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.
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
The 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!