Healthy Food vs. Unhealthy Food

When it finally hit me after Christmas that I was fat, way to fat, I was convicted to do something. The scales hit 240 pounds. 240 pounds in my 5′ 10″ frame! Woa! 

But, I didn’t know where to begin or who to turn to for knowledge. I didn’t even fully understand nutrition labels on food required by the FDA. 

Most people are like me when we reach the point that we want to take better care of ourselves, exercise, eat right, and get fit. But if you are like me, you don’t have the knowledge and don’t know where to look to make weight loss happen.

Fortunately, my pastor-counselor, Rev. Roger Bennett, knew the resources I needed when I told him that I wanted to do something about my obesity. 

Roger put me on to I Can Do This Diet by Dr. Don Colbert. I consumed it like a ravenous lion. I read it in a week, and then re-read it making notes and underlining important facts. I have to say that this book changed my life and probably will extend my life and the quality of my life by several years. 

After reading Dr. Colbert’s book,  I have read several others that Roger pitched to me. I have just begun reading another one. I have become knowledgeable about weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise and my knowledge continues to increase almost daily. As my knowledge has increased, my weight has decreased. Plus, this knowledge has motivated me to implement what I’ve learned and am learning by daily practicing healthy eating and exercising. Knowledge is indeed power!

Not only am I losing weight at a clip of about 1-2 pounds a week and walking at least a mile daily, but the quality of my life has improved dramatically in just nine weeks. I feel better. I sleep better, and I have energy. 

Now, I’m no expert on nutrition, but I feel that I am knowledgeable after my crash course in nutrition and healthy eating. I know the difference now. I know what is bad and what is good. I know what is nutritious and healthy and what is unhealthy. 

A healthy meal consists of protein, carbs, non-starchy vegetables, and fiber. 

Good protein consists of lean beef, buffalo, chicken, and pork. They are necessary to maintain our muscles. They are the building blocks of the body. Without protein, you will age faster and eventually develop disease according to Dr. Colbert. 

No all vegetarian diet for me! 

What about carbs? There are diets that promote no carbs, but carbs are essential for good health. Good carbs give you energy. They are fuel for the body like wood for a fire. They calm your mood, keep you full and satisfied by turning off the hunger switch, and actually assist in losing weight. They help us enjoy meals and snacks, enable us to better handle stress, allow us to sleep more soundly, improve bowel functions, and give us an overall feeling of well-being. 

There are fast acting “hare” carbs and slow acting “tortoise” carbs. Who won the race? The tortoise did! Tortoise carbs win every time! 

Hare carbs exist in highly processed foods like Little Debbie cakes, cookies, crackers, white bread, white rice, white pasta, and a host of other products. The list is practically endless. These are found in the grocery aisles and not on the edges of the grocery store. On the edges of a grocery store are fresh meats, vegetables dairy are available. Your grocery basket should be filled mostly with items from the edges of the store instead of items available in the aisles. 

What’s the difference between hare and tortoise carbs?  Hare carbs are used up quickly making us crave more of them to keep up our energy level. It’s sometimes called a sugar high.

Tortoise carbs are natural, unprocessed carbs found in vegetables, fruit, whole grain bread like Ezekiel 4:9 bread, whole grain brown pasta, fresh corn, steel cut oatmeal, unprocessed cereal like Fiber One cereal, and sweet potatoes. They are found also in dried beans cooked in a crock pot, yogurt, Kefir (I use it in my oatmeal and Fiber One cereal), and low fat milk, nuts, and seeds like sunflower seeds. 

Tortoise carbs are burned slowly and last and last helping to alleviate that hungry feeling. Hare carbs burn up quickly. They are like throwing straw on a fire. Tortoise carbs are like putting a Yule log on a Christmas Eve fire. It burns slowly and lasts all through the night. 

Fiber is a very important carbohydrate of which there are two types – soluble and insoluble. 

Soluble fiber soaks up toxins, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. It is found in oat bran, Fiber One cereal, oatmeal, barley, beans, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. 

