Monday, August 8, 2011

A New Way of Healthy Cooking

I've evolved, over the past few years, a style of cooking unlike anything I've ever encountered.

Most people who try to eat healthfully modify delicious recipes to be more nutritious. I think that's the wrong approach. It leads to compromises on both ends - such cooking is usually neither optimally delicious nor completely healthy. So I've gone the other way, starting with an athletic diet and working to make it as delicious as possible.

For the nutritional basis behind my choices, please read my series "How (Perennially) Fat People Diet". As I explain there, my starting point is the way bodybuilders eat. These guys are the unrecognized experts on on weight loss, because they are constantly and intentionally cycling between "cutting" (slimming) and "bulking" (gaining). They shed fat on schedule as part of their sport, and have built an impressive trove of shared wisdom. And here's what they pretty much all agree on right now:

•   Eat frequent meals of small portions

•   Carefully balance carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in every meal. A good rule of thumb is to divide as follows: 40% carb calories, 25% protein calories and 35% fat calories. To accomplish this, you must track your foods - a life-changingly great thing for anyone to do for a few weeks, anyway.

•   Carbs should be whole grain and complex. No simple starches (white flour, white potatoes, etc.). Favor low glycemic carbs (kasha, very al dente pasta, legumes, sweet potatoes, heavy 100% whole grain breads, and not brown rice!).

•   Fats should be healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, and grapeseed oil. Also natural fish oil (e.g. from fatty fish) is good.

•   Proteins should be lean and unprocessed. Wild Alaskan salmon, chicken or turkey breast, fish (not shellfish), tofu, nonfat milk or yogurt, egg whites, beans (with a whole grain to complete the protein).

•   No frying and very little sauteeing. Mostly grill, broil, or steam.

•   No sugar or alcohol or diet soft drinks.

•   Cook mostly from raw ingredients. Favor foods as unprocessed as possible.

•   Never skip a meal

•   Don't eat a single bite after 8pm.

Two things bodybuilders do that I don't are: take lots of vitamins and eat an enormous amount of protein. Both practices are only useful if you're doing tons of weight lifting. That said, I do try to never ever eat carbs without an accompanying protein of some sort. One thing I add is to try to eat my biggest meal at midday, and a light supper.

Again, please read that whole series for more background information. Next time, I'll explain how I actually cook within these (tight) limitations.

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