Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ten Secrets of Weigh Loss

Now that I’ve lost over thirty pounds, friends, coworkers, and even casual acquaintances are starting to notice and ask questions. Suddenly I am an expert on weight loss and blood pressure reduction without medication because I’ve been there, and I am doing it. Generally they start by saying they would like to lose some weight. I generally say, “OK, so lose it”. They then frequently tell me what their physician said. [Motive] I nod.

Then, they ask me what I’ve been doing. I tell them that I’ve been on a diet of less than 1400 calories per day, less than 20% of my calories from fat, and less than 1500 mg of sodium. I also tell them that I work out at the fitness center 4 days a week for about an hour and ten minutes. They then usually tell me that they: should, used to, haven’t been in a while, were thinking about starting, knew people who did, and so on. [Opportunity]

They usually ask me what I eat, and I tell them that I eat food that I like and make decisions so that I don’t exceed my daily goals. When they ask me exactly what I eat, I give them examples and the URL to my blog. It’s when I tell them about the spreadsheet that they either glaze over or ask me to email it to them. They usually conclude with, “I need somebody to tell me exactly what to eat; I can do that”, as they walk away.

I decided that I need to share my “diet secrets”, and some sample daily menus (I have everything I’ve eaten since January 3, 2997 logged). I’ll start with a preview of the ten things I’ve learned to this point. I'll elaborate on them, and toss in a few sample daily menus later.

The Ten Secrets of My Weight Loss

  1. Knowledge is power-the power to make choices
  2. Non-fat sour cream is my friend
  3. Non-fat cream cheese is my friend
  4. Fiber is filling
  5. My palate took about three days to retrain to a low sodium diet
  6. My dinner plate is a riot of color compared with what it used to be
  7. Almost any recipe can be remodeled to accommodate my diet
  8. Exercise accelerates the weight loss and blood pressure lowering process
  9. Vinegar wakes up the flavors of food
  10. A playful attitude about food and a willingness to experiment have been strong allies

That’s it to this point. I’m sure more truths will come along later.

Here’s my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/30/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1121 73.56 g 186.72 g759 mg 15.6 g 12.52%

Friday, March 30, 2007

Yard Work is Exercise Too

Even though the title of this blog is Diet, Cooking, and Exercise, I rarely talk about the exercise part of my health quest. I have been wearing a pedometer on my right shoe for two weeks now courtesy of the college where I work. We have organized into walking teams and report our daily mileage weekly. The whole event goes for four weeks and the winning team gets bragging rights.

I go to the fitness center four days a week and warm up and finish on the treadmill for a total of about 2 miles. In between, I complete two circuits on the weight machines. The normal workout takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

Today I spent most of the day doing yard work and somehow I wound up behind the push mower while the student I hired to help, rode on the riding mower. After several hours of yard work (wearing my pedometer all the time), I took a shower and went to the fitness center where I completed my normal routine. Tonight I glanced at my pedometer and noticed a dramatic increase. On non-workout days, I log about 2 ½ to 3 ½ miles walking from my office to class, down various halls, and pacing while I lecture. I find I pace more now that I have lost much of the weight (32.25 pounds lost as of today). On workout days, that goes up to 4 ½ to 5 ½ miles. Today I have walked 8.3 miles and the day isn’t over yet. I sure felt better doing yard work and had more energy because of the weight loss and my conditioning program.

Here is my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/29/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1258.38 72.43 g 223.37 g1198.06 mg 14.02 g 10.03%

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Notable Blogs on Diet, Cooking, and Exercise

I thought I should acknowledge some of the fabulous blogs I have been reading lately. Some of these are well-established with hundred of recipes and articles while others are brand new. I hope to encourage the newcomers and acknowledge the truly great.

Periodically I will share blogs I would like to acknowledge. If you would like for your blog to be considered, please submit the URL as a comment.

In no apparent order, here they are.

Fatfree Vegan Kitchen
Susan has the most mouth-watering vegan recipes (or recipes of any persuasion for that matter) with gorgeous photos to accompany them.

Old Salt - New Tack
Old Salt is apparently an old guy like me to like to cook and eat. He also writes very well and isn’t afraid to experiment.

Eat Know How....Tips for Palate Transformation

Kimberly is a dietetic consultant and shares her considerable expertise. She has tips and even sample menus for low-fat, low-sodium, and specialized diets along with recipe-modification tips.

Experimental Vegan Daze
Dizzy is a self-proclaimed experimental vegan chef and her blog is new (just started in March 2007) but I hope she continues as her recipes are daring and eclectic. I hope to see more from her.

