My Core Foods

I have a habit of noodling through an idea, then failing to follow through on it. Luckily, this blog helps me record these ideas when I come to revisit them from another angle.

One of these ideas is the notion of food monotony I wrote about in January of 2010. I’ve come to disagree with a number of the items in this post – in particular, the notion of counting calories, which I find so onerous that I would rather be fat than do it daily. And I don’t think it really works.

The food monotony part, however, has been a direction I’ve gone, perhaps coming to it from that other angle I mentioned.

Part of what I’ve been doing is to work on a new type of tracking system for what I eat. It’s strange, but I have been doing it for a few months and I have been losing weight – not dramatic, but the trend is in the right direction and I am maintaining a lower weight consistently than I’ve been able to in the past 2 years.

The the strangeness of this tracking system is that I don’t track how much I eat – I only track what. If I eat 1 hot dog or 3, all I note for a given day is that I had 1 ‘hot dog as a food’ for the day. This seems to make me focus on ingredients more than quantities, and after a few months, identify what I really like that’s low carb – and what I need to be careful about.

It also shows me very clearly that I can lose weight on low carb and still eat cake, and cookies, and bread – I’m still trying to figure that one out, so please bear with me on that.

Another thing it has shown me are that there are certain foods that:

  • Are high quality
  • Easy
  • Filling and do a very good job of controlling hunger
  • I lose weight eating them
  • Reasonably priced
  • Availability – if I have to search high and low for the stuff, it’s just too high a price to pay
  • Most important: I can eat them over and over without wanting to barf
By charting over the past couple of months my eating in the way I’ve described, I’ve found a few ‘core’ foods that allow me to eat more monotonously without it feeling monotonous. I do mix it up a bit, but some of these I eat quite a lot. I’ll list a couple as an example. You might think my choices are awful, and they might be – for you. Your core foods will probably differ, and you might want to experiment with identifying these.
Having a dead-simple meal plan makes adhering to a diet easier.

One last note: nobody pays me to write about these products, and I don’t get freebies – these are items that I sought out and paid for myself.

I probably eat this stuff 5 days a week. I still don’t really eat breakfast still, so I usually end up having one of these at work sometime before noon. I mix in 3 drops of EZ-Sweetz (a zero-carb Splenda product) and most recently cinnamon (as an experiment – it’s purported to have the ability to increase insulin response). My understanding is that the cultures are good for you, the process that the cultures perform on the milk makes it more digestible, the carbs are not at an Atkins-level, but it doesn’t seem to bother me.

Most importantly, it fills me for hours, and I really enjoy it, even though I eat it nearly every day in work. I usually don’t eat it on the weekends.

I’ve found what I feel are better yogurts – organic, grass-fed – but those little containers are handy, the price is fair, and I can find the stuff, though getting a full-fat yogurt is just too damn hard these days. I typically get it for about $1.79, so I think the price is OK.

I have a deep and abiding love for processed meat, which I don’t like about myself, but I have to live with. These wieners are the absolute best of the worst, as they attempt to remove every barrier that cause people to diss the stuff.

I enjoy them on a romaine lettuce leaf with mustard and have these at least 2-3 times per week.  I can find these at my Whole Foods on most shopping trips. They are about the most expensive dogs you can find – $7 a package, but at a little less than a dollar a dog, given the quality, I’m OK with it.

I know that many of you suppressed a gag reflex when you saw the word ‘sardine’ – so did I when I bought my first can many years ago. Why we have this reflex to certain foods is a complex psychological matter, but since I started low carb, I’ve learned to give good foods a chance. And sardines are good stuff. These little fishies are damn healthy for you – and opening a can of them is as simple as can be. I also find I lose weight when I eat them, and a little can controls my appetite for hours.

Now – about actually liking them.

To be honest, I don’t think I would ever be presented with a plate of the things and exclaim: “Oh, boy! sardines.” I like ’em, and that took a little work and a lot of experimentation. During my original go-round with low carb where I peeled off 80 lbs., I would sometimes have a can of the type in water with a big dollop of mayonnaise and some sweet relish sweetened with Splenda. That sometimes constituted my dinner – it was quite filling.

From time to time over the years I’ve tried different sardines and liked a lot of them, my current fave, however is the one listed above. I eat them straight out of the can at work. It seems like a small amount, but it satisfies hunger if I give it the 10-20 minutes it takes for my body to register that it ate something – then I’m good for hours.

The marinara sauce reduces the ‘sardineness’ of the little fishies. I probably eat this at least 2 times a week – and double that some weeks. These are available at my regular grocery store for considerably less than at Whole Foods – I just paid $1.49 a can.

The light tuna, in comparison to albacore tuna, is lower in mercury, and this particular brand claims to be lower still. The stuff is full of Omega-3 oils, and since I’ve given up on supplements (a story for another day), I consider it to be an important part of my diet.
Another curious fact about tuna is that the cheap-o tuna that you buy has been cooked twice – first on the boat, then in the can. This reduces the quality of the meat – and drains off some of the omega-3 oils, which they then sell to supplement manufacturers. Wild Plant cans the fish on the boat and only cooks it once. You get a better quality and more omega-3.

In addition, they don’t use BPAs in the cans. BPA is a chemical that is known as an endocrine disruptor and just might help make you fat. It’s in a lot of cans, but not these.

