Gluten Free Fitness

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Eating more for less: Deconstruction and comparison of two eating styles

Eats for the day-the leaning tower of Pyrex

Eats for the day: The leaning tower of Pyrex

In a previous post about preparing ahead I showed this picture of the items I take to work on a given day to sustain myself. I have gotten more than few questions about this, both here and in “real life.”

Just yesterday a coworker saw me carrying my leaning tower of Pyrex to the kitchen an remarked-“Is that for the week?” I smiled, and replied “No-this is just for today.” (A quick background-I eat every 2-3 hours, I have found this is best for my mood and energy levels. Your mileage may vary.)

Eating a lot?

A week or two ago, another coworker stated “I wish I could eat that much.” Here’s the thing-yes, I eat a lot. Yes, I am active. I move more so I can eat more, and I’d like to build a bit more muscle. HOWEVER-the food that I eat is fairly nutrient dense and calorically spare. As you’ve seen me write-more bang for the caloric buck. I like food. And if I can eat more by making smart choices-then heck yes-bring it on!

So let’s break it down.

As an overview-more bang for the caloric buck foods generally are fairly unprocessed and in the natural state. And choosing foods that are naturally gluten free generally means less processing is needed. You’ll see some examples below.

Foods that are calorically dense generally come in packaging, are more processed and usually stuff that’s grab and go. As I mentioned in my celiac as a blessing in disguise article, we can’t eat a McDonald’s burger-so why not take some extra time and effort and make sure you are getting the most bang for your calorie buck.

Familiar foods

When we are first diagnosed, and potentially for quite a while after, we may tend to go for the foods that look familiar and are labeled as Gluten Free. We know they are safe, we don’t have to think too much, and heck-who doesn’t like mac n’ cheese?

And there is nothing wrong with eating that. My goal is to show you that if you desire-you can eat more food and get more nutrition. And still have mac n’ cheese-just maybe as an occasional treat instead of a staple.

Gluten free can help with weight loss…

I was on the Celiac forums the other day and someone commented how they had lost 20 pounds since being diagnosed. She cut way back on bread consumption, (although still having some gluten free bread-but the equivalent of 1 loaf every 2 weeks) and increased her intake of lean meats and fruits and veggies. That’s what I’m talking about. I know sometimes people get annoyed when the gluten free diet is referred to as a “weight loss” diet. And it’s certainly very different when you are gluten free due to celiac, and when it’s a choice. However-any “diet” can be used for weight loss with certain parameters.

And eating naturally gluten free foods can lend itself to weight loss, within those parameters. Depends on how much you eat, of course-and for more information on that, please see my free nutrition guideline that you can get at the end of this post.

…but not always

D_ohThe thing that I see is now with the large variety of gluten free foods available from manufacturers (and I thank them-it is wonderful to have such wide options and the increased awareness it has given celiac) it is just as easy to gain weight being gluten free. Honestly-you can eat gluten free donuts, pizza, beer: sounds like Homer Simpson’s diet doesn’t it?

Not normal? Good!

You can certainly indulge from time to time, and have a piece of flourless chocolate tart, or a gluten free pizza. But you may not want to make these items daily staples.

This is not just the celiac population-but the nation in general. The statistics are staggering. I touched on this a bit in my Gratitude article. I think it can be a bit more challenging as celiacs because we want to be “normal.” Well honey, in this case-not normal is a good thing. Embrace it.

My meal and nutrition breakdown

Onto the nutrition breakdown of my work day. This is what I take to work to eat in a 8.5 hour day.

I eat my breakfast there, because I train in the morning and have had a protein shake and some fruit at the very least already.

  • Blueberries, gluten free oatmeal and flaxseed
  • Egg whites, spinach and sun dried tomato (my egg bake)
  • 3.5 oz chicken breast, green beans, 37 grams of pumpkin seeds, apple
  • Can of tuna, salad greens, artichoke hearts, grapefruit, 2 tsp macadamia nut oil and balsamic vinegar on the salad.
  • 3 oz flank steak, broccoli, 20 grams almonds

That’s 4 meals, as the first two items I eat at the same time. Here’s the breakdown (and I don’t count the green fibrous veggies-green beans, salad, broccoli-I consider them fairly low in calories and high in nutrition. It’s all portion-if you eat a pound of broccoli, you’d want to count it. And consider a gas mask 🙂 )

  • 1263 calories
  • 51 grams of fat
  • 94 grams of carbohydrate
  • 101 grams of protein
  • 19 grams of fiber, not including vegetables which will add a good bit more fiber.

It’s roughly equal amounts of energy from each macronutrient-akin to what’s referred to as the Zone approach. There is no magic about this particular approach. This is not reflective of what I eat around my training, this is just a regular day. That’s a decent amount of food, and a lot of vitamins/minerals nutrition-right? And I eat 2 more meals after I get home.

