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Dr. Terry Simpson

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There are many common myths about food. I will try to dispel some of them. A number of foods thought to be healthy snacks for people losing weight are not. Your body does not care where the calories come from, but your body is very good at counting calories. Low-calorie snacks are a great tool to help you lose weight, and whether those snacks are primarily carbohydrates or proteins does not matter.

Myths about common food - protein

  1. Dr Terry Simpson juggling food cartoonProtein does not contain calories.
    Protein does contain calories; the same amount, per weight, as carbohydrates. Over-consumption of protein, even protein drinks, can slow weight loss.
  2. The calories in protein are not what make a person fat; it is the calories in carbohydrates.
    Protein calories can make you fat. While the body can absorb only so much protein at a time, as the body begins to break down the protein into amino acids, those can be converted into fat. Steaks, chicken, and even soy can cause you to gain excess weight. Your body can break protein down and make glucose, it cannot store protein.
  3. High protein diets are effective for weight loss.
    High protein diets, or low-carbohydrate diets, are just that—diets. They work well in the beginning but they are not effective in the long run. It is far better for people to make healthy changes over the long run than to over-eat protein.
  4. You need protein shakes.
    Protein shakes can be a good source of protein, and are needed by people at different times. However, food is the best source of protein, and getting protein from food is far more effective at making you feel full than a shake. One ounce of tuna fish can supply you with about 20 grams of protein, which is, for most people, about one fourth of your daily requirement.

Snacks that are not so healthy for you

Unhealthy snack foods – peanut butter – fried fish sandwich – nuts - cream cheese – regular cheesePeanut Butter - Just about everyone on any diet has considered peanut butter to be a “healthy” choice for a snack. It is not. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain: 190 calories, 18 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates, and 8 grams of protein. Essentially, peanut butter is a fat; it is not a protein snack. It is not a healthy choice for a snack, although it is tasty. One of my favorite patients used to eat Oreo® cookies with peanut butter—rationalizing that she was getting her protein in. She was getting in some protein but was primarily getting fat and sugar. A better choice than peanut butter is fresh fruits or vegetables.

Fast Food Fish sandwich - The Fish fillet sandwich is another favorite. The Burger King fish fillet contains 480 calories, 13 grams of fat, 68 grams of carbohydrates, and 13 grams of protein. A better choice is the Burger King Chicken Whooper®, which is 410 calories with 7 grams of fat, 48 grams of carbohydrates, and 38 grams of protein. But the best choice is the Burger King Chicken Garden Salad® with 210 calories, 7 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 26 grams of protein.

It is not what you eat, it is what it contains. The difference in calories between the salad and the fish fillet is 270 calories. To burn those 270 calories you would have to walk two to three miles (a fifteen-minute mile). It is a lot easier to lose weight by making proper food choices than it is to exercise. Both are needed, but when you put calories in the context of how you will burn them, it becomes easier to make the proper choice.

Cream Cheese (yea, cream and cheese) - Cream Cheese is, by its very name, not something you eat if you are serious about losing weight. One-third of a teaspoon (30 grams) contains 100 calories and 10 grams of fat. The reduced calorie type contains 70 calories and 6 grams of fat. That is a small amount—now, most people put on a lot more than a third of a teaspoon. This is a high-calorie item with a lot of fat and calories and not much nutritional value in return. Contrast that with onehalf a cup of cottage cheese, which contains 117 calories, or low-fat style, which contains about 82 calories. A lot more volume and fewer calories. Four ounces (one-half a cup) of the flavored cottage cheese such as Knudsen’s contain 120 calories.

Nuts to you - Nuts are high in fats and oils but they have some protein. They are, as with all foods, okay in moderation, but not something you should choose as a snack if you want to lose some weight. Less than half a cup of almonds contain 615 calories, cashews contain 575 calories, peanuts 565 calories, sesame seeds 600 calories, or sunflower seeds 200 calories. Some claim that because these foods satisfy you with less that they are a good item for diet. If they keep you from eating other high fat items, that is one thing. But thinking that Peanut M&M’s® is a diet food, or that they are okay because they contains protein, is simply not the way to lose weight.

Cheese - Cheese is high in fat, and some cheeses are high in carbohydrates also. Cheese is not a good choice for a snack. Cheese is almost pure fat. While it is flavorful and works well as something to enhance food, often it simply adds calories and fat. Many restaurants are offering “protein enriched” foods for those who are on “low carb” diets. They do this by offering cheese instead of healthy alternatives. In and Out Burger has a “low carb” burger, where they use lettuce leaves instead of the bun—but the calorie count in these selections is often higher than those with the bun. Why? Because they add cheese.

Taco Bell has “fresco” style selections where the cheese is replaced with salsa. Their Grilled Steak Taco®, fresco style, contains 170 calories with five grams of fat, where the regular Grilled Steak Taco® contains 280 calories with 17 grams of fat.

Cheese is not a diet food—cheese is fat, or lard (animal fat). Alternatives to cheese, such as Taco Bell’s selections with salsa, are far healthier and contains far fewer calories.

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