Dietary Quality in 2016

Hold on. Put down those buttery-rich crackers! Wait a sec on that savory mac & cheese! Look away from the triple layer cake! Before you taste any of those things, eat some broccoli, some whole wheat toast, some whole milk yogurt, some berries, some clementines, some soup with baby kale and lentils. Good. Now, are you still hungry? The cake is all yours.. IF YOU CAN FIT IT IN!

I'm practicing this basic method of "crowding out," a term I learned from an herbalist that means I'm consuming so many healthy things that I really don't have time or room for other stuff. Except I always manage to fit in wine somehow.

In my last post, about plans for 2016, I mentioned wanting to work on my nutrition because it was kind of crap. I've done a lot of "healthy" diet programs over the years, including vegetarian, macrobiotic, gluten free, and paleo. Recently I started reading a new book: "Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance," by Matt Fitzgerald, and I'm completely taken with his explanation of eating for dietary quality. The whole idea, and I've heard this elsewhere, is to choose nutrient-dense foods whenever possible. I even found an app ($1.99) that I use to track my "Dietary Quality Score" every day. I love it! Rather than depriving myself of anything, or NEVER eating certain foods, I can choose to eat whatever I want--knowing that some foods will add to my score and some foods will subtract from it.

  • Eating vegetables will add to the DQS for the first 4 servings. Then they count for 0 (but don't reduce points). Fruits are similar.
  • Nuts & seeds add to your score up to a point, then you start losing points with subsequent servings. Same goes for whole grains, dairy (preferably whole), and high-quality meat and seafood.
  • In terms of alcohol, you get one point for the first drink, then lose 2 points for every drink thereafter.
  • Foods that will always lose points: refined grains, sweets, processed meats, fried foods.

For more info, please read the book! I have been tracking my DQS for about 6 weeks. First I did 4 weeks of trying to eat pretty well but not really having a goal other than trying it on. The last two weeks I've been trying to hit a certain score, so being a little stricter.

So how's it working? I've noticed a few effects:
  • I love vegetables! On many days I'll eat enough vegetables to scoop up all the possible points, then go on into zero-point territory. Making vegetables "pay" in terms of points is all I need to go veggie-heavy.
  • Fruits are harder. I make myself eat one piece of fruit a day, but it's not really my thing. Too fruity.
  • Whole grains and dairy are fairly easy. Matt Fitzgerald says there are so many whole grain versions of things available there is really no excuse for eating refined versions. And it's true! Did you know one can get whole wheat BREAD? And also PASTA that's whole wheat? Plus brown rice, whole wheat pitas, whole wheat English muffins, sprouted wraps, quinoa--it's really incredible what one can do with whole grains these days.
  • Meat & seafood is also a bit hard for me. I probably get most of my protein from beans or other plant-sources, as I've taught myself to work around meat or to treat it like a side dish and only have a little.
  • Best side effect so far—I've lost that gnawing incomplete feeling that I used to get, whether or not I'd just eaten something. Now that it's gone I theorize that deep down, my body has been starving for more nourishing foods. Even though I tried to fill that void with cheese and crackers and beer, those choices were not really feeding my body. I feel better now, more solidly fed, more solid in general.
Here are some favorite foods from this experiment so far:

Amy's Soup for lunch, which I doctor up with at least two servings of veggies (baby kale, chopped green beans, sliced carrots, sliced zucchini, sliced mushrooms, frozen carrot-corn-peas, canned beans) and sometimes some leftover brown rice or pieces of chicken. I never knew that an inspid watery can of soup could become a thick, rich, stew-ish medley that makes my tummy truly full and happy. Sorry about the "watery" thing Amy's--I do love your soups.

Pizza made with Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain wrap, tomato sauce, cheese, spinach, kalamata olives, feta

Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted English muffins toasted and topped with 2 scrambled eggs and a dab of butter

At a restaurant: grilled wild salmon over mixed salad--this is at least 6 points on one plate. (Try to ignore my partner's fried clams & tartar sauce.)

Whole grain rice cake with peanut butter or almond butter

Whole milk yogurt with mixed berries

Hummus with carrots and celery


Smoothie with frozen berry/kale mix, whey powder, whole milk yogurt, whole milk, and fresh ginger

Whole wheat pita with Moroccan spiced hummus, sweet potato, sprouts, tomato

Quinoa bowl with baked chicken breast, steamed broccoli, toasted pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, and candied pecans (Christmas gift--deduct for "sweets")

VT Dinners frozen meals include chicken enchilada (with corn tortilla), vegetable curry (with brown rice), and shepherd's pie (beef, potato, corn, vegetables)

Matt Fitzgerald also has co-authored the Racing Weight Cookbook, with a nice recipe for Thai Green Curry with Shrimp. Here are some of the ingredients:

A few days later I used the curry leftovers to bulk up a can of Amy's Thai Coconut soup, so good.

Grocery shopping is a fresh experience, as I embrace the produce section rather than avoiding it:

Even my birthday dinner, consisting of tenderloin, rapini, and a cauliflower gratin, was bursting with QUALITY.

How is your 2016 going so far? Did you know this about adding stuff to a regular can of soup?

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