Comparison: Gluten free prepared items

For comparison, here’s a sampling of some common gluten free prepared items. These numbers are for a single serving as given by the nutrition facts. And many, many people eat more than a single serving.

  • Gluten Free Pretzels: 190 calories, 8 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbs, no fiber, 1 gram of protein.
  • Gluten Free Mac N Cheese 3 oz: 330 calories, 5 grams of fat, 61 grams of carbs, no fiber, 10 grams protein.
  • 1 individual Gluten Free Pizza, cheese topping: 460 calories, 28 grams of fat, 46 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein.

Just for these 3 items here’s your grand total:

  • 980 calories
  • 41 grams of fat
  • 136 grams of carbs
  • 21 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of fiber.
Less fiber and protein in prepared foods

As you can see, there is very little fiber and protein in this as compared to the other options listed above.

Both protein and fiber have been shown to assist in feelings of satiety, or the sense of fullness after a meal. These would rank fairly low on that scale, so it is possible that you may still feel a bit hungry after eating.

I do not have a visual comparison – I wish I did – of the sheer volume differences between the two. I’m sure you have seen the individual pizzas – they are about 8″ in diameter. The pretzels – an individual snack pack, and the mac n cheese is 3 oz. Not a whole lot in terms of volume of food. You can always add veggies to help feel fuller.

It’s all about awareness

This is not to say you should never eat these items – of course you can, and should, especially on an occasional basis. The idea is to increase your awareness, add a bit of information, so you can make an independent, informed decision. Having said that, I make sure to eat well 95% of the time, and the other 5% I have whatever I want. For example, tonight I plan on going out with Jeff for a nice dinner, and having Dairy Queen for dessert. Tomorrow it’s back on the regular eats. Make whatever decision will work for you – it’s all about having our own individual goals. 80% may work just fine.

I hope this helped clarify a bit! As always, please let me know if you have questions or if something is confusing. And let me know what you think and what works for you in the comments below!

Now go eat something good!

15 comments on “Eating more for less: Deconstruction and comparison of two eating styles

  1. You are so correct, I eat a lot too, but people just don’t realize that the more nutrient rich things you eat that are not calorie laden the more you can eat. I have a very high fiber diet.

  2. I work at a pool and teach a lot of classes a week, and try to get my own workouts in there too. People laugh at me too when I show up with my stacks of food containers…and I only work until 1 or 2 o’clock. Well, now they’re used to it !
    I don’t actually bring anything too low calorie – no chopped veggies or whatever, though I do bring fruit. Tapioca made with soymilk and raisins – can get a few mouthfuls in between classes, GF trail mix I make myself, supper leftovers, & my rice breakfast (rice blends mixed with egg and nuts & cranberries & nuked – yum) if I work early. Oh, love rice chips – throw them in baggies for servings. Homemade cookies…ugh, now I gotta go eat…

  3. Cara and CJ,
    Thanks for chiming in!
    It’s nice to be able to have voluminous amounts of food, isn’t it 🙂
    CJ that rice breakfast sounds great! Care to share more details?

  4. nice article erin, veggies and fruits are very important for us celiacs. my fiber intake is pretty moderate and the 80/20 rule is the bomb =].

    • Hey Jon!
      Veggies and fruits are important for everybody-but they can certainly get overlooked sometimes. Great to hear you’re getting your fiber! 😉

  5. Gladly…
    My rice breakie:
    about a cup of brown rice
    one egg
    toss in some dried cranberries & blueberries and some nuts (sliced almonds or walnuts)

    Mix it all together in a bowl and microwave…it won’t look pretty but it’s got your complex carbs, protein, fiber, fruit, fat…

    I always have steamed rice in the fridge (sometimes mix in some wild rice or quinoa).

  6. “My rice breakie:
    about a cup of brown rice
    one egg
    toss in some dried cranberries & blueberries and some nuts (sliced almonds or walnuts)

    Mix it all together in a bowl and microwave…it won’t look pretty but it’s got your complex carbs, protein, fiber, fruit, fat…”

    CJ that sounds so good! A nice change from my GF oats. I will definitely be giving this a try.

  7. Kim,
    You are so right. I think I finally have convinced my Mom to give it a shot-she’s having a breakfast like CJ tomorrow! (Or so she tells me 😉

  8. While visiting my parents this summer I picked up a box of Mary’s Gone Crackers. My parents had never seen them before as they were used to something like Ritz or saltines. Well, my dad ate one and fell in love. He also noticed that he didn’t need to eat nearly as many of them to feel satisfied. He could just walk by and have two instead of needing to sit with the whole box of junk crackers.

    The Mary’s are more than they are used to paying, but they don’t have to eat as many. My hope is that they will keep this in mind and try to incorporate more healthful snack choices like that into their diets.

    • Hey Amanda!
      I think, especially with those who may be in a habit of doing or eating something in a particular way, that small changes like that are perfect. Small, sustainable changes over time can make a huge difference in the long run.

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