Cheap and healthy cooking
Boris, who is apparently from Slovenia, has put together an incipient blog with recipes using inexpensive and eclectic ingredients.

Eve's Health & Fitness
Eve is a certified group fitness instructor, and shares an amazing collection of tips on nutrition, physical training, and weight-loss.

The Healthy Cook
The Healthy Cook blog is a collection of recipes and tips from four contributors. I just wish they would post more.

Gary Moller Online
Gary writes about health, fitness, lifestyle sports coaching and conditioning, injury prevention and rehabilitation, and nutrition. He has a good section of recipes as well.

Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking Blog
Alison is a Certified Nutritional Chef, food writer, and culinary instructor who teaches cooking and nutrition classes and shares her recipes with us on her blog. I especially like her three-part series, Homestyle Cooking of the East that features food from Japan, Thailand, and India.

Vegweb has an amazing assortment of vegan recipes. The comments from readers are well worth reading too.

Healthy Living|Healthy Foods|Healthy Diets
The name says it all. This blog by Daria has a few nice recipes, tips for weight-loss, and nutrition.

Quick, yummy, and ohmygoodness, healthy recipes
This new (march 2007) blog has nice recipes and photos of healthy food that can be prepared quickly.

Kreative Healthy Cooking
This is another new (March 2007) blog that is off to a good start featuring a recipe for a tasty-looking Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Cheese. I want to see more from this one.

The ND Blog
Monica does a great job of weaving recipes, nutritional and fitness advice, and food facts into this blog sponsored by one of my favorite sites, Nutrition Data.

Here’s my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/28/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1135.54 56.86 g 189.08 g1217.22 mg 17.39 g 13.78%

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Summer Squash: How Sweet It Is

Tonight I pigged out on yellow straightneck summer squash. We are starting to get some really nice fresh vegetables in and I love squash. I usually cook it with butter, onions, some Italian seasoning, and garlic salt. With the remodeled recipe, two cups carried only 49 calories, 2.44 g protein, 10.52 g carbohydrates, .62 g fat, and 5 mg sodium.


1 Yellow Summer Squash (about 2 cups sliced 3/8" thin)
Olive Oil Pan Spray
3 T Rice Wine Vinegar
Onion Powder to taste
Poultry seasoning to taste
Ground Black Pepper to taste

I sprayed a skillet with olive oil pan spray, heated it to medium heat, and put in the sliced squash. I sprinkled the squash with poultry seasoning and onion powder. I sprayed the squash with a little more olive oil spray and turned the squash until it was tender crisp. I then splashed the skillet with rice wine vinegar and stirred until the vinegar evaporated. Just before serving, I gave the squash a few turns of freshly ground black pepper.

The result was a sweet fragrant delight with some of the squash softer and some of it still crisp. Who says you have to have fat and salt to have flavor?

By the way, I weighed in at the fitness center today and my cumulative weight loss since January 3 is 32 pounds.

Here is my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/27/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1185.3 67.18 g 197.15 g900.98 mg 18.78 g 14.24%

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Top 10 Fish to Eat for Health-The Surprising New List

Top 10 Fish to Eat for Health



Mercury (ppm)

Omega-2 (g)








PERCH (Freshwater)












































The Next 10



Mercury (ppm)

Omega-3 (g)




















































About Fish and Health

We know that the American Heart Association and the United States Department of Agriculture recommend that we limit our consumption of fat to less than 20-35% of our total calories. And, most of our dietary fats should come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. We may also know that the recommended ratio of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids to omega-3 should be six to one and that the typical American diet contains a ratio of twenty to one.

Sources of Good Fats

Sources of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are liquid vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids come from both plant sources, and from fish and shellfish. Plants contain omega-3 in the α-linolenic acid form (ALA) and soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts, and flaxseed, are among the better sources. Fish and shellfish contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish that naturally have more fat, like salmon, trout, and herring, have more EPA and DHA than less fatty fish like cod, haddock, and catfish. There are suggestions in the literature that consuming omega-3 fatty acids from a fish source can improve heart health and reduce the chance of mortality from heart disease.


The problem with eating large amounts of fish is that these fish live in water that has been polluted by mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs, dioxins, and other environmental contaminants. These substances, many of which are potent carcinogens, can cause nerve damage and are implicated in a number of diseases. These toxins are found in the flesh and fat of fish to varying degrees, generally higher in larger, older, fish at the top of the food chain.

