By Lizzy Scully
Tired of hearing about “low cal,” splendiferous sugar free, diet vanilla lattes, health kicks and “bad foods?” I sure am. I hate going to restaurants that serve rolls with (bleh) Margarine, and I cringe at the grocery store when I see so many non- and low-fat yogurt options (gross). I want the fat; I want the butter; I want the chocolate and red meat, too.
But every time I go to Whole Foods or Wild Oats and fill my cart with fat-filled milk, three packages of eggs, ice cream and cheese, cheese, cheese, I get disdainful looks from other shoppers.
“Eww, she must be sooo unhealthy,” they say to me with their eyes, aghast by my eating habits. “Her arteries must be dripping with ooze.” Then they walk off – smug, self satisfied and with seaweed sticks in hand. But look at my cart with dread no longer, grocery store snobs! I have recently discovered a wealth of studies that prove my diet not only tastes far better, but can also be healthy as long as you don’t overdo it and you have a strong exercise component in your life.
First, let’s take a look at cheese. Sure it has a lot of calories, but according to the American Dietetic Association, cheese also has calcium, vitamin B2 and riboflavin. It also contains something called conjugated linoleic acid, which is a “good” fat that reduces a person’s risk of getting cancer and even blocks the storage of fat in your body.
The only things you really need to watch out for are how much cheese you ingest (as with anything, eat in moderation), and how much sodium the cheese has (some cheeses have an unhealthy amount). However, some of the healthiest cheeses you can buy also have strong flavors without excessive fat. These include: feta, blue cheese, or fresh Parmesan or goat cheese.
Second, at all costs, don’t avoid chocolate, at least not if you’re an insane chocoholic like I am. Remember, it doesn’t cause acne, and it won’t make you fat unless you gorge on Snickers bars (which contain all kinds of other nasty ingredients). Also, the main fat in chocolate contains stearic acid, which does not adversely impact your cholesterol levels. Chocolate is also rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants, helps prevent heart disease, and can increase the output of serotonin in your brain, making you feel better if you are down. But don’t overdo it. Try eating the purest chocolate you can find, which is typically dark chocolate.
Tired of grilled veggie burgers and tempeh steaks? I like them, but sometimes I just want a big ol’ beefsteak. Full of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12, a lean, mean cut of steak can actually be good for you a few times per week. Of course, the less saturated fat the cut has the better, so look for sirloin, tenderloin or top rounds. Avoid prime ribs and T-bone steaks because they have more fat.
Eggs have really gotten a bad rap these days, despite the fact that most research refutes the claim that they hurt your heart. And while it’s true that a high level of cholesterol is not ideal, eggs are actually low in fat and high in protein. According to a Pennington Biomedical Research Center study, women who regularly eat eggs for breakfast lose up to twice as much weight as women who start their day with bread, and that’s because eggs fill you up, while carbs burn off within hours. Try them boiled, in a quiche or in an omelet filled with veggies, and you can’t go wrong.
Go nuts over nuts. That’s right. Nuts contain monounsaturated fats, which are actually good for you because they reduce your risk of heart disease and they fill you up, which means you could actually lose weight because you are less likely to eat more, bigger meals if you are snacking on nuts. Plus, nuts have magnesium.
And, finally, my second favorite daily vice after eating chocolate — drinking alcohol — is not a terrible habit to have, as long as you can imbibe in moderation (one to two drinks per night as opposed to five or six). Some studies have shown that having a few glasses of red wine can reduce your chances of getting coronary heart disease. In fact, a 1992 Harvard University study found that the antioxidants, called flavonoids, found in the skin and seeds of red grapes can reduce that risk by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol), boosting HDL (good cholesterol), and reducing blood clotting.
I like to practice the diet technique, “eat whatever I want to, when I want to.” I just make sure to include a strong exercise component to my life; I eat in moderation; and I include grains and veggies with every meal. I also avoid all the nasty, lose weight chemical gimmicks the food industry comes up with because I think they taste terrible. Give me a good, old-fashioned piece of homemade pie laden with whipped cream any day, just not every day.