Thursday Thoughts: Eat This, Not That

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

If you are new to my blog, or haven't been reading on Thursdays, this is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic.  Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses.  Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting.  In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something.

Have you heard of the book or read the articles called Eat This, Not That?  Most of you probably have.  At first I thought it was awesome.  In fact, I bought 2 of the books.  I loved the thought of better options while eating out or selecting foods in the grocery store.  I loved the premise (taken from their twitter page):

The no-diet weight loss solution! Learn thousands of easy food swaps that can save you 10, 20, 30 pounds—or more!

So, what happened to my love for this?  I happen to follow their Twitter feed, and over the past few weeks I have found some rather disturbing tweets.  I guess you can say my blinders came off and I realized that in theory this is good, but in reality it still haven't helped people.  Sure, they can lose a little weight from eating less calories, but it is still encouraging eating out what seems like a lot of the time.  I won't deny it, we go out often, especially every time we settle into a new "home".  We pick places that aren't fast food or chain restaurants, although when we were in the States, sometimes we did, but other times it was more like mom and pop places, or "that whole in the wall joint".  Plus, knowing a little more about food and nutrition does give you an edge when dining out (and preplanning to account for a meal out-sometimes it helps, sometimes not so much!).  So in this case, it is nice to know what is better than something else and will save you calories, but I feel like it is an endless promotion of eating at the most unhealthy restaurants out there.  The education on the calorie counts of some items definitely benefits many people, but I don't think there should be so much focus on "go there and order this instead".  Honestly, the meal might be healthier, but it may not be HEALTHY!

Like I said, this has been a building fury for me over the past few weeks, and I decided to write this post after one tweet almost caused me to have a stroke.  I'm really not kidding.  Ryan had to calm me down pretty good after this one.  I have been more tuned in to what they have been writing to see if I was just in a bad mood or what, but I can honestly say that a lot of what I am seeing them post really bothers me as someone that works to teach about good nutrition and healthy living.  This was cute for a minute, but I am starting to think (ok, yeah, I did know this before) there is a lot more that needs to be done than just telling people what to eat instead of what when dining at a restaurant.  Think of of much weight they could lose and keep off if they learned how to make more meals at home and eat a more varied diet than just what we see in a chain.

Here we go!  Check out my 5 thoughts on this topic, but way of deconstructing 5 different tweets.

1) Let's get it started with the tweet that sent me on a downhill spiral.   

: DON'T FEAR BACON: Four strips provide 12.5 g of belly-filling protein for fewer than 200 calories!

Seriously?  I am not even sure what to say about this.  Probably because I am tired of thinking about this.  Bacon really isn't a healthy food, and while it can fit into a healthy diet, there is something faulty in the logic here.  Sure, it may provide 12.5 grams of protein, but it also provides 4 grams of saturated fat.  The calories may be just under 200 calories, but I am pretty sure there are other protein choices, with less saturated fat and less calories, that would be a better option.  In fact, here are a few better options.    Let's take a look at tuna, canned in water.  One regular sized can, while just a little more than 200 calories, packs only 1 gram of saturated fat and a whopping, way more than you probably need in a sitting, 41 grams of protein.  One TBSP of peanut butter provides just over 90 calories, about 4 grams of protein, and about 1.5 grams of saturated fat-with the nice bonus of about 4 grams of monounsaturated fats.  Oh, and let's not forget Greek yogurt.  We happen to have Oikos (fat free) in the house, so I am looking at that label.  Yummy, all for 80 calories, 11 grams of protein and 0 grams of saturated fat.  Wait, wait!  The egg.  How could I forget the egg.  For 2 large eggs, at 140 calories, you get tons of nutrition, with 12 grams of protein, and only 3 grams of saturated fat.  I would consider those foods to all be healthier options than bacon (and not just because I don't eat bacon).  There is more to being healthy than just your weight.  What's in the inside counts too, so foods that you encourage people to eat should also account for what it provides to you on the inside.