The worst offenders are:

  • Tilefish (golden bass or golden snapper) 1.45 ppm
  • Shark with 0.99 parts per million (ppm) of mercury
  • Swordfish 0.97 ppm
  • And, King mackerel at 0.73 ppm

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that nursing or pregnant women, women who are about to become pregnant, and small children should not eat any of these fish. For everyone else, the guidelines allow for up to 7 oz. per week. Why anyone would eat these fish when there are better alternatives is beyond me.

Also according to the FDA, people in this group should limit their consumption of fish that carry about .5 ppm to 12 ounces per week, and all others to 14 oz. per week. Clearly we should be eating more fish, but it’s hard to know what is safe.


I prepared a spreadsheet putting the fish on the FDA mercury monitoring list in the first column, the sampled mercury levels in the second column, and the combined omega-w (EPA+DHA) in the third column. I filtered the list for high and moderate levels of mercury and then subtracted the omega-3 levels from the mercury levels. What remains are low mercury fish with high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Here is my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/26/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1160.34 76.84 g 165.52 g1380.69 mg 17.49 g 13.57%

Monday, March 26, 2007

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This recipe is for a remodeled Chicken Cordon Bleu and preserves the taste while reducing the sodium, fat, and calories. It is also simple to prepare as it does not require pounding. Serves 6


1 ½ lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 slices Canadian bacon sliced in half
3 slices thin Swiss cheese (12 slices/8 oz.)
2 egg whites or Eggbeaters equivalent
½ C bread crumbs or corn flour (fish fry)-unsalted

Preheat oven to 400º. Cut a slit along the thin edge of each chicken breast almost through to the other side. Lay the cut breasts flat and place sliced Canadian bacon and Swiss cheese in the pocket. Close the pocket and press the edges together to seal.

Dip the breasts in beaten egg whites or Eggbeaters and then in the breadcrumbs or corn flour. Brown one side of the chicken in a skillet coated with olive oil spray. Place each breast browned side up on a cookie sheet coated with olive oil spray and cook in the oven for 25 minutes or until the chicken is done. This recipe is good as it is, but it is also good with my secret sauce on the side.

Each 4 oz serving has 256 calories, 39 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 7.17 g fat, and 340 mg sodium.

Here is my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/25/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1194 59.36 g 206.86 g478.16 mg 17.55 g 13.22%

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Top Ten Highest and Bottom Ten Lowest Glycemic Index Foods

I am going to be writing later about the glycemic index of foods and how they may affect the choices we make. But for now, this will just be an introduction to the glycemic index of foods. The glycemic index is based on the impact different foods have on insulin production in our bodies. Stressing the pancreas by constantly prodding it to produce insulin may lead to diseases such as diabetes (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). My approach to dieting is not necessarily to avoid sugars as I have no indication of blood sugar problems or any family history of diabetes, but I have noticed that high glycemic foods can affect how hungry I am and indirectly affect my diet. High glycemic foods are quickly converted to sugars and therefore require an insulin response from the pancreas. The sugar creates a high and the insulin creates a low that can lead to overeating.

I have compiled a list of high and low glycemic index foods for comparison. Glucose has an index of 100, and foods with an index less than 55 are considered low, between 55 and 70 intermediate, and above 70, high.

Top Ten High Glycemic Index Foods

  1. Dates, 103
  2. Parsnips, 97
  3. Baguette, 95
  4. Brown rice pasta, 92
  5. Baked Potato, 85
  6. Instant potato, 83
  7. Cornflakes, 83
  8. Microwaved Potato, 82
  9. Rice Krispies, 82
  10. Pretzels, 81

Bottom Ten High Glycemic Index Foods

  1. Yogurt low-fat (sweetened), 14
  2. The following foods all tie for second place.
    1. Peanuts, 15
    2. Artichoke, 15
    3. Asparagus, 15
    4. Broccoli, 15
    5. Cauliflower, 15
    6. Celery, 15
    7. Cucumber, 15
    8. Eggplant, 15
    9. Green beans, 15
    10. Lettuce, all varieties, 15
    11. Low-fat yogurt, artificially sweetened, 15
    12. Peppers, all varieties, 15
    13. Snow peas, 15
    14. Spinach, 15
    15. Young summer squash, 15
    16. Tomatoes 15,
    17. Zucchini, 15
  3. Soya beans, boiled, 16
  4. Tied for fourth place.
    1. Cherries, 22
    2. Peas, dried 22
  5. Chocolate milk, 24
  6. Tied for sixth place
    1. Pearl barley, 25
    2. Grapefruit, 25
  7. Tied for seventh place
    1. Whole milk, 27
    2. Spaghetti, protein enriched, 27
  8. Tied for eighth place.
    1. Boiled kidney beans, 29
    2. Boiled green lentils, 29
  9. Soya milk, 30
  10. Apricots (dried), 31
Here is my recap for yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/24/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1381.14 101.3 g 196.35 g1462 mg 20.81 g 13.56%

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Not-So-Sloppy Joes and Healthy Secret Sauce

For lunch today I found another use for my current favorite bread-like food, whole wheat pita pockets. I also made a variation of my favorite low-fat, low-sodium secret sauce that is so creamy and rich with flavor that I felt very indulgent using it.

