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with Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

This blog has been retired. We appreciate the wisdom and encouragement that Dr. Peeke has offered the WebMD Community.


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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Secret to Dropping Real Weight is to Eat Real Food

A while back I was wandering around in a large traditional supermarket and noticed that a new section had appeared. It was called “Healthy Foods” and included the predictable organic soups, cereals, salad dressings, rice cakes and crackers. This made me pause for a moment. If this is where the healthy foods were located, what was being sold in the rest of the store? I found my answer in the mammoth bags of chips and colossal cookie boxes on the shelves directly across the aisle from the healthy stuff. Talk about confusing the customer! How about I provide some easy ways to navigate the supermarket confusion and find the real foods you need to improve your nutrition and shed those extra pounds of fat.

1) Eat real food to drop real weight. Real food is defined as being derived from a natural plant or animal. It is not processed or refined or filled with preservatives, taste enhancers or other chemical additives. Those are what I refer to as “science fair projects”. When you eat science fair projects, they alter your appetite (e.g. ingest a load of refined sugar and your blood sugar will spike and then plummet resulting in a massive craving for more) and often don’t taste real (e.g. fat free cookie). Real food is found in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Eaten in balanced, appropriate portions and consumed every 3-4 hours from breakfast through dinner, real food will keep you satisfied, quell hunger, rein in appetite and make it easier to drop excess body fat.

2) Find real food at a farmer’s market. At a farmer’s market, there are no scary science fair projects with unpronounceable ingredients and bogus health claims. Instead you’ll find a fresh harvest from local farmers just waiting for you to claim and cook. Turn your trip to the farmer’s market into an enjoyable adventure. Bring along your family or friends and enjoy the typical outdoor venue while you’re congratulating local farmers on the gift of their harvest.

3) To locate real food at your supermarket, avoid the middle aisles. When you do go to the grocer, stick with the periphery of the store. This is where you’ll find your fresh produce, dairy, fish, poultry and meats. Just be on the lookout for high fructose corn syrup which may be sneaking into some dairy products. Always read labels carefully.

4) Go wild for real food. When you shop or when eating out, try to purchase plants, fish and meat grown in the wild. I bet you didn’t know that plants grown wild in the forest (e.g. no pesticides) have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than their farmed counterparts. Wild game has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fat and is great for overall heart health. Farmed fish are grain fed and contain less omega-3 fatty acids than wild fish. If it’s hard to locate wild fish, keep in mind that most of these oily fish are also fine: salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel.

5) Watch out for faux real food products. Soy is a great example of how a natural plant based food evolved into a science fair project. The soy bean (edamame) qualifies as a real food and so do the traditional Asian cooking preparations of this plant. Once word got out that soy was a terrific source of protein, calcium and fiber, suddenly soy was the new “in” food. But keep an eye out to avoid soy byproducts that are fast becoming part of processed foods and even supplements – soy isoflavones as a food additive, soy protein isolate as a source of protein and soy oils. When the whole plant is eaten whole or in traditional Asian cooking, it is healthy. However, we don’t know what happens when you start playing around with permutations of the plant. Read your nutrition food labels carefully to avoid these products, and frankly just stick with whole soy in your diet. Don’t be fooled into thinking any product that includes the word “soy” is a guarantee you’ll be eating a real food.

6) Taste, don’t over-consume, real foods. Unless you have serious heart disease or a related medical condition, it’s great to use butter over margarine. The key is to use a small enough portion to reap the reward of great taste, calorie control, lasting satisfaction, and the ability to avoid science fair projects. You can do the same with any food you wish so long as it’s real food. To fully benefit from real food, learn the fine art of tasting. Too many of us are wolfing down our meals, like it was an Olympic speed eating competition. Learn to slowly savor your first bite, since that’s when your enjoyment is optimal. I place a small serving of full fat natural almond butter on a multigrain cracker and I’m in seventh heaven. It’s all about carefully portioning and slowly savoring real food.

7) Drink up to real food. Water is the perfect complement to real food. Teas, moderate coffee consumption and real juices (no refined sugars) are a terrific way to augment your real food nutrition. I’ll drink to that!

Think Small Lose Big

Posted by: Pamela Peeke, MD at 11:00 am

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