Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Whole Food for a Day Challenge

what's become obvious is that our western diseases (obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer) are indeed linked to our western diets. one thing that has stuck with me is something from the book in defense of food. he talks about studying indigenous people who eat from the land. some are eating massive diets of fatty fish, some chickens, some mostly veggies. the point is it's not the macro-nutrient percentages (carb, fat, protein) as much as it's the quality of food. they eat zero processed foods and therefore do not suffer our alarming rates above mentioned diseases.

generally speaking the closer a food is to it's natural source the higher it's nutrient content. i read incessantly about nutrition. being a coach and all i'm constantly asked questions about how to eat and what to eat. i am no expert but i'm opinionated.  i like michael pollan's “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” i'm a firm believer in eating actual food.  that might sound obvious, but what most of us eat is not food.  it's food stuff, created in a lab in new jersey by food scientists.  that box of food stuff you eat every morning is not food.. it's most likely an attempt by the food companies to repackage the cheapest source of raw materials we produce... corn.

i have a coaching client who i've help lose 100 pounds. she has done a tremendous amount of studying and reading herself. we were talking about diet and i had recently done a day of eating just whole foods. my day sku'd to raw foods, but i gave her some leeway on how she prepared her meals.  she had lots of questions as to what could be eaten on her "whole foods day".
so here it is. take one day. just one.whole. day.. and eat whole foods for 24hrs. here are the rules i've come up with.
  • eat whole foods
    the things you eat should have just one ingredient.  “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”. 
  • eat foods that have not been processed
    the goal is to eat them as close to their natural state as possible
  • you can cook and combine these foods but keep it simple (that is up for interpretation).
    stir fry veggies in olive oil is fine. veggies, olive oil, all single ingredient products.
  • foods should not come in a box or bag
    if they do it's a good sign they are processed. but if you must just make sure the ingredient list IS ONE THING.  this one thing must grow and die.  peanut butter for instance.  but make sure it's just peanuts, no extra oil, sugar, or corn.  blueberries is another example here.
  • you can use spices to make things tasty but they must be singular items that grow and die. tumeric, garlic, paprika for example are all good.  ms. dash concoctions.. not so much.
  • eat organic
    buy only foods that are organically grown.  not sprayed with pesticides, shot with hormones or fed corn.  and please don't give me the "it's too expensive" bullshit.  what is more important than the investment in your health?  it's what you are putting into your body to fuel your life...why on earth would you use inferior sources? did you know 50% of the antibiotics made in this country are given to our live stock! 50%!  you feed them an unnatural diet of corn and they get sick, then they need antibiotics.  if you are eating conventionally grown meat, you're eating it too.
** the point of this is really to get you (and me) reacquainted with real food.  we have lost that connection with all the processed crap and rearranged corn in the middle of the grocery store. 

some examples of foods that are generally considered healthy but don't cut it (remember it's just one day, you can do this!):
  • walmart or costco chicken breast (read the ingredients, it's not just chicken.  they often pump in 12 % natural chicken broth, added in an attempt to inject flavor and add weight)
  • yogurt (not even close and waaay too much added sugar (27 grams!)
  • bread (nope sorry)
  • cereal (as much as i dream of a puffin tree, they don't actually exist. cereal is just processed corn.. and only because it's cheap, not because it's good for you)
  • milk (too pasteurized and processed)
  • craisins (cranberries and added sugar - no good.)
that's it - i'm going to do this myself and write a blog on my day and how it went.  please comment on your thoughts and how the experience went for you.

oh and your homework is to watch the movie food inc. (it's on netflix "instant watch") and this TED Talk below by Mark Bittman on what's wrong with what we eat. ~100 years ago; "hardly anything contained more than one ingredient, because it WAS an ingredient."


Yassine said...

Great post Matt...Amen brother! I used to eat like crap years ago and I could do so without gaining a pound. I never really cared about what I ate because I was so active all the time.

Since I went completely on a whole foods plant-based diet 18 months ago I have noticed so many benefits! Honestly, it is one of the best things I have ever done. I try to eat like what you described in your post every day...however, I'm not perfect or so rigid...I just simply consciously do the best I can. Nutrition is something that I've been really into as well because of the immense rewards I have gained from it...not only in my training and racing but in everyday life.

Thanks for spreading the message and congrats to your client who dropped all the weight!

Brandon Williams said...

So a couple days I go I read this blog and thought to myself what a great idea. Im always fascinated by things you can do make you life fuller, more energetic and healthier. I had always toyed with the notion of going Vegan I just never made that step so I decided to just do it and see what it was about.

The overall day was great I never was hungry, I felt pretty peppy and didnt miss any of my normal foods. The hardest part was trying to figure out what to eat and when. Below is a list of foods I ate, when and what was in it.

