC: try Café 28, Tasty Café and ABG. Optional: can garnish with chicken, cheese or some croutons).
  • Snacks: Fruits, vegetables, plant-based spreads like hummus or peanut butter, Nuts, Kashi bars, Greek yogurt with flaxseed meal and wheat germ
  • Dinner: Grilled fish cooked in olive oil with steamed veggies and brown rice
  • Dessert: 1 piece dark chocolate and/or 1 cup Ronnybrook low-fat milk

Food Guide Pyramids

I have yet to create my own.  In the meantime, I recommend the following food guide pyramids to look through:

My recommendations promote meat/eggs/dairy a little harder than the Mediterranean, Fuhrman and Harvard, respectively.  My version limits the quantity of those foods by spreading them out over the course of the week WHILE focusing on the animal source, itself.

Bottom line from the above: spread out your dairy, meat and eggs throughout the week.  Best to consume some of each group throughout the week but not all groups at all meals every day.   Focus on fruits and vegetables as the base of your diet.


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