Soluble fiber helps in weight loss, decreases the appetite, and lowers cholesterol. It lowers blood sugar and reduces the risk of a heart attack. So, eat your steel cut oatmeal!

Insoluble fiber is the broom that sweeps the colon clean. It helps relieve constipation and keeps bowel movements regular. You poop most of it out since it consists mainly of cellulose which is indigestible. It doesn’t stay with you. It is not stored as fat on your body. 

Fiber One cereal is loaded with insoluble fiber. My nutritionist said it’s the best cereal on the market. I add blueberries or a banana on mine too. 

Insoluble fiber is also found in whole grains, wheat bran, fruit, and vegetables. It adds bulk to the stool, keeps you regular, relieves constipation, helps control the appetite, and prevents diverticular disease. Make sure your food includes a good helping of insoluble fiber each day. I often enjoy a bowl of Fiber One cereal for a bedtime snack. My wife often makes delicious breakfast muffins from Fiber One combined with steel cut oatmeal, and sometimes she mashes up a banana to throw in the mixture. Delicious and very healthy. 

Trust me, insoluble fiber keeps you as regular as clockwork. 

Fiber also goes a long way when it comes to losing weight. Include fiber in your diet for healthy eating. 

Another important category in healthy eating is non-starchy vegetables like fresh carrots, celery, Romain lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. We sometimes like peppers and onions sautéed as a side dish. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we craved carrots like we do those goldfish crackers? But, since I’ve been eating healthy over the past nine weeks, I’m liking carrots more and more, and I’m working hard to train my tastebuds to like Brussels sprouts. 

Non-starchy vegetables reduce the risk of heart disease. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals including folic acid, potassium, flavonoids, antioxidants, and a high concentration of nutrients. They contain fiber and help to control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. 

Since non-starchy vegetables are a low caloric food, don’t add to your weight, and fill you up, enjoy a heaping helping of them at lunch and dinner. You won’t go away hungry!  

On the other hand, unhealthy food and fast food works against your body and your weight loss efforts. They are devoid of life and nutrition, and are weight unfriendly. 

Fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Arby’s Dairy Queen, etc. have extremely high calorie content. A Big Mac, for example, has a whopping 563 calories. In addition, They often have poor-quality food, much salt, and artificial ingredients. 

For example, did you know McDonalds uses old dairy cows for their hamburgers instead of quality beef? They do this because the price of old, worn-out dairy cattle is much cheaper than quality beef cattle. I had a cattle farmer who raised Black Angus tell me this. 

Fast food has amounts of sugar way beyond what people think it has. Take the McDonald’s artisan grilled chicken sandwich for example. It is loaded with 11gms of sugar. That’s 44% of the recommended daily intake of sugar. 

In 2008, Americans consumed over 60 pounds of added sugar per year and this does not include fruit juices. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are: 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women. So, be aware of hidden sugar. It can add up and add the pounds quickly. 

Products with artificial trans-fat are unhealthy. Some meat and dairy products contain small amounts of naturally occurring trans-fat, but trans-fat in processed food is made through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. Products like Crisco, even though the manufacturer has greatly reduced the amount of trans fat in their product, contain trans-fat. 

Foods made with artificial trans-fat have a long shelf life. Some restaurants use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers because it doesn’t have to be changed as often as do other oils.

There is a movement to eliminate trans-fat in our food. For example, trans-fat in restaurants was banned in New York City in 2006. 

Trans-fat in your food includes baked goods, most cakes, cookies, pie crusts, crackers and ready-made frosting. 

Snacks like potato, corn and tortilla chips often contain trans-fat. And while popcorn can be a healthy snack, many types of packaged or microwave popcorn use trans-fat to help cook or flavor the popcorn.

Fried food that requires deep frying like french fries, doughnuts, and chicken can contain trans-fat from the oil used in the cooking process.

Nutrition labels are required by the FDA and list trans-fats used in the processed food product. Look for the products with zero or very few trans-fats in them. Better still, don’t buy them. 

Simply put. Beware of restaurant and processed foods. 