For breakfast I started out with a Smoothie which was made of blueberries, peaches, spinach,
cabbage, wheat germ, water, and cucumber

My snack was A whole avacado, sea salt & pepper, and Black and Kidney bean spin on hummus made with olive oil and a little red wine vinegar

snack number 2 was an Apple and banana

lunch was a creative spin on a classic gazpacho which is basically a cold soup and I think I could used a little less serrano almost to much. It was made with tomato's, watermelon, dill, serrano chile, cucumber, olive oil, red wine vinegar, red onion and sea salt/pepper

My last Snack were apples and smart balance natural peanut butter with flax seed

For dinner I let my inner chef come and play, I came up with this extremely satisfying dish consisting of Baby red potato cake, with a grilled potabello mushroom and spinach salad on top with a fresh lime, and olive oil dressing, sea salt/pepper. The cake was just shredded potato combined into a cake
and sauteed in a skillet till golden brown with olive oil.

So there you have it and that dinner was awesome I cant wait to do that one again. I will continue to experiement to see how this lifestyle will benefit my running and overall life with the gains I will get from eating naturally.

Yassine said...

Brandon! Wow! I just read this to my wife and she said, "Invite that guy over for dinner!" :o) Nice work...that sounds great...I love the red potato cake and gazpacho...yummmmm!

Hart said...

brandon well done! sounds like an incredible & healthy day's worth of eating. allow me to nit pick your almost perfect effort.. you took this to mean vegan, it's not necessarily. whole organic cuts of meat that ate what they have evolved to rather than corn count too.

comments on foods:
*smart balance peanut butter is just what i mentioned in the blog to watch out for, peanut butter with extra oils & sweeteners: EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, NATURAL OIL BLEND (PALM FRUIT AND FLAXSEED OILS), SALT, MOLASSES..
honestly ground peanuts taste the best & often cheaper. try 'em.

*hummus - if you made it yourself with whole foods - awesome. otherwise, it doesn't make the cut.

*wheat germ is high in nutrients and probably fine but technically removed from the WHOLE kernel so it's sort of off the mark for a whole food.

*maybe lay off adding salt/pepper to everything. i've found that whole organic foods taste so much better they don't need extra salt/pepper.

seriously well done man! i'm super impressed. i'm going for day 1 tomorrow!.. stoked.

Brandon Williams said...

Very nice critic indeed, and I will try the ground peanuts. The hummus was made by scratch and the ingredients I listed were the only things in there.

I did misunderstand what you were saying about the whole foods being a vegan lifestyle so I will keep that in mind as I devour an organic chicken breast. Luckily my freezer is still full of fresh wild alaskan salmon I caught last August.

Alison Hanks, LMP said...

Awesome! Just to stir the pot a bit...yogurt doesn't have to be sweetened, and can be hardly processed (you can make it yourself). It still comes from milk, but raw milk (hard to find some places) is nutritious. I'd also add that eating things grown locally is arguably as important as grown organically. Seasonal/local foods taste better and don't have to be shipped as far so they can be picked at the height of their nutrition (and you can meet the people growing your food)! Way to go to your client, that's huge!

Missy B. said...


great job! i'd like you to cook dinner at my house too!

an idea for wheat germ substitute: flax seed or ground flax seed (Bob's Red Mill brand); similar nutritional profile but hardly processed.

Gina said...

Just thought I'd share that Food, Inc. is airing on PBS. It's scheduled for April 21st at 9 pm.

sharon said...

Love this post Matt...As you know, I am allergic to a LOT of things people eat every day, at every meal. Gluten, wheat, soy, eggs, casein, dairy. Taking those out of my diet and eating whole, organic foods has not only completely eliminated 17 years of back pain & severe muscle spasms but all those other fun body issues (that I thought were just normal digestive processes) went away too! Funny how many people say "OMG! What DO you eat?!!" : )

Ken Bess said...

My wife and I eat 98% whole foods every day, the difference in how I feel is amazing. It’s somewhat of a pain at first to make bread (not that bread-makers are that difficult to opperate) and tortillas and mill our own grain and continually shop for produce … but after having made the switch I can’t go back, I don’t want to feel sluggish again. Of course it’s not possible to know that eating processed foods causes us to feel sluggish until after having switched to whole foods and noting the difference.
Even though it does require a little bit of effort, it’s absolutely worth it! Setting aside 30 mins a day to devote to the lifestyle is sufficient. Once we started becoming more proficient at making our staple food items it has been no problem to maintain a constant supply of whole, healthy foods. Items we always have on hand are: 5 cups of cooked brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain tortillas (surprisingly very simple and quick to make), cooked beans, boxes of whole grain pasta, potatoes, skim milk, tomatoes, lettuce, fruits, and other misc vegetables.
I know that skim milk has been through a centrifuge, but I am ok with that as long as it doesn't come from cows on BGH.

saschasdad said...

I was going to say what Alison said about raw milk and eating locally grown produce, but since she said those things, I won't.

But two other things that also immediately came to mind: no nuun (gasp!), and what do I eat on long runs without carrying a pack full of bananas?

I'd really love to give the challenge a try (maybe on a non-long run day), but because of the two issues above, unfortunately I can't see myself ever going 100% whole foods.