Celebrities frequently hit the news for their food choices (or what they are giving up), particularly relative to dairy and wheat. And a trend begins. But is it the right choice for those who don’t have allergy issues?
A survey by the British Nutrition Foundation shows that one in five now claims to have a food intolerance or allergy, mainly to dairy or wheat. But the vast majority of people are misdiagnosed. In fact doctors believe food intolerance affects no more than five to eight per cent of children and one to two per cent of adults. Food intolerance is the general term used to describe a range of adverse responses to food, including food allergy.
So in fact, correctly diagnosed food allergy is even more rare, affecting just one to two per cent of children and less than one per cent of adults. The trend for no or low carb diets is only adding to the phenomenon. Figures from the Flour Advisory Bureau claim that forty per cent of women have eliminated certain foods from their diets in the past five years. But nutritionists claim people who give up one or more food group could be seriously damaging their health unless they replace the nutrients from these food groups.
Because I’ve been losing weight lately (down 81 pounds in the past 7 months) for medical reasons, friends and family who see me often ask me which diet I am following. They ask if I have given up carbs? Gluten? Dairy? Am I following Atkins? Weight Watchers? What? Ironically, in my case I’m not completely ‘giving up’ anything at all. Other than soda (both regular AND diet). I have had no sodas of any kind for 7 months. They’re empty calories and serve no healthy purpose in my new regimen. I average 1 regular Dunkin iced coffee (small) every 3-4 weeks, (and I used to have 1 or more mediums per day). I’ve been drinking mainly iced water–and TONS of it–48 to 64 oz a day. My breakfast is a sugar free carnation instant breakfast essentials shake with 1% milk (yes, real milk–not soy milk, almond milk, or any other pseudo versions). For lunch or dinner I use a small (bread or dessert-sized plate), on which half of it is vegetables, 1/4 is protein, and 1/4 is a comforting and filling starch such as potato, rice, pasta, etc. I give up nothing. My dinner is the same one I cook for my husband. I just eat less of it and in better proportions. If I want a brownie, I make a batch, eat a small one, and ship the rest out to relatives. If I want lasagna, I make it and have one piece, and send the rest out to relatives. You get the idea! If I want a piece of center cut bacon, I have it. Personally, I don’t eat much bread but if I do want a piece, or a few crackers, I can have it. And, I still eat in restaurants, I just bring home a ‘doggie bag.’
I do ‘mini meals’ during the day, to keep my metabolism churning, preferably making sure it has protein. But instead of pulling into a convenience store or drive thru, the console of my car is filled with peanut butter crackers, fiber one bars, sugar free fruitcups, unsweetened apple sauce, cashews, pistachios, and so forth. No deprivation means no cravings and no bingeing. I wear a pedometer all day, to see how much I walk. I care for 3 elderly relatives, so I spend a lot of time in doctor’s offices and hospitals, as well as doing their errands at grocery stores, department stores, pharmacies, banks, and such. That adds up to many steps. If I sometimes end up short of my daily goal, I spend 15-30 minutes on my Eliptical machine while I catch up on the latest General Hospital or Restaurant Impossible episode on the DVR. Or I do walking ‘laps’ around my game room or a peaceful scenic cemetery while I catch up by phone with a friend. I always believe in multi-tasking when I can! (smile)
I track my progess of food, water, and movement with the ‘my fitness pal’ app, and strive for the 1200 net calories recommended by my bariatric nutritionist, although sometimes I find that it’s tough to get over 1000. But it keeps me accountable and cognizant to make everything that passes my lips counts!
What I’ve been taught through this 7 month journey is that ‘depriving’ causes cravings, and that makes frustrated people fall off the diet wagon, or makes them ‘binge’ when they reach their goal, only to start the entire “gain weight/go on a diet/lose a few pounds/return to the old habits/gain it back/go on another diet” cycle all over again. I was one of those cyclists, and the feelings of frustration, self-loathing, and failure were always there on some level.
Another important factor is the NUTRITIONAL makeup of our daily calorie intake. Cutting out important nutrients can jeopardize our health in other ways. For example, sales of gluten-free foods in the United States grew to $4.2 billion in 2012. Yet according to the medical director of the Center for Celiac Research at Mass General Hospital, “probably 60 percent of the people who are on a gluten-free diet today do not need to be on it for allergy reasons. They are responding to the hoopla and think going gluten-free is good for them. That it’s a cleaner way to eat or that they’ll lose weight, but they’re likely to be disappointed because most won’t see drastic health changes or dramatic weight loss.”
Actually, giving up gluten can make you pack on pounds if you simply replace regular bread, cookies, and treats with GF versions. Reason being, some of these replacement versions have extra sugar to make them more satisfying taste-wise. “It’s easy to swap foods that are higher in calories and less nutritious than what you were eating before,” says Ashley Koff, a nutritionist on the advisory board of Fitness magazine. “Those who want to give up gluten still need to eat healthy by limiting consumption of processed gluten free fare and eat more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, beans, nuts, and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice for fiber, selenium and manganese that they need.”
‘If you give up really important food groups you can cause yourself real problems,’ says Sara Stanner, a dietician from the British Nutrition Foundation. Dairy products are the best source of calcium in our diet. A deficiency in calcium can cause poor bone health in later life. The other major problem is that wheat and dairy contain some of the same nutrients – such as B vitamins – so giving up both means you have an even more limited choice about where you can get these vitamins in your diet.’
Replacing vitamins and minerals with supplements is not always the answer either. ‘It is always much better to get your vitamins from food rather than from supplements, says Stanner. ‘This is because there are lots of other things in foods other than vitamins that are good for us such as protective plant chemicals and antioxidants that you will miss out on by taking a supplement.’
For me, my cooking is still 100% natural, low sodium, yet flavorful. I still believe in eliminating processed foods, preservatives, MSG, dyes, and such. So, my pantry of Wildtree natural & organic sauces, spices, mixes, and seasonings are saving my life – both literally and figuratively. I haven’t touched my inhaler in 7 months (and I used to need it to walk across the room or up the stairs), my sleep apnea is gone, my blood pressure meds are cut in half. My hiatal hernia was surgically repaired, so my daily Nexium has been eliminated (along with the 3 pillows I needed to fight the daily pain of acid reflux). My cholesterol is still (as my cardiologist put it) ‘lower than he’s ever seen of people who aren’t on medication’. My knee and back problems are on the back burner–the aches and pains a memory that I don’t miss, and 8 bags of oversized clothing have gone to good will. And hopefully, I will have forever avoided the path of diabetes that plagues 98% of my family members. Which was my primary goal in beginning this journey.