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What to eat? There are so many different opinions, diets, information.

by (181)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:20 PM
Created March 28, 2011 at 10:54 AM

I've been Paleo for the last year or so. I've lost some pounds and feel pretty good. My wife would love to also lose some of the weight that she's had issues with for a long time. I try to help her by making a paleo breakfast and dinner, but she doesn't seem convinced.

She has told me that it's all so difficult. Pretty much the whole 'Opinions are like ***holes, everyones got one' thing; it all seems to change at the drop of a hat:

  • Fats used to be bad, now they are not
  • Beans are good for you, beans are bad
  • Carbs are good, carbs are bad

I've tried the whole 'try it for a bit and see how you feel.' She does for a bit and then gets a subway while she's out and I think feels defeated; y'know subway is 'health' food. All the different messages being thrown at us.

How would you respond to these and similar statements?

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965 · July 28, 2012 at 7:27 AM

I love understanding the intricacies, I'm a science person =)

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6157 · March 28, 2011 at 4:57 PM

I'm sorry, I meant to say that Subway is unhealthy -- and their low-cal low-fat options aren't any healthier than their "unhealthy" options.

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18397 · March 28, 2011 at 4:57 PM

good answer jae

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6157 · March 28, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Subway is unhealthy but it has nothing to do with being low in calories and fat, and little to do with being high in sodium. It's the TYPE of fat that concerns me (hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated vegetable oils), plus the type of carbs (wheat), plus the type of meat (processed).

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18691 · March 28, 2011 at 2:32 PM

My sister and her husband eat a vegetarian Ornish style diet because he is super worried about heart problems. She has just gone back to gluten free eating, but really really wants to keep the beans.

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6 Answers

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6157 · March 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM

This is an excellent question. I agree, it's very frustrating.

If you really want to figure out how to think about nutrition, start by reading Good Calories, Bad Calories or reading the blogs over at Whole Health Source or PaleoNu.com. They'll show you how nutrition "scientists" and the media screw things up over and over again, which leads to a lot of confusion in the general public about what to eat. They'll show you how to think about nutrition and health in an evolutionary context, but with a keen eye toward modern biochemistry. It is possible to get an excellent education in "how to think about nutrition" simply by starting at the earliest posts and reading one every day until you reach the end. They don't post every day, so it's quite feasible.

Otherwise, if you are confused by all the seemingly contradictory information, and you just want to know WHAT to do instead of HOW to think, simply follow these rules of thumb:

  1. Eat real food. If it doesn't spoil within a few days or weeks, it's not real food.
  2. Don't eat anything that's not real food (processed things that come out of boxes and wrappers and have ingredient labels on them). Exceptions: high-quality butter/ghee, coconut oil, and maybe, in moderation, very high-quality olive oil. You can buy these at the grocery store and feel good about it.
  3. Stick mostly to meat/fish and vegetables, and some fruit, and you'll be fine. Avoid especially: vegetable oils, sugar, wheat, soy.
  4. Don't eat at restaurants and especially avoid fast food restaurants. McDonald's is junk, and so is Subway. A nice restaurant is somewhat better, but almost all restaurants use vegetable oils and trans fats and other hidden crap ingredients. Remember, they are interested in profit, volume, and speed, not quality.
  5. If you choose not to follow suggestion #4, then eat at good restaurants and order things like steak + salad. (Meat + vegetables.) Or salmon + salad.

If you follow the above five steps, you don't have to understand all the intricacies of evolutionary biology and biochemistry. (And really, steps 2-5 are just corollaries of step 1.)

It's not perfect, but it's good enough to get most people started. If you have more specific questions (what about dairy? what about nuts?) feel free to use the search function or post a question.

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965 · July 28, 2012 at 7:27 AM

I love understanding the intricacies, I'm a science person =)

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18397 · March 28, 2011 at 4:57 PM

good answer jae

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70 · March 28, 2011 at 1:09 PM

A good start would be to watch the movie " Fat Head " with your wife , it has helped me to convince quite a few people , here is a link to clip from it about grains ..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M_QnH5lViA&feature=related

best of luck !

