Feeling BadThe paleo diet in and of itself is not a “high-fat, low-carbohydrate” diet; however, many people utilize paleo thinking as a method of achieving a low-carbohydrate way of eating. The paleo meal plan I’m currently using is based on that method. One of the premises of high-fat, low-carbohydrate is that your body enters into a state of ketosis. That means that your body is switching fuels from using primarily carbohydrate to mainly fat.

Remember in this post when I talked about how your body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy? Well, here begins chapter 2: After your body turns the carbohydrates into glucose and your cells pick up the glucose, a bunch of active little proteins called enzymes start changing the glucose by adding and taking away chemical bonds. At the end, the glucose is converted to something called Acetyl CoA which then goes on into another process known as the TCA cycle (or Kreb’s cycle, or citric acid cycle, but that’s neither here nor there). This nifty little pathway is the major energy factory in your body. In fact, my metabolism textbook* says that “over 90% of the energy released from food is estimated to occur as a result of TCA cycle oxidation.” Basically, it’s where carbs, fats, and proteins all go to die. They are broken down until there is just water, carbon dioxide, and energy left. Pretty cool, huh?

Since Paleo is considered a high-fat diet, I’ll start with fat. After making its way into the cells, the fatty acids undergo a conversion to (guess what?) acetyl CoA. That molecule then has two possible destinations: it can either go through the TCA cycle just like the former glucose molecules do, or in the presence of extra acetyl CoA the liver can convert it into something called ketones. Ketones can then travel throughout the body to other tissues where they are actually converted back into acetyl CoA and used for energy there.

Starting Wednesday morning (paleo day #3), I started having hot flashes, brain fog, nausea, lightheadedness, and a mild headache. All of these are symptoms described by paleo-diet promoters as the “low-carb flu”. Others complain of such maladies as muscle soreness, extreme fatigue, poor sleep, and digestive disturbances. Doesn’t that just sound like a barrel of monkeys?

Anyway, these ailments are due mostly to chemical shifts in my body (that are super complicated) and the adjustment from using well-oiled glucose burning machinery to my dusty, rusty fat/ketone users. Most of my symptoms have gone away by now, but I now have a bad taste in my mouth (all the time) and occasional hot flashes. My next quest is to investigate the long-term implications of this way of eating and how it affects the body over time. Here goes nothing!

*Gropper, Smith, and Groff. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 2009. 5th edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Belmont, CA.

UPDATE (3/1/14): A friend of mine made a good point that prompted me to edit the original post. I had originally referred to the paleo diet as a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, but paleo in and of itself is not “high-anything” or “low-anything.” If one wanted to not eat a low carbohydrate diet and still be paleo, he or she could eat loads of fruit, for example. In my case, the meal plan I chose only included fruit 3 times in the first week, so I have ended up on a high, fat low carbohydrate diet though paleo would not necessarily require that. I updated the post above to reflect this.


The first time I ever heard about the “Paleo diet” I thought it was ridiculous. We are not cavemen anymore. We drive cars, we sleep in heated houses, and most of us had our first slice of Wonder Bread at age 4. We don’t exactly do the hunting and gathering that the hunter-gatherers did either…so why on earth should we eat like them? It doesn’t make sense. I chalked it up as another fad.

I’m opening my mind and looking into it now, and generally, the Paleo diet is a pretty healthful way to go. It cuts out processed foods entirely – including refined grains and sugar – as well as salt, and definitely reigns in the excessive carbohydrate intake of a good chunk of the population. I don’t think that really anyone could argue that those are bad changes to make. My first concern with Paleo, however, is that two food groups have been eliminated entirely – grains and dairy. Food groups that have been eaten by successfully healthy humans for quite some time and have nutritional offerings of their own. My other concern is the high amount of saturated fat I’m eating by cooking with coconut oil and eating so much red meat. Each of those concerns touch on hot-button topics in nutrition right now. First, gluten intakes and avoidance of grains. Second, processed vs. raw. vs. low fat vs. no fat vs. full fat dairy. Third, whether or not saturated fats even increase your risk for heart disease. I’d have to know all these answers to be able to fully evaluate this diet.