2) Next up is this tweet on butter.  Yeah, margarine isn't so great, and butter can fit in a healthy diet, but I think it take s a little more than just this tweet to get the message across about butter's place in a healthy diet.

 BUTTER WE LOVE: Land O'Lakes Whipped Butter. Whipping introduces air, making it easier to spread & lighter in calories!

I really hope people are using caution in their portioning of butter, but I can't really make that assumption (especially having counseled clients for weight loss).  Does this mean use 1 TBSP, 2 TBSP, or just use as much as you want because it sounds like a good food?  It may be a good choice if you are using butter, but I am not sure this tweet gives the full picture about butter.  I feel like I am seeing a trend in saturated fats, which is strange because I have seen them post before about cutting out saturated fats.  The problem is that single snipits of advice can't account for 100% of what someone is going to do (or eat).

3)  Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal sounds healthy—but it contains more sugar Reese's Puffs! The Best & Worst Cereals: 

Maybe at first glance, but this isn't exactly true.  If you look it up and do a little investigative research, it looks like 3/4 cup of the Puffs is 12 grams of sugar, and the oat bran is 15 grams for 3/4 of a cup.  But there is a much bigger difference here.  Different foods fit differently into measuring cups.  Gram for gram of actual cereal, the Puffs have more sugar.  Doing some crazy math (grams of sugar per gram of cereal weight), it comes out to about .1 gram of sugar more per gram of the cereal.  Plus, the cracklin' oat bran packs in 6 grams of fiber, where the Puffs only has 1 gram.  I knew it sounded like an odd recommendation to pick Puffs cereal over Cracklin' Oat Bran.  Are there cereals out there that are better options than both of these?  Yes, of course, but I don't think calling the Oat Brand a worse choice than the Puffs makes much sense.

4) Let's look at another one related to cereals.

 FREAKY FOOD: Scientists found "genetically modified organisms" in the soy in Kashi GoLean! 9 Unnatural Cereals: 


My biggest thought on this on was when did cereal become a natural food.  I get where they are going with this, but it just continues to fuel misinformation about the term natural.  Most foods labeled "natural" or "all natural" are not exactly natural, meaning we can't mind them in nature that way.  Yes, they must be man made (except for actual natural foods, which we find in nature).  Rather, their ingredients meet qualifications to be considered natural.  Natural means occurring in nature.  I can't remember the last time I actually discovered cereal growing in nature.  Oh well!  I guess I should comment then that I noticed they were mentioning GMOs, and thus where they determined unnatural as the word to call this and other cereals.  I know what genetically modified means in the technical food science term, but I think we forget that in reality things are genetically modified all the time.  It doesn't always have to mean unhealthy.  However, this is the picture that is painted and there is an issue, or rather concern, over big agricultural businesses pushing products for consumption that are modified to allow for more food production, longer shelf life, and in turn bigger profits.  I'm just not sure there is enough evidence out there to call one set of tinkering with plants any more harmful than another.  There are tons of "natural" foods out there that are the result of what technically could be referred to as genetically modifying them.

5) I guess this just fuels their eat out, not in promotion.

 Granola = bad idea. Case in point: Jamba Juice's Ideal Meal Chunky Strawberry packs 570 calories! 18 Scary Breakfasts:  

Yeah, there are tons of bad granolas out there.  There are some good store bought granolas out there too.  Even better-make your own granola.  That just sounds like a way better idea to me.  I am not sure I can agree with their claim that granola is a bad idea.  Not to mention, there really isn't a whole lot at Jamba Juice that I would consider to be a healthy food.  The basis for a lot of it is healthy, but they add too many other ingredients that really ruin the thought of a juice or smoothie for me.  Why not encourage people to find a healthier granola based breakfast rather than tell them all granola is bad?  Not to mention, the portion size of granola has never been that big anyway, so when you start eating too many portions of any food, the calories can add up quickly.  