Not-So-Sloppy Joes

½ Kangaroo WW Pita
.25 lb. Extra lean ground beef (96/4)
1 T Onion
.5 t. Chili powder
Splash red wine vinegar

In a skillet sprayed with pan spray, brown the ground beef and the onions together. Add chili powder and a generous splash of red wine vinegar (about 2 t.). Warm pita half in the oven and when the ground beef mixture has reduced to where there is no longer any liquid, put it into the pita. Serve with slices of tomato and secret sauce on the side. (214 calories, 27.11 g protein, 16.93 g carbohydrates, 4.01 g fat, 230 mg sodium) not including the sauce.

Secret Sauce

1 T Sour cream, non-fat
1 tsp Prepared Mustard (I use Griffins, it is lower sodium)
Freshly ground black pepper

Simply combine the sour cream and mustard then grind the pepper into it. Mix well and prepare a few minutes before you plan to serve it. It has a decadent richness and plenty of flavor. Tonight I used it on the side with boiled boneless skinless chicken breasts. (10 calories, 1 g protein, 1.5 g carbohydrates, 0 fat, 65 mg sodium)

Here is my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/23/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1207.5 62.75 g 216.41 g999.5 mg 15.76 g 11.75%

Friday, March 23, 2007

Poaching Salmon

Friday night is fish night at our house. Lately I have been having salmon while my wife has tilapia. She prefers the milder taste of the tilapia. I usually grill or broil my salmon but tonight I decided to poach it instead. Poaching fish usually is done in a small sauce pan in a liquid frequently consisting of half water and half white wine, or any of a number of other combinations. Poaching results in a mild flavor for the fish (as some of the natural flavor leaches out) and the poaching liquid helps to replace some of the lost flavor. Fish prepared this way is frequently served with or in a fairly aromatic sauce (often a cream sauce) or with a raw salsa or relish.

How to Poach

As I have didn’t have any wine in the house, I thought I would try a water broth with a few seasonings. (I don’t drink and we live in a dry county-I wasn’t about to drive to buy the real thing and I also wasn’t about to use a sodium-filled cooking wine) I filled a small sauce pan with enough water to submerge the salmon and added the juice of ¼ lemon, ¼ t. cinnamon, ¼ t. cumin, and 1 T white wine vinegar. I brought the poaching liquid up to a simmer and reduced the heat to just below a simmer. I slipped a small salmon filet in the liquid and covered the sauce pan. I had to keep adjusting the temperature to just below a simmer so the water was moving, but not bubbling. About ten minutes later the filet was done and I tasted it. It was indeed mild with a pleasantly aromatic Middle Eastern flavor.

I could have eaten it without much more than a squeeze of lemon juice, but I felt I needed a more substantial meal (and I had the calories to spare). So I heated three corn tortillas about 30 seconds per side in a dry skillet and folded them with salmon, mozzarella cheese, and shredded cabbage. All they needed then was a squeeze of lemon juice. I was surprised to find that the fragrance and taste of the cinnamon came through in one bite and of the cumin in another. It was very delicate and quite satisfying. Corn and Brussels sprouts completed this very satisfying meal.

The whole meal with 2/3 cup of corn, 9 Brussels sprouts (I am quite fond of them), three corn tortillas, a couple tablespoons of shredded cabbage, and 1 tablespoon of mozzarella cheese, only had 387.5 calories, 57.8 g carbohydrates, 5.77 g fat, and 179 mg sodium.

The Big Three 0

I almost forgot that I went to the fitness center today and weighed in. My cumulative weight loss since January 3, 2007 is 30.25 pounds. That is an average loss of .37 pounds per day. My blood pressure was a respectable 105/74. I feel like I am winning and eating well at the same time.

Here is my recap for yesterday and Wednesday. (I left my thumb drive with my spreadsheet on it at school yesterday.)