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891 · March 28, 2011 at 12:40 PM

I just keep on doing what I do and try to lead by example. Forcing ideas down peoples' throats never works. (Tried it, no luck.) If someone asks why I eat the way I do...well, they ASKED for it, so I tell them. And the conversation may take a while.

My wife and a three of our friends are now following a Primal/Paleo lifestyle. The common thread is that they all saw me enjoying my food and living a healthy life and wanted to give it a whirl.

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9812 · March 28, 2011 at 11:59 AM

When I was getting into all this, it was a bit overwhelming to find out that pretty much everything I thought I knew about nutrition was probably wrong, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Sometimes I talk with my sister about her "converting," and she has a tough time wrapping her mind around the idea of animal fat being good, cholesterol not being a big deal (she's an RN). I just try to emphasize that eating this way is more logical from an evolutionary perspective; early man wasn't trimming fat off their kills, or tossing egg yolks, or eating bread, and it makes sense to seek out foods that are the most nutrient-dense. My sister doesn't care for meat very much, and I think she sees that as a barrier to doing well on paleo; I try to assure her she doesn't have to eat a ton of meat if she doesn't want to & just try to get quality meats and eat more veggies instead of the grains and legumes. A lot of people think legumes are pretty much the healthiest thing ever- when talking about those, I share about how bad I felt after cutting them out for a couple months and then having some bean chili; that convinced me that legumes don't want to be eaten, therefore they are probably a sub-optimal food.

I also try not to throw too much at people at once; just the idea of not having grains can be a tough pill to swallow, without getting into omega 3/omega 6 ratios, grassfed everything, supplements, etc.

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18691 · March 28, 2011 at 2:32 PM

My sister and her husband eat a vegetarian Ornish style diet because he is super worried about heart problems. She has just gone back to gluten free eating, but really really wants to keep the beans.

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18397 · March 28, 2011 at 4:56 PM

good answer jae

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1702 · March 28, 2011 at 1:15 PM

I'm hoping to convert my parents once I lose weight and can show them my success (after years and years of trying "conventional" diets and failing). My mom has been overweight my whole life. She's probably lost about 100 pounds over the last 4-5 years though I know she struggles with it on a day to day basis.

My dad is a vegetarian, and he'll scarf down an entire bag of tortilla chips in one sitting. Its no wonder that he's overweight, his BP and cholesterol are through the roof.

I just started this diet, and we can't find / afford the grass-fed stuff either. At least not in quantities sufficient to eat enough each day of the week. Once the farmers market comes around that will change hopefully, but for now we're making due with what we can find.

My boyfriend is still drinking diet sodas and eating bread (burgers, etc) but he's keeping it under 100 carbs daily and under 2000 calories. So far, first week, he's lost 11 pounds. I'm being a lot more strict (have less weight to lose though) and the scale said this morning I was down 7 pounds (191 from 198).

Start small - do one thing at a time if you have to. Don't overwhelm yourself with how other people look at your diet or the fact you aren't doing it letter perfect. Just get your fat ratio higher and your carb ratio lower and you're headed in the right direction :) Good luck.

RE: Subway - it might be low in calories and fat, but have you looked at the sodium counts on even half a sub? Out of the ballpark in most cases. Also, look at the trickery - the $5 (affordable) subs are always the unhealthy ones yet they charge a premium for the "healthy" alternatives (turkey, lean beef, etc). They're two-faced bastards, they are.

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6157 · March 28, 2011 at 4:57 PM

I'm sorry, I meant to say that Subway is unhealthy -- and their low-cal low-fat options aren't any healthier than their "unhealthy" options.

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6157 · March 28, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Subway is unhealthy but it has nothing to do with being low in calories and fat, and little to do with being high in sodium. It's the TYPE of fat that concerns me (hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated vegetable oils), plus the type of carbs (wheat), plus the type of meat (processed).

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