Well, there you have it.  Honestly, the books may be helpful, but I find that they just don't convey the best or most appropriate message in 140 characters or less.  I know people look to Eat This, Not That for actual advice so I do find some of the information detrimental to people's health.  It's never just about 1 food.  It's about the diet overall, so I think more focus needs to be placed here.  Just because one food is high in sodium doesn't mean you can't eat it.  You just have to balance it with everything else.  I'm not really a fan anymore of the focus on just one food and calling it good or bad depending on one nutrient in the food.  It really takes more than that to determine a healthy diet.

I have not looked too much at their website, and I have only looked over the 2 books I own.  My thoughts today are solely on the information they disseminate using 140 character or less tweets.  I could have used any number of a variety of tweets, and these were just picked at random (except the first of course), so I don't want anyone to read too far into my choices.  There were a bunch and I could have gone back for a few weeks, however that may have resulted in more stress for me!  

I think they had their heart in the right place to start, but the pressure of less words has led to some bad messages.  I think some of their information is good and worth reading, but it's those other times when I just cringe and feel like we are taking a step backwards with promoting good health.

Please remember, diet doesn't have to be a dirty word.  The original definition is anything you eat or drink for nourishment (the verb version is now in the dictionary too), so what you eat is automatically your diet.  No need to go on a diet, simply change yours from something less healthy to something more healthy.  The idea to a no-diet weight loss solution doesn't make a whole lot of sense except for fueling the media demonization of the word diet.  In my mind a no-diet way to lose weight would be starvation, and that's just not gonna fly.  Stop making the word so negative and learn how to have a healthy diet instead.  I think people may find if they learn what the word really means and stop following the advice of untrained, non-professionals in nutrition, they would be a lot happier and healthier, assuming they also took the time to learn how to eat right and find a healthy balance of foods that work for them.  

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever heard of Eat This, Not That?  What are your thoughts about it?


Gina; The Candid RD said...

Melinda, I LOVE THIS POST! Seriously, these tweets are making me mad too!!
Ok, My favorite was the one about the Cracklin oats vs. PB puffs. I love that you called out the other benefits of the Cracklin Oats, which are NOT found in the PB puffs!
Did you hear that Frito Lay is getting sued for having GMOs in their "natural" chips? Yeah, I laughed because there is NO definition for natural! No one oversees this claim, so I would be SHOCKED if Frito Lay loses this one (if they do, other companies EVERYWHERE better watch out!).

Special K said...

Again....please send this to a newspaper! Here's the thing. Consumers need to know what they are eating. But more so, they need to be aware of what they are TASTING. After eating one whole slice of bacon, I am done! Why? It is highly flavorful and fatty. Just like having ONE mini piece of chocolate. People say "you eat such tiny portions!" Well, honestly? I have a BMI of 21, so I EAT ENOUGH. My portions are perfect....well, I guess except maybe my wine portions!

That being said, I believe that when you crave something, you should really listen to your body. Sometimes, ordering what you want is awesome. Can you order HALF??? The food industry should start making "mini menus" rather than having people compare "well, I really want the fried steak, but I have to go grilled" will leave a person feeling depraved, which is likely to make him overeat....

These are my favorite posts, Melinda!

Ameena said...

I've thumbed through this book - I found it at the book store. And really...the entire thing kind of annoyed me. Of course most of it just doesn't make sense, and how much can "advice" can we really stand? I'm sort of tired of all of it.

For me everything is in moderation. And that includes regular butter and granola - two things I can't live without. Bacon? Now that I can live without.

Andrea said...

I have looked through the books before, and I think there are some good points to make people aware of "better" foods. But in the end, I think the focus should always be on whole foods that you prepare yourself, at least most of the time. And I didn't see that much.

As far as the tweets go, I think often tweets are overly sensationalized to get attention. And that's what their tweets sound like. I agree that they can lead to a lot of misinformation for a lot of people. It so depends on your background, eating style, and knowledge. 140 characters just don't fit all. Personally, I don't mind the bacon reminder so much. I eat bacon maybe twice a year (if that), and I like to be reminded that it won't kill me! :) But I already knew that anyway! And I see of course your point that many people shouldn't be encouraged to eat more bacon!

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