Daily Dietary Recap-3/21/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1105.42 63.14 g 164.83 g950.53 mg 14.05 g 10.22%

Daily Dietary Recap-3/22/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1114.3 61.87 g 188.71 g675.37 mg 10.83 g 8.73%

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Changing the Way I Think About Food

A number of years ago when my parents were still alive, I was talking with my brother after his return from a trip home when he said, “You ever notice how funny people back home are about food?” Where was he going with this? “Whatdya mean”, I asked. He said, “Well, when they are eating breakfast, they are talking about what they are going to have for lunch, at lunch they talk about what’s for dinner, and at dinner they are either talking about breakfast, or about grocery shopping. And, all the people back home do it.” This conversation was starting to take a perverse turn. I suspected my brother had spent too much time living in California. “Well, yeah, don’t you”, I said.

Part of this attitude was cultural, all Hoosiers delighted in talking about food, didn’t they? Part of it was the difference between how I thought about food and the way my brother did. I like thinking about food. I like preparing food. I like eating food.

Part of the reason I warmed up to the idea of putting myself on a low-fat, low-sodium diet was the challenge of remodeling recipes. I’ve gone through various ethnic phases of cooking, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, American country, California cuisine, and now I was preparing to remodel my recipes the way that Michel Guérard did with his classic cookbook, Cuisine Minceur (literally the cooking of thinness). Only this time, if I used his cookbook, I wouldn’t add back in all the high fat and calorie ingredients he had so skillfully removed.

Sure, I am still obsessed with food, but this time, I am obsessed with health and fitness and with cooking healthy. And, this time, I have learned to appreciate the food without the fat, sodium, and added calories. I think the psychologists would call this sublimation, the diversion of the expression of an unhealthy desire to an expression of that desire that is healthy and more acceptable. Not quite transubstantiation, but I find it fulfilling nonetheless.

I have no recap from yesterday as I left my flash drive at school and my diet spreadsheet lives on it. When I got home, I found the leash around my neck was empty. So, tonight it’s pencil and paper. I’ll post two tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Diet Recipes-Sweet Sour Baked Tofu and Crispy Cheese Cauliflower

This is a good day for recipes. I tried two new ones and they were both winners. I tried the tofu warm last night and put it cold inside a half a whole wheat pita with onions and tomato for lunch. Yum.

I also weighed in at the fitness center today and my total cumulative weight loss is 29.5 pounds. I’ve lost almost thirty pounds since January 3.

Sweet Sour Baked Tofu


I found a bottled sweet and sour sauce that has no fat and is low sodium, House of Tsang Sweet and Sour Stir Fry Sauce. I used 2 oz. for one block of tofu.

NaSoya Lite Firm Tofu-1 14.5 oz. package

Preheat oven to 400º. I sliced the tofu in half by width (horizontally), placed the two halves between two plastic cutting boards and put two 1 gallon water jugs on the top board. This presses the tofu and squeezes out the excess water. I left the tofu to press for 30 minutes and then sliced the tofu into 10 slices. I coated the tofu slices with the sweet and sour sauce and put them on a pan sprayed cookie sheet. I covered the sheet with foil and baked for 30 minutes, turned the slices, and baked uncovered for an additional 20 minutes.

The tofu had a nice chewy texture and a wonderful flavor. The recipe makes 5 servings and it’s good cold. It has 68 calories, 7 g protein, 7.4 g carbohydrates, 1.5 g fat, and 65 mg sodium.

Crispy Cheese Cauliflower

I modified this recipe from the Healthy Cooks Yahoo Group. It was originally published in USA Today Weekend. It is great, and has only 78 calories, 4.78 g protein, 5.41 g carbohydrates, .76 g fat, and 98 mg sodium. This recipe makes 3 servings.


Olive Oil Spray
2/3 c Parmesan Cheese, Freshly-Grated
1/2 t Cumin, Ground
1/8 t Cayenne Pepper, Or To Taste
1/2 Cauliflower, Broken Into -Pieces
2 Egg-Substitute
1 Lemon, Cut In Wedges

Preheat oven to 450º. Combine cheese, cumin, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl (next time I might try some dry mustard either in addition to the cumin or instead of it). Dip the cauliflower into the egg substitute and then into the cheese mixture. Place the pieces on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with the olive oil spray and then lightly spray the completed pieces. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with wedges of lemon.

Here’s my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/20/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1082 61.73 g 186.3 g1439.5 mg 11.47 g 8.29%

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Body Mass Index (BMI) Lunacy

There is a chart in the faculty/staff lounge above the medical office-style scale that says Body Mass Index (BMI) Chart. This chart claims to know how much you should weigh based on how tall you are, and claims the right to call you names if your body disagrees. I’ve always known that the chart was lunacy and those who promote it lunatics. When I started my weight loss program, I joked that I would have to lose forty pounds before I could be considered merely obese based on my BMI. I mean, we all know that muscle is denser and weighs more than fat and the BMI doesn’t take muscle into consideration.