Organic Romaine Lettuce Hearts

Romaine lettuce has more nutrients than iceberg lettuce, and a stronger flavor. They also make great hot dog roll replacements – actually, I use these as bread replacements for other things that I would want to throw on a piece of bread. The hearts are pretty crunchy, not limp, and since I really don’t do salads, this is the primary way I get lettuce. These are typically available at my local grocery and cost maybe $1.00 per heart.  A bag of 3 lasts the week.

Whole Foods 365 Brand Canola Mayonnaise

I have to eat mayonnaise – OK? Some things in life are non-negotiable. Unfortunately, every commercial mayonnaise is pretty much made of soybean oil, and I try to avoid soy for the most part.

I could make my own – but I could also learn French, or take up surfing. I know me – I’m not doing any of these. I at least tried making mayo – it didn’t work out. So the reality of having to make a sub-optimal food choice becomes real.

The Whole Foods brand is made of canola – formerly known as rapeseed – not a good food name. Canola was once inedible but through selective breeding they were able to breed out whatever nastiness would make you sick eating the stuff and produced a light oil relatively high in Omega-3 compared to a lot of others.

The stuff I buy is expeller pressed, which means it wasn’t chemically removed from the seeds – which is good. Whole Foods doesn’t sell GMO food, so there’s no salamander genes or Roundup-Ready genes in it. Good.

The not-so-good is that it’s a new food, eaten for less than 100 years, and no one knows if there’s any long-term effects – nobody really knows, though I’m betting on: probably not. One thing that IS known is that it is higher in omega-6 oil than olive oil, but its way lower than a lot of other oils. While you do need omega-6 oil, Americans typically get too much. I reason that my diet doesn’t include all that many sources, so while canola is not great, but it could be worse.

There’s apparently a lot of haters who think this stuff is bleech – but I like it. It’s reasonably priced and I have it maybe a half-dozen times a week. It goes on the tuna above, and whenever there’s cheese – it’s there.

This is a calorie and sugar-free Splenda. Those little packets have maltodextrin in them – a sugar. This stuff the pure splenda. I use this in my yogurt, mostly, so it’s 3-4 drops a day, every day. It’s powerful stuff, and an $11.00 bottle lasts 6 months.

Locavore Grass-Fed Ground Beef

I know the farmer. We talk each week. I know where the cows live. Where and how they are slaughtered. I like knowing this. I think I am paying for quality when I pay what seems like a lot at $8.00 a pound. Some of this has little to do with losing weight, but I do know that the cows ate grass, had no hormones or antibiotics given, and this means fewer chances of residues of that stuff getting into me and perhaps messing up my weight without me knowing it. I’d say I go through a pound a week.

Locavore Organic Eggs

Different farmer. Same story, more or less. We often get these eggs the same day they were laid. The yolks are a deep orange from all the beta-carotene that authentic ‘free-range’ chickens get. The yolks also seem to stand higher than a store-bought egg, which I was told can be a month old by the time you get it. These go for $8.00 a dozen and I have maybe 8-12 per week.

This is only a partial list. There’s other items that cycle in and out, and I am constantly experimenting with new items. Again, the point here is not to slavishly follow my list, but to experiment with your own list and see if it brings you any benefit. If your weight loss program is working for you, don’t mess things up and experiment (unless you’re like me and enjoy experiments), but if you’re looking for another approach, maybe something of this sort will work for you.
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3 thoughts on “My Core Foods

    1. As usual, Dave, your link and your article is full of interesting stuff – I will no doubt spend an afternoon checking out the links within this short post.

      I do wonder though, in my particular case, just how bad the canola mayo is – my primary fat is probably butter, followed by olive oil, then by whatever Omega-3 I get from the tuna and sardines I consume. Other than the junk food that I eat, my diet doesn’t contain much omega-6 except for the mayo and the oils from peanut butter and almond butter that I have maybe once or twice a week.

      As I know that we NEED Omega-6, I wonder if, considering my diet, is it really a bad thing for me to have these sources of omega-6? All I’ve read says it is not the elimination of omega-6 that is necessary, but rather that the proportion between the two be properly maintained.

      Given that there is such an overuse of omega-6, I understand that it needs to be demonized to some extent, but should the day ever come that it is treated like the much maligned saturated fats are today, wouldn’t that be a disservice as well?

      1. I still can’t say for sure how much total intake of omega-3s and 6s is safe. Both Dr. Ray Peat http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fats-degeneration3.shtml and Dr. Bill Lands http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgU3cNppzO0 say that the body has limited resources when it comes to controlling the action of polyunsaturated fatty acids. In relation to that, I suspect the enthusiasm over antioxidants is due to their ability to protect the body from free radical damage caused by rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids.

        Part of the reason I’m suspicious of omega-3s is because of Paul Stitt who said, “The cure for cancer will not be found under the microscope, it’s on the dinner plate.” He died from cancer in 2009 at the age of 68. I can’t help but suspect that his anti-saturated fat attitude and his use of flax seed to boost the omega-3 content of his Natural Ovens bakery line were at least partly to blame for his early demise. http://www.uwalumni.com/media/documents/pdf/onwisconsin/…/Ovens.pdf

        Another fellow I admire greatly who died early at age 72 was J.I. Rodale. http://www.aoltv.com/…/dick-cavett-show-audience-member-recalls-the-day-a- guest-died/ He was anti-saturated fat as well.

        In light of these early deaths and Dr. Peat’s assertion that the body can make the so-called essential fatty acids as needed if supplied with adequate nutritional resources, it makes sense to limit omega-6 intake and avoid taking omega-3 supplements. No need to be paranoid. You just don’t want to do something goofy like eat several ounces of peanut butter almost every day for most of your adult life.

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