April 30, 2008 at 7:57 am
Yesterday’s review of the Hungry Girl book sparked an interesting discussion question – does low-calorie food equal healthy food? The answer seems to be sometimes yes and sometimes no. It reminds me of the logic class I had to take in college where we’d have to decipher statements like:
All sparrows are birds
Not all birds are sparrows.
Some sparrows are black.
If Lulu is a black bird, is she a sparrow?
Except this is a more complicated since not all low-calorie foods are healthy and not all healthy foods are low-calorie. How do I write an “if, then” statement for that?
One of the reasons it took me so long to start eating healthy is because I couldn’t figure out what “healthy” meant. What do you eat when you eat healthy? Rice cakes? Tofu? It’s even more confusing because you have to look at a person’s overall diet and not just a single choice they make for one meal. They might eat oatmeal for breakfast, but then chomp on fried onion rings laden in trans-fat for dinner. Or they might be making a lot of low-calorie choices, but are eating so much packaged food that their sodium levels are higher than Lot’s wife. There are so many components that qualify a healthy eating style that you might be doing well in some areas and failing in others.
As many people pointed out, the Hungry Girl recipes use a lot of sugar substitutes and sugar-free ingredients that use – dun,dun,dun – chemicals! There seem to be two camps on the use of chemicals in foods, people who don’t want to touch anything that is not natural because they believe it’s bad for their bodies and people who don’t care as long as they can have something sweet with no calories. I admit, I’m one of the latter people who doesn’t care how much Splenda and Aspartame they pump into me as long as I can have something sweet to drink that is low-cal. However, I also understand why people are cautious about artificial ingredients. Your body is your most valuable possession and you get to decide what you put in it. I always wait until a software release has been out for a couple months before upgrading so the developers can work out all the bugs. I figure the people who are cautious about artificial ingredients are just waiting it out to see if we all develop an extra arm a decade from now. And, boy, are they going to be jealous when we do! Who wouldn’t like to have third arm? I would be an awesome drum player!
I also don’t believe that just because something is artificial it is bad or if it’s natural it’s good. Arsenic is all natural and it will kill you. Thousands of the medications we use today are artificial and save lives every day. All I would say is that the artificial products are newer and we might not know their full effect on our bodies yet. I’m willing to take the risk, but I understand why others don’t want to and fully support their decision. I’m lucky that I’m still rather young and I can chew on Tupperware and still feel okay. I’m sure as I get older that will not be the case and I’ll have to start watching things like my cholesterol or my sodium levels. But for now, I’m not too concerned about that stuff.
I know some people just don’t like the taste of artificial sweeteners. And other people are actually capable of putting one teaspoon of honey in their yogurt and stopping right there. I have never been able to do that. Instead, I find myself sucking honey out of a plastic bear’s head in the middle of the evening like a zombie eating Winnie the Pooh’s brains. So, in comparison to gorging myself on real sugar, eating a lot of fake sugar seems better by comparison.
There is also a theory that artificial sweeteners make you hungrier than eating natural sweeteners because your body is expecting to get calories when it tastes something sweet. When it doesn’t get those calories, supposedly this makes you want to eat even more than if you hadn’t had the fake sugar. I have no idea if this is true or not. There is the odd fact that people who drink diet sodas evidently tend to gain more weight than people who don’t. I will say, I lost almost 200 pounds drinking diet sodas all the way. It sure was a lot better than drinking normal sodas with hundreds of calories every day.
Perhaps that’s what it’s about, not necessarily having the best diet on the planet, just a better one. Maybe we shouldn’t aim for the impossible task of eating a completely healthy diet, just a healthier diet. You don’t have to be the healthiest eater on the planet. No one is going to give you a prize. But you can almost always make improvements to your lifestyle, so perhaps it’s better to focus on that.