The BMI is a statistical measure of body mass divided by the square of one’s height. Thus if this magic number is below 18.5, you are underweight; from 18.5-24.9, you are normal; from 25-29.9, overweight; 30-40 is obese; and over 40 is considered morbidly obese. My BMI is 32.4. My next immediate goal is to become merely overweight, thirteen pounds away. Assuming I want to carry it that far, for the next 27 pounds of weight loss, I will still be considered overweight. To be normal, I will have to revert to my college weight when I was sedentary, but weighed less. To be fair, I would have only had to be called overweight for the next 16 pounds prior to 1998 when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) changed the U.S. definition to match that of the World Health Organization (WHO). The NIH lowered the cutoff for overweight from a BMI of 27.8 to BMI 25. Overnight, 30 million Americans, went from healthy to overweight. I may be out of line, but I thought this kind of name calling should be based on scientific evidence of increased risk of disease. Am I the only one who has looked at the BMI and its guidelines and dismissed it as unrealistically out of reach? I’ll bet some have given up, choosing to remain fat.

Who is Responsible for This?

The BMI was first proposed by the Belgian scientist, Adolphe Quetelet between 1830 and 1850, as a statistical measure of the weights of populations, not individuals. The Centers for Disease Control says, “Calculating BMI is one of the best methods for population assessment of overweight and obesity. Because calculation requires only height and weight, it is inexpensive and easy to use for clinicians and for the general public. The use of BMI allows people to compare their own weight status to that of the general population.”

The BMI became popular in the 1980s because we started to notice that people in developed nations were become fatter. This was designed to be a measure of populations, not individuals, and that was why it was dusted off in the 80s.

How is it Used?

The BMI is used to screen for possible weight problems, not diagnose, but it is used prescriptively according to hospital protocols. Many hospitals require additional tests before performing some procedures if a person falls in the BMI obese category. A colleague related to me that her husband was subjected to unnecessary, and expensive, tests during a hospital visit because his muscled body fell into the obese category. Hospital personnel told her it was ridiculous, but needed to be done because of hospital rules.

The United States armed forces uses the BMI to assess fitness for military service. A student related to me the story of his drill sergeant who was a body builder with huge shoulders and a waspish waist and who had to get a special waiver before he was allowed in the military.

Why is this a problem? Body Types (Somatotypes) and the BMI

In the 1940s, psychologist William Sheldon studied the bodies of 4,000 men and devised a classification system based on body type (somatotype) in an attempt to discern temperaments based on his system. The temperament aspect of his theory has been largely discredited, but his classification system remains and it has implications for the BMI.

Sheldon classified people and their body types as, ectomorphs, who are lean, have little body fat, are not well-muscled, and have a trouble gaining weight; endomorphs, who have plenty of body fat and muscle, and gain weight easily; and, mesomorphs who are athletic, solid, muscular, and strong. They tend to eat what they want without gaining weight, and if they do, they lose it easily.

These different body types present challenges for the BMI because the ectomorph may have a deceptively low BMI that masks health risks, and the mesomorph has greater bone size and density as well as more muscle mass and may be classified as overweight. Few people are pure examples of these body types and may show blended characteristics. There are even people who are upper body ectomorphs and lower body endomorphs (pear-shaped), and those for whom the reverse is true (apple-shaped).

Still, the CDC considers the BMI “a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people”

What are the alternatives?

Other assessments such as skinfold thickness measurements, dietary evaluation, physical activity assessment, and family history can be used. My grandfather, who was thick but well-muscled even in old age, lived to be 98. The BMI would have considered him obese. Body fat can be measured by calipers (skinfold measurement), underwater weighing, bioelectrical impedance, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and computerized tomography. My fitness center is considering the purchase of a bioelectrical impedance device. It’s simple and reliable, you just grip two metal rods and a small electrical current that measures your body fat is run through your body.

All of these assessments are more reliable than the BMI. The hip-waist ratio is even easier.

Hooray for the Waist-hip Ratio!

To determine your waist-hip ratio, you measure your hips at the widest part of your buttocks, then measure your waist at the smaller circumference of your natural waist, usually just above the belly button. To determine the ratio, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

On the waist-hip measure from the University of Maryland Medical system waist-hip calculator, I came out at .958, considered a moderate risk. If I only lose ¼” in my waist, I go to low risk. That’s doable.

