“This is my lunch, isn’t it healthy?”, she says as she sips her coffee drink and chews a plastic looking nutrition bar at 2 in the afternoon.
After a few seconds of grinding the high fiber and sugar alcohol bar through her teeth, she mutters out, “I’m just really working hard to lose this weight, and my trainer told me to focus on getting more protein and limiting my sweets.”
In turn, you pose the question, “Oh yeah I totally understand, but is that enough food to be considered lunch?”
The food industry is huge. The nutrition gurus and trainers dropping incorrect knowledge bombs might be bigger. Foods often get wrongly grouped into food groups, or just flat out are wrongly used relative to the overall goal.
You can’t blame the consumer here because companies marketing is so powerful, and if a commercial has testimonials and newly found fit people saying how they lost weight with a product, well that pulls on the emotional and relatable heartstrings of many.
Also, certain gurus and “docs” on TV tend to preach a lot about foods that will do this and that and then some, or foods that are super good sources of [insert nutrient here], that really aren’t the best option – but they do relate to the guest on his/her show that day, so what the hell.
The following are 5 instances where maybe a food isn’t inherently a bad choice, but you may just be using it wrong.
1) Quinoa – This super food and grain has really made a rise in the last 5 or so years. I didn’t even know how to pronounce it until 2 years ago (I always said kwe-no-a). Quinoa IS a great carbohydrate choice and a pretty good source of fiber (5 grams per cup).
However, it is NOT a protein for the sake of your meals source of protein.
One cup, which is a decent amount, only packs about 8 grams of protein, while containing 39 grams of carbohydrate. Not quite the protein your body needs in a meal.
Suggestion: Don’t ditch the quinoa, but make sure you are not counting it as your main source of protein in a meal. Add some meat to the side, or if you are not a meat eater try subbing out black beans for half the quinoa. The beans have the same carb content but twice the protein. Or there is always tofu.
2) Peanut/Nut Butters – same story as quinoa when it comes to protein content.
Often times peanut butter gets counted as a protein in a snack or even a meal. However, peanut butter is more of a fat than protein, and thus can pack on the calories fast.
One serving of peanut butter is two tablespoons (have you ever looked at how little this is? About the size of a golf ball!) and only contains only 8 grams of protein along with 16 grams of fat and thus close to 200 calories.
Suggestion: Stick with lean deli lunchmeats for protein on sandwiches, and then load on the veggies too!
Instead of dipping veggies or fruit in peanut butter for a snack, try cottage cheese. A half cup of 1% cottage cheese has less than half calories that 2 tablespoons of peanut butter along with 14 grams of protein!
3) Protein Bars/Nutrition Bars – this is more of a quantity issue rather than quality.
These bars usually range between 120 – 300 calories. 300 calories is pretty low to be considered a meal, and 120 calories is a joke of meal.
The worst offender is the “Special K Diet” which contains the Special K Protein MEAL Bars – which only contain 180 calories, yet they have the nerve to call this a MEAL.
Also, watch the sugar and overall carbs on some of the bars if you are looking to keep it as a protein based snack. Some bars are loaded with carbs because they are meant to be post workout recovery snacks.
Suggestion: Keep these bars as snacks and workout recovery fuel, not meals. Your MEALS should be made up of whole foods, with good nutrition balance at every meal.
4) Chocolate Milk – “Chocolate milk is the perfect post workout recovery drink because of the optimal carb to protein ratio” – said Mike Gorski (2013) and a ton of other trainers.
While this notion does have some promise for high endurance athletes and intense frequent exercisers, most people don’t need the extra sugar post workout. The idea behind chocolate milk post workout is to optimize glycogen repletion after exercise. This is usually only necessary when exercising longer than 90 minutes at a decent pace (not a leisurely walk).
Also, the protein content is just not enough for serious lifters who train using heavy weights (only 8 grams per cup).
Suggestion: For most people, eating a balanced meal within and hour of finishing their workout will suffice. For people training with heavy weights and looking for something quicker, a whey protein shake will provide more protein (aim for 20-30 grams) and follow up with a balanced meal an hour later.
5) Dried Fruits/Trail Mix – lastly we have one of the biggest lies in nutrition that just wont die.
Dried fruit doesn’t count as fruit. It is dehydrated, usually sugar coated, and super dense when it comes to carbohydrates. Trail mix is not a healthy snack either, as it usually has chocolate candies, more dried fruit, and then a ton of calorie dense nuts.
It is so easy to eat a half cup of trail mix, which can easily be upwards of 600 calories and 30 grams of sugar. This is not a snack, rather a full meal that fits in the size of your palm.
Suggestion: How about whole fruit. Makes sense, right? You get more micronutrients and phytonutrients, and it will actually fill some room in your stomach.
For trail mix, try making your own and leave out the candy and focus more on portion control and moderation.
Be sure you are reading nutrition labels and your foods are matching up with your goals. Don’t be eating snacks for meals, and meals for snacks. Make sure you are actually eating a high protein snack, and not just a protein-containing snack.
Food advertising and marketing can be ruthless and manipulative. Make sure you are staying informed, and working with a true professional that will set you on the right path with the right nutrition guidance.
Stay fit my friends,