I love your column and your balanced, focus way of talking about fitness. I'm writing with a question about diet. I'm very careful about what I eat, but find that there's so much conflicting information. Until recently, I lived with a vegetarian roommate and ate lots of grains and legumes. Then a friend introduced me to the concept of paleo eating; I found the recipes delicious and all the protein, good fats and vegetables made me feel more satisfied. But are there disadvantages to focusing on protein? And should I be cautious about fats even when they're good fats? I'm not trying to lose weight but am trying to not to gain. What do you recommend to someone who is trying to maintain her fitness level and balance lots of sedentary work along with activity in her life?
You are right when you say that there is a lot of conflicting information out there that can be quite confusing. And when companies use things like “gluten free” to market their products, we almost feel like a criminal when we put something with flour into our mouths.
In my opinion, unless you suffer from a severe food allergy, such as being lactose intolerant or celiac, or you have strong beliefs in why you should not eat animal products, or your religion prevents you from eating certain products, we should be able to eat whatever we want. In moderation of course.
I cannot say being vegetarian is necessarily better than eating a meat based diet, or vice versa, as both have their benefits and both have their downsides. If you are vegetarian you may find it difficult to get enough protein and iron in your diet, unless you have done your research and know how to supplement the lack of meat. However, if you are eating mainly a meat-based diet, then fibre might be something you struggle with as well as you may consume a higher quantity of fat.
Yes there are such things as good fats and bad fats, but if you consume a lot of anything, good or bad, it is not good for you. And Health Canada suggests that we do not consume more than 20-35% of our daily caloric intake as fat.
Whether you are eating a plant-based diet or a protein-based diet, the one thing that we all need to stay away from is sugar. The effects of sugar in today’s obesity epidemic have been all over the media lately and you cannot pick up a paper or turn on a news channel without hearing how bad sugar is for us. In one can of pop there are 33 added grams of sugar. That is 33 packets of sugar! And fruit juice can be super high in sugar too. Some people think it won’t be long before eating sugar is looked at like smoking.
Now, I am not saying that you can never have a soda again. My grandfather had at least a can of Coke a day for his entire existence and lived until the age of 94. But, he drank these cans of coke within a very active lifestyle and growing his own vegetables in his garden at the cottage was one of his passions.
Again…everything in moderation, which is the advice I am going to give you. If you are simply wanting to maintain the size and shape that you are then eat a balanced diet that is full of vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates and healthy protein options. Keep sugar to a minimum and try to avoid eating too many products that are processed. Stay away from pastries on your coffee breaks but enjoy a piece of cake once in a while when celebrating something special. Put away the cereal you have for breakfast but if it’s ancient grain bread with almond butter and banana on it that gets you up in the morning, have at it. Try to eliminate sweeteners and instead opt for an agave syrup or a bit of raw sugar. Just eat real food.