The ideal ratio for men is .9 and for women, .7. That is also considered by some the ideal for male and female beauty. If I lose 2 ¼“ in my waist, I can reach that ideal. Now, that’s a goal.

Here's my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/19/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1102.03 55.21 g 220.84 g1257.23 mg 14.62 g 11.94%

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pork Chop Flop or Challenges at Home on the Range

It was a tough weekend on the range. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, I learned a number of things that didn’t work. I had some pork loin that I cut into boneless chops and a couple of roasts, so I thought I would try to make a low fat, low sodium barbecue sauce. I used the following ingredients and simmered it for about 30 minutes. It was a flop. The tomato paste still tasted raw. I may try adding a little hickory Liquid Smoke and simmering it another half hour.

2-6 oz. Tomato Paste
1-4 oz. Tomato sauce-no salt added

.5 C Packed Brown Sugar
1/4 C Sweet Onion-Chopped
1 C Apple cider vinegar
2 t Dry Mustard
2 t Paprika
1 T Chili powder

I actually parboiled the chops for 30 minutes first, put them in a casserole dish, and covered them in the above sauce. I covered the casserole dish with aluminum foil and let it heat at 250º for about an hour.

I then decided to try another cole slaw recipe, this time a mayonnaise-free recipe from the Lotrel web site, attributed to Joe Montana. When I made it according to his recipe, there was way too much yogurt and very little flavor. I saved it by increasing the apple cider vinegar from 2 tablespoons to 1 cup and adding 3 tablespoons of sugar. Next time I will reduce the plain yogurt to 1 cup and leave the other ingredients alone; it should be about right then.

Cole Slaw 4

1.5 C Dannon all natural Plain Yogurt
7.5 C Slaw Mix
1 C
Apple cider vinegar
0.25 t.
Celery seed
0.25 Paprika
3 T

I added one-half cup of apple cider vinegar to the slaw mix and let it sit for about 15 minutes, then added the rest of the ingredients. I let the flavors blend and the slaw chill in the refrigerator until it was time to serve.

This slaw contains only 57.88 calories per cup and, 11.61 g protein, 11.25 g carbohydrate, .05 g fat, and 44.25 mg sodium. Percentage of calories from fat is only .01%.

I have some catching up to do in posting my daily recaps. I’ve had a cold for the last week and have avoided the fitness center and have had generally low energy, but I have stuck with my diet. Here are the recaps.


Daily Dietary Recap-3/18/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1127.1 47.87 g 190.46 g508.97 mg 19.82 g 14.61%


Daily Dietary Recap-3/17/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1165.94 58 g 169.05 g736.51 mg 22.17 g 15.96%


Daily Dietary Recap-3/16/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1265.04 66.82 g 212.98 g957.72 mg 18.73 g 11.89%

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Broiled Mushrooms

I’ve always loved the complex flavors and subtle bouquet of mushrooms. I enjoy the way dried mushrooms of all types (shiitake, wood, oyster, and others) can lend their essence as the primary flavor of mushroom soups with the addition of little more than water, a little salt and white pepper, and a handful of onions. On my diet, with my palate cleansed of salt, I have an even greater appreciation for these fungi. Tonight I decided to try broiling fresh mushrooms with no help but the flame. Pre-diet I would have melted butter and sprinkled each of caps with it, garlic, and salt. Naked, they were a delight.

Three large mushrooms added only 12 calories, .18 g of fat, and 3 mg sodium.

Here’s my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/14/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1148.59 51.83 g 194.82 g1087 mg 15.02 g 11.75%

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Low Fat and Low Salt Condiments

When I first started my low-fat, low-salt diet, I bought a number of extra seasonings thinking that I would be using them regularly. The first three days I did use them. After that, my salt-jaded palate cleared and I began to enjoy what food really tastes like for the first time. I still occasionally use Mrs. Dash Table Blend but for the most part, I use the spices I like in the proportions I choose.

I have really started to enjoy the flavors in brown rice, vegetables (especially mushrooms), and fruit. I occasionally use my seasoned sour cream. This was my first attempt at creating a condiment. I mixed 1 teaspoon of horseradish with ½ cup of non-fat sour cream and added garlic powder, onion powder, freshly ground pepper, and Mrs. Dash Table Blend. It has quite a bit of flavor and is good on beef, chicken and pork. I have since added 1 teaspoon of prepared mustard to the blend and sometimes carry it with me when I eat out.