Restaurant, fast food, and processed food sometimes have unhealthy amounts of added salt. Before my wife and I became nutrition label readers, we bought a taco seasoning mix. The other night, Joyce decided to make tacos. She pulled the seasoning mix from the pantry, read the nutrition label, and threw it in the garbage. It had 380mg of salt in it. She looked online for a homemade Taco seasoning. It was delicious, and we knew the ingredients she added from our pantry were healthy.

Restaurants are notorious for over-salting food. That explained why we both felt bloated One morning after an evening out dining at a restaurant. The average sodium of all items among the biggest chains in 2014 including Applebee’s, Chili’s, IHOP and Olive Garden, had average sodium levels that hit 1,500 mg, the recommended daily intake by the FDA which we get in one restaurant meal!

Their heavily salted food is a big reason why restaurant food tastes so good. We like that salty flavor, and it keeps us coming back for more. 

Finally, restaurant, fast food, and processed food lacks naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients. Look at the nutrition label, and you will see vitamins added artificially to processed food products. 

Packaged processed snacks and lunch meats often bear little resemblance to the whole foods and fresh meat cuts they originated from. These highly processed packaged foods may still contain vitamins and minerals, or may have vitamins and minerals added back into the product. But, they also are more calorie-dense and likely have added salt, fat, and artificial coloring and flavoring that dilutes the nutritional intensity of fresh whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Additives in packaged foods have little to no nutritional, and the ratio of calories to the nutritional benefits of the products is high. 

Take fruit roll-ups for example. Moms buy these thinking their children are eating a healthy fruit exchange. After all, not too many children like fresh fruit such as apples, bananas, and grapes. But, beware of what is in fruit roll-ups and other packaged foods marketed to children and adults too. 

The fruit roll-ups package label looks healthy.   “Naturally flavored,” and “Good source of Vitamin-C,” “Low-fat” and “Gluten Free.” It’s plain to see why some consumers might be tempted to see these products as healthy. But, all you have to do is read the ingredients and look at the bright, totally unnatural colors in the pictures to understand that there is a reason the word “flavored” follows the word “fruit.”

The fruit roll ups  nutrition label lists 50 calories per fruit roll, 55mg of sodium, 12g of carbs, 12gms of sugars, but it has zero fiber. All the fiber has been stripped away at the processing plant. That’s bad because such processed foods have been linked to overeating and increased risk of many diseases. 

On the other hand, consider the nutrient value of a medium apple. It is high in fiber, vitamin C and various antioxidants. They are also very filling and have a low calorie content of 52 calories and 13.8 grams of carbs with 10.4 grams of sugar in the carbs. But, the carbs in an apple are good carbs and very rich in fiber which gives us that full feeling and causes weight loss. Fiber in an apple helps improve the function of the digestive system, promotes colon health, and moderates blood sugar levels because the body processes it slowly in using the carbs for energy rather than speedily like it does with processed foods such as fruit roll-ups. Fruit roll-ups is a hare carb meaning that there is a rapid spike in blood sugar and insulin levels after eating it. It’s the difference between piling straw on a fire or adding slow burning hard wood. 

We are what we eat. The nutritional content of what we eat determines the composition of our cell membranes, bone marrow, blood, and hormones. Our bodies are literally manufactured out of the food we consume. That’s why it’s crucial to eat healthily. You wouldn’t want to live in a house built of inferior material. Likewise, we don’t want our body to be built on inferior, unhealthy food. 

I’ve shared a brief summary of what I have learned from noted authorities on nutrition and diet over the past nine weeks. Great books have been written on this subject, and I’ve condensed it for you and me. Build your body out of healthy food and not junk food to give your body lasting use and performance at its peak level. 

I hope the information in this little article will help you reach your weight goal and optimum health. Commit to it. Get started, and stay with it. Remember, this is a permanent lifestyle change that will lead to a long, productive life with more energy and vigor than you’ve had before. I know it has for me. 

“Pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body” (Proverbs 4:20-22). 


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