I’ll be honest – I have opinions, but I do not yet know the answers. In fact, I’m not sure that really anybody actually knows, knows all of those answers. We do the best we can with what we have. These were all reasons I wanted to start this blog – I get asked about these topics all the time, and I need to be the informed expert. So I’ll work through them (or slog through them, depending on how interesting they are) and let you know what I find. I can’t promise to find the answers or research each topic even in it’s full detail, which is why I’m recruiting you all to help me.

I want to know what you’ve heard about these issues, what questions you have, and what other topics might be good for me to look into. My best sources of “up and coming” diet info are usually not my dietitian peers, but my friends and family who ask me about something they saw on Dr. Oz. or some juice their best friend started. So commence to comment in 5, 4, 3, 2…


After grocery shopping yesterday I was a little worried – the pile was far smaller than that from my first week of MyPlate meals. The meal plan I’m following is posted on the Meal Plans page.

GroceriesThe theory is, though, that the food is nutritionally dense enough that you don’t need to eat as much. And I have to say, I have found that to be the case today. I have only eaten 1300 calories today and I have hardly felt hungry.

paleo dinnerAfter this I’m going out to a comedy show with my ladies. I’ll have to see if there’s anything out there that I am allowed to have. Wish me luck!


The common cold has fogged my brain (or sapped my motivation) enough that I haven’t done much research in the last few days. I have a couple of MyPlate recipes stocked up that I had not yet posted, so I thought I’d grace you with one today. I present to you a fiance favorite: The Spinach Lasagna Roll-Up.

done

Ingredients:

10-12 lasagna noodles (you’ll only use 8 but you want to have extra in case some tear)

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

8-10 mushrooms, sliced

1 cup spinach

3/4 cup fat free sour cream

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

1 (15-oz) can no salt added tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Cook and drain the lasagna noodles according to the package directions, minus about 2 minutes (you want the noodles to hang together well for the roll-ups).cooked noodles
  2. While the noodles are cooking, brown the ground beef over medium heat and drain the fat (if you prefer a vegetarian option, these are deliciously mushroom-y without the beef too). Add in the olive oil, onions, and mushrooms and saute until soft.mushrooms and meat
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add in spinach, fat free sour cream, and 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella. Cook until cheese is melted and spinach is slightly wilted.spinach and meat and sauce
  4. Lay the lasagna noodles out on a plate. Spread a thin layer of the beef and mushroom mixture on each noodle. Roll the noodles up and place in a 9×13 baking dish.rolling
  5. In a bowl, stir together tomato sauce, basil, oregano, and garlic powder. Pour on top of lasagna roll-ups. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.sauce and cheese
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve two roll-ups with a side of veggies and some fruit for a complete MyPlate meal. Oh, and try not to splash sauce all over the edge of the plate like I did. =)plate

Two roll-ups count for 1/2 cup vegetables, 2 ounces grains, 2 ounces meat, and 1/2 cup dairy. They contain 457 calories, 58 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein, 13 g fat, and 280 g sodium.


Alright, that title was a bit much. Sorry.

The Paleo (or Paleolithic) diet is really trendy right now. It is based on the idea that eating the kinds of foods eaten by our ancestors from the Paleolithic era will help to prevent common chronic diseases that have sprung up in our populations over time. Ultimately, the diet ends up including meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and oils. The diet eliminates two of the food groups: dairy and grains. Which, if you recall, are major sources of the carbohydrate we eat. It is starting to look as though our study of carbohydrate intake shall continue. The official Paleo diet website touts that this eating pattern will increase fiber, fat, protein, vitamin, and mineral intakes while decreasing dietary carbohydrate and sodium. The website builds in an 85:15 rule, allowing for three non-Paleo meals to be eaten each week.