Seasoned Sour Cream

½ C Non-fat sour cream
1 t. Horseradish
1/8 t. Onion powder
1/8 t. Garlic powder
Ground black pepper to taste
Mrs. Dash Table Blend to taste
1 t. Prepared mustard (optional)

One teaspoon contains, 3.33 calories, no fat, .33 g protein, .5 g carbohydrates, and only 13.54 mg sodium.

Vinegar is almost miraculous in its ability to wake up the flavors of foods. It is good splashed on or cooked in. I keep a cruet of vinegar on the table at home and on my desk at work. My standby is apple cider vinegar but, I also love balsamic, wine vinegars of all types, and herbal vinegars. I’ve found that using vinegar takes away any thought of using salt.

I love salsa and use it on eggbeaters omelets and with my corn tortillas and fish tacos. I have found that among the commercially available salsas, the mild one typically have less sodium. My favorite is Frieda’s mild salsa found in produce section of my supermarket. It is best to make your own by chopping a couple of tomatoes, some onion, some red or green bell pepper, cilantro, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and the hot pepper of your choice (jalapeno, habanero, chile). Genuine Tabasco sauce is the low salt choice as some of the imitators can have up to 200 mg sodium per teaspoon while Tabasco has only 10 mg. I also like salsas that are made with fruit. One year I made and canned four different varieties of salsa and gave them at presents at Christmas. The favorite was this salsa with a Polynesian flavor.

Polynesian Salsa

1 cup chopped peeled pineapple
1 cup chopped peeled mango
1 cup chopped yellow or red bell (red is sweeter) pepper
2/3 cup chopped peeled kiwi fruit
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon minced Serrano chili* (with seeds)
Ground white pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and season with white pepper to taste. The white pepper is important. Just as much of the hot in Hot Sour soup comes from the white pepper, much of the kick in this salsa comes from it as well. So, feel free to kick it up as much as you want. Until you find your comfort level, you might want to start by adding ½ teaspoon, letting it sit so the flavors blend, and repeat until you find the right balance for yourself. This salsa is great on chicken breasts and mild white fish.

Polynesian Salsa (per 2 Tablespoons): Calories, 9.22 calories; .05 g fat; .58 mg sodium; .16 g protein; 2.34 g carbohydrates.

More on condiments later.

Here's my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/13/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1358.12 69.38 g 209.47 g1046 mg 21.01 g 13.92%

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hidden Sodium in Supermarket Meats

Naively walking into the supermarket to purchase food for my first days of dieting, I assumed that lean meats such as boneless skinless chicken breasts, lean ground beef, turkey, and perhaps a lean steak in small portions, would become staple meat protein sources for my diet. I bought Tyson chicken breasts, Honeysuckle White ground turkey patties, and extra lean ground beef (96/4) thinking they would be among the lowest in fat and sodium. I was right about the fat, but very wrong about the sodium.

As I logged what I ate and its nutrient content, I was surprised to find that the chicken breasts and ground turkey each contained 200 mg of sodium per 4 oz. portion. The extra lean ground beef was a reasonable 55 mg. I had shopped at our local Wal-Mart Supercenter and assumed that as the largest supermarket, it would have what I needed. Boy was I wrong. I found that all of their beef except the extra lean ground beef was treated with flavor enhancers containing sodium. Of the beef I surveyed, the range of sodium was from 200-390 mg of sodium. Beef naturally contains about 50-55 mg of sodium. Many poultry products are brined, or soaked in a solution that adds weight, ostensibly flavor, and of course, sodium. Poultry naturally contains about the same 50-55 mg of sodium, as does natural pork. The only meat I buy there now is the extra lean ground beef, and occasionally a minimally processed ground white turkey.

I made a trip to the other supermarket (our largest town is only 6000 people and the whole county only has a population of 20,000) and talked with the butcher. He explained that Wal-Mart packages their meats at a remote location and ships them in, so they use flavor enhancers the keep the meats fresh-looking after the time they spend on the road traveling to our store. Tyson makes an all-natural chicken, but Wal-Mart doesn’t routinely carry it. Fortunately, the other store doesn’t enhance their meats and carries some minimally-processed poultry under the names, Tyson All-Natural, Air-Chilled, and Smart Chicken.

I’ve always been a dedicated supermarket package reader and I celebrated the requirement for nutrition information on packages, but, I was unprepared for this development in meats. (My wife understands why it takes me so long to shop; she just doesn’t want to come along.) The admonition here is that we don’t have to settle for high-sodium over processed meats. Read the labels and talk with the butchers.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/12/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1106.29 58.07 g 175.40 g691.17 mg 19.94 g 16.22%