Sunday, July 3, 2011

Quit Bashing The Potatoes

An article by Oliver St. John earlier this week looked at a study released by the Harvard School of Public Heath that linked eating potatoes with gaining weight.  At the heart of the study is data from Researcher Walter Willet that shows that potatoes break down very quickly into glucose, insinuating weight gain via high levels of sugar.  But Katherine Tallmadge, author of Diet Simple, suggests that potatoes shouldn't bear all the blame, as you typically find a large juicy steak next to that pile of mashed potatoes on the plate.  I tend to agree with her.

I don't believe its so much what we eat but how we eat it.  For example, Diet Coke and a Snickers bar (an old-time favorite) isn't going to help you out too much in the healthy category.  And the studies that show low calorie sodas as being a culprit for weight gain, usually reveal that the user is offsetting the reduced calorie effects of the soft drink with high calorie snacks, etc, because of the false sense of security that comes with the low calorie soda. 

Let's go back to potatoes.  I'm not discounting the fact that the starch breaks down into glucose, seems like a lot of foods I eat do that (I usually burn if off with exercise).  But how you are preparing the food may be the real question.  For example, most people use whole milk and butter in mashed potatoes, which jacks up the calories pretty quickly.  Considering that a stick of butter is 810 calories, a cup of whole milk is 146 calories and 5 pounds of red russet potatoes is 1630 calories (approx) and you end up with that pot of mashed potatoes simmering on the stove weighing in at somewhere in the range of 2500 calories. 

Now, I know (hope) you aren't going to eat the whole batch single-handedly, but if you managed to get about 25% of that on your plate during a meal, you would get around 600 calories just from the potatoes.  Add in meat, bread and who knows what else and you probably just blew thru 2000 calories for one meal.

See where this is going?  So if you still want to eat mashed potatoes, consider using alternative ingredients such as skim milk and margarine to reduce the calorie content.  At first, it may taste rather bland, but as you get used to the new version the taste will improve greatly.

This is just one example of the things I put into practice as part of the lifestyle change that lead to my 70 pound drop.  I knew I couldn't quit eating everything I liked, so I learned to cook differently to improve the health aspects of my favorite foods, so that I could keep them on the menu.  And of course, I learned to eat very slowly in order to fill up quickly and reduce my overall food intake. And truthfully, I did cut some things off my routine food list, as there was just no hope for every salvaging anything good out of them.  

Always remember this, successful weight loss is about a long-term (forever) lifestyle change, not a bizarre diet couple with painful workouts.  Make gradual, practical and sensible changes to what you eat and how you prepare it so that you can enjoy meal time without feeling deprived of your favorite foods or wracked with anxiety over the calorie content.

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