Eat Dont Eat list

Screenshot from www.thepaleodiet.com

I will be spending this coming week prepping to start my 3 weeks on the Paleo diet (start date February 24th). In the meantime, I will have to eat up all of the pasta, bread, and dairy I have lying around. Excuse me, I think there are some tortilla chips calling my name…


Well, this is it! 21 days of MyPlate completed. Here are the stats for the whole project:

Weight changes: -1 pound

Waist changes: 0 inches

Average calorie intake: 1984

Number of days MyPlate food group guidelines were met: 13

Average cost of groceries per week: $33

Pros: The MyPlate diet is pretty easy to follow because you can quickly check just by looking at your plate. It promotes intakes of a wide variety of foods and as such is a good way to encourage balanced nutrition, control portion size, and get all of your vitamins and minerals.

Cons: As I mentioned in previous posts, not everyone agrees with the Guidelines. Some say they are too carb-y, some say too fatty, some say too loosey-goosey with restrictions on substances like sodium and saturated fat. Honestly, I can’t say I’ve read enough to develop my stance on those specific issues yet, but I’ll continue to research these topics as I move through the diets.

Observations: The diet was not drastically different from my normal way of eating, so I never really felt much different because of the foods I was eating. I covered a lot of the things I learned in my last post, but overall I gained an appreciation for the experience of tracking food and calories. It was pretty interesting to me to learn about the Guidelines, where they came from, and the controversies surrounding them.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get to research as much in those 21 days as I had hoped. There is so much information to read and only so much time. One of the great things about studying nutrition is that everything really is connected. As I move into my next diets I will come across concepts I started researching last month. And on and on. Please send me a message through the Contact page about any specific nutrition questions you might have. I’d love to learn more about what my readers what to know!

Collage

Keep checking back! Readers voted and chose the Paleolithic (or Paleo) diet for me to follow next. Send me a message through the Contact page if you have any specific Paleo questions you would like me to answer!


Today marks my last official day following the MyPlate diet. Starting in one week, I will begin on the next (vote in the poll on the left to say which diet you’d like to hear more about). I thought I’d sum things up a bit with a bunch of things I have learned, and that have already started to change the way I view food and work with my patients:

  1. My body regulates its calorie intake pretty well. I quickly realized that even if I wasn’t tracking my food throughout the day, I would end up eating 1800-2000 calories without feeling deprived or overfull. Bodies are cool like that.
  2. 1 cup is not as much as I thought. 0208140842aExhibit A: 1 cup of orange juice in a standard glass. Pouring appropriate servings took some practice.
  3. 2 tablespoons is a lot more than I thought. As the standard serving size for many condiments, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, mayonnaise, or any kind of salad dressing was waaaaaaaay more than I ever thought. I had always assumed I was eating more than that by default, but when I measured out 2 tablespoons of almond butter to eat with my apple I couldn’t even finish it!
  4. “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” mealsThis nifty little saying is something I had heard over time to flip the traditional “American” way of eating on its head. It makes sense because when you eat breakfast, you’re fueling your body for the whole day, so you need to eat more and eat well. At night, you’re only fueling your body for another hour or two. It worked beautifully for me when I was trying to get all of my food groups in. In the morning I was motivated to eat well and get all of my groups in and by the evening I was tired after work and more likely to go for something easy. It worked with my plan, rather than a common diet pattern of eating basically nothing for breakfast and lunch, then binging at dinner when you’re tired and starving. I heard a dietitian at a conference once refer to that as the “weight gain diet.”
  5. Meal plans can be helpful. They are also really annoying. It was a love-hate relationship for me. It was nice to know I had everything already bought and decided for what I was going to eat. However, making the grocery list, having no flexibility, and feeling like I “cheated” when I didn’t eat exactly what was on it were all big cons for me.
  6. Vegetables are really low in calories. Like, REALLY low. I knew this already in my brain, but putting 1 cup of spinach, 1/4 cup of mushrooms, half a tomato, and half a cucumber into your tracker and getting a grand total of 37 calories kind of drives that one home.
  7. Tracking everything you eat is exhausting. It was kind of fun in its way…for about a week. After that it became very tiresome, especially if I got behind and had to catch up. From now on, I think I’ll recommend that clients track for about two weeks, and then maybe one day each week just to keep in check. After a week or two you get a pretty good idea of how to do it in your head, anyway.
  8. Tracking websites and apps help with this a lot. My fitness pal screenshotsPersonally I like My Fitness Pal, but there are negatives to it also. One thing I really love is that you can enter in homemade recipes, calculate the nutrition facts, and save them to go back and use later.
  9. Eating three servings of dairy a day is really repetitive. milkYogurt, milk, cheese, yogurt, milk, cheese, yogurt, milk, cheese.
  10. Vegetables are not really as difficult to get in as I expected. They can go in most anything. My friend Abbie taught me this the weekend I stayed with her. Abbie puts veggies in everything – scrambles for breakfast, soups for lunch, and side dishes for dinner. Just chop, chop, chop and sautee, bake, boil, or steam. They add tons of flavor variety too.
  11. It is extremely difficult to eat less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day. Except for when I was traveling, I cooked most everything at home from scratch. I ate a ton of fresh produce. I rinsed the canned beans. I stayed away from the packaged, the processed, the sodium-laden. It was a terrible struggle. I’ll have a lot more empathy for my heart failure patients from here on out.
  12. It is even more difficult to eat more than 35 grams of fiber per day. TONS of veggies, beans, and whole grains was not enough to get me there most of the time. I was about to start gnawing on cardboard in the evenings just to reach my daily goal.
  13. Eating MyPlate at restaurants is really not very tough (with the exception of limiting sodium). Portland mealMany places have fruit side dish options and milk as a beverage choice. The struggle here? Whole grains.
  14. Telling people you’re on a diet can be awkward. Most people were really supportive of me and the reasons I’m doing it, but that wasn’t always the case.
  15. Some kinds of exercise can make really big dents in your calorie intake. 0124141459Hiking, snowboarding, dancing, biking up hills, and plyometrics left my net calories for the day sometimes as low as 1400! I was shocked at how quickly these fun activities added up to big time calorie gaps.
  16. Other kinds of exercise make reaaaaaally teeny dents in your calorie intake. 0124141459Cycling through town or strolling with the fiance was not going to fit the bill if I was trying to even out an indulgent day.
  17. On a related note, it’s okay to have indulgent days. One weekend day out with Abbie I ate chicken wings at happy hour. You may have read about my Superbowl feast. In the end, it all averaged out. Some days were a little low, some days were a little high. I never really felt deprived at all during the entire three weeks.
  18. I don’t need to eat as much ice cream as I usually dish out. I still maintain that the half-cup serving size on the label is insulting and offensive, but two small scoops was enough for me. I rarely eat ice cream because I’m actually hungry…I just want to taste it.
  19. Starting small and working up with salt can go a long way. Make your meal and taste it. Add a little bit of salt only if you feel like you need to. I found that most of the time, I didn’t need to add any salt and when I did it ended up being only a pinch in the entire recipe.
  20. I’m really enjoying being creative with food. God gave us the amazing gift of thousands of different flavors in this world…and there are so many combinations to explore! I’m so excited about trying new foods, new recipes, and new ideas. Send me your favorites! I’d love to try them!
  21. I think it’s going to be hard for me to not pay attention to what I’m eating once the diet is over. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about being obsessed with their food once they have been on diets, and I can totally relate now. It’s a totally different animal to be completely aware of everything that goes down the gullet – keeping a mental tally of food groups, calories, and nutrients. Honestly, I’m really curious to see how it ends up going on this week off from dieting.

Thanks for your support and following along with me. Get ready to gear up for the next diet and don’t forget to vote!


Weight change: -2 pounds from last week (loss of 1 pound since beginning of MyPlate diet)

Total cost of groceries: $52. I made a big shopping trip last week with the hope that the groceries will carry me into this week, and it’s looking like they are going to.

Average daily intakes (7 days)*:

  • Total calories (goal=2,000): 2075
  • Net calories (after subtracting exercise): 2029 (I know, I know…I didn’t do very much exercise this week)
  • Carbohydrates (goal=45-65% calories): 260 g (50% calories)
  • Protein (goal=10-35% calories): 65 g (13% calories)
  • Total fat (goal=20-35% calories): 66 g (29% calories)
  • Saturated fat (goal=less than 10% calories): 19 g (8% calories)
  • Sodium (goal=2300 mg or less): 2439 mg
  • Fiber (goal=more than 25 g): 25 g

# of days food group guidelines were met: SIX! Much improved from last week. I made much more of a focus of getting all of my food groups in this week.

The good: Working on getting food groups in changed my focus from what I couldn’t have to what I could. I like foods from all of the food groups, so it was a treat to look at what was left on my checklist to get in for each day. Calories stopped controlling my meal intakes, because (somehow…almost like magic) if I focused on getting the right amount of each of the food groups, I ended up pretty darn close to my calorie goal for the day. Go figure! It’s like they did the math or something.

The bad: I’m starting to feel a little bit of the weariness of tracking everything I eat. It’s funny how when I meet with my clients once a week, and they get tired of tracking their food after only two meetings it feels to me as though they’ve given up so quickly. But now that I’m tracking, it feels like I’ve been tracking my food for twoooooo loooooooooong weeks. Puts a little perspective on it…I apologize to my clients for my naivety!

The ugly: That stinkin’ sodium! My average is only 139 mg over my daily goal, but you should have seen the individual numbers. My lowest day was in the 1,600s, but my highest was in the 4,000s! I’ve always told patients that sodium is tough to keep in check, but I had no clue how tough. Personally, I’m a salt-lover and I would eat a whole bag of tortilla chips with a jar of salsa if left unattended for long enough. I figured that my regular, pre-MyPlate sodium intakes would likely have been off the charts, but I expected once I was following the diet, eating more fresh produce, and cooking more often that it would fall in line. Drat.

*Intakes are rounded 7-day averages. The percentages will not add up to 100%.


First of all, I would love to shout a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the Seattle Seahawks for an epically awesome Superbowl win! I had a heck of a great time watching them all season.

This particular game, in typical Superbowl fashion, was watched by me at a party at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. With food. And drink. Lots of it. So I wanted to have a game plan. Here’s the play-by-play:

  1. Ask my bro what’s on the menu. I found out it was pretty much going to be meat, meat, and more meat.
  2. Ask my bro if I can bring something, and choose strategically. Since I knew what would be there I also knew what would not: fruit, veggies, dairy, and whole grains. I opted to bring a fruit salad so I would have an option for that food group. I also got sneaky and asked my mom to bring a veggie tray so I could get those in too.
  3. Think ahead. I knew where my weak points would be during the game (lunch and dinner times), so I targeted those at breakfast to get me started. One of Charlie and my favorite places to eat in Seattle is the Crumpet Shop, and he always gets a crumpet with ricotta cheese and orange marmalade. I replicated that with whole wheat English muffins, ricotta cheese, and some homemade peach jam. I topped that off with a fruit smoothie with 1 cup berries, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 cup spinach. Superbowl BreakfastThis yummy breakfast started me off with 2 oz of whole grains, 1 1/2 cups dairy, 1 cup fruit, and 1/2 cup vegetables – all of the groups I knew would be tough to get at the party. Though I used some Greek yogurt and dairy to get protein in this breakfast, I avoided meat and eggs because I knew there would be loads of protein at the party later.
  4. Scope out the goods and make a plan. The smorgasboard consisted of meatballs, chicken wings, chili, veggie tray, fruit salad, (whole grain!) chips with dip, pizza, chocolate chip banana bread, and a variety of beverage. I was actually able to follow MyPlate pretty well for the lunch half of the party (had to do it in two plates because they were small).superbowl plates
  5. Relax and enjoy it. Don’t go crazy, but for Heaven’s sake, don’t deny yourself everything you want to eat. I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule: eat nutritiously 80% of the time, and the other 20% will help you balance it out. Later in the day, I had two pieces of pizza, some whole-grain chips, and a couple of ciders. I ended up with all of my food groups, 300 extra calories for the day, a Seahawks win and a huge smile on my face. And I don’t regret a thing. =)superbowl collage