Thursday, April 18, 2013

Step 4 ... Aha!

This is the last of my series of posts on my diet experiment ...
For this last post I am going to drop the Whole30 and Paleo diets. Instead I will follow Michelle Obama's lead and focus on the USDA's newly redesigned food plate. 

The big message here is that half the plate is covered with fruits and vegetables with a smaller portion of grains and protein.  Now before my Whole30 diet experiment (OK, I didn't totally drop it yet) when I looked at this plate I naively thought of it as a dinner plate.  I was so wrong.

Which leads me to my 1st Aha! Moment ... This plate should represent your breakfast, lunch and dinner!

A breakfast that consists of a bowl of cereal or an english muffin and coffee is nowhere near close to this plate.  A lunch of mac and cheese or sandwich is again deficient.  By the time you make it to dinner you are already missing a full plate of vegetables (your half plate from breakfast plus your half plate from lunch.)

After my first shopping trip, when Jeff sent me off with my Whole30 shopping list, I returned home with more (and different) vegetables than I have ever bought before.  Here is what my fridge looked like after I put all the groceries away.

Which now leads me to my 2nd Aha! Moment ... The two veggie drawers in a standard refrigerator can NOT hold a week's worth of veggies!  If half of what you eat should be veggies then these drawers should be half of the interior of your frig.  I now realize my pantry to frig ratio is totally out of whack.

After our first week on the diet (covering half our plates with fruits and veggies) I had my 3rd Aha! Moment ... If half of what I eat is going to be fruits and veggies they better be good!

Now this is equally true for the boys.  I started shopping at the local fancy (expensive) farm stand.  The veggies and fruits I brought home were beautiful and delicious.  Soon without even pressing the boys too much they willingly ate the fresh spinach I put on their plates.  And now it has become hard to keep blueberries or blackberries in our house for more than an hour.  As soon as they see them ... They are gone.

Part of the Whole30 plan is to eliminate all sugar from your diet for 30 days.  Again, I don't think this proposition should be too controversial; even Michelle Obama's food plate has no spot for sugar.  But the Whole30 also excludes any artificial sweeteners, which have become a staple in Ben’s T1 diet.  When I first started the diet I thought this would be easy.  I just needed to stop drinking Diet Coke, eating ice cream and finally dump out all the leftover Halloween candy and I would be good.  Now the Whole30 book makes a point of encouraging you to read all food labels looking for sugar and all its sciency nicknames (like dextrose and sucrose) before you purchase anything at the supermarket.

Which not surprisingly leads me to my 4th Aha! Moment ... Sugar is in everything!

I don't think we need Mayor Bloomberg to save us from super sized sodas.  We get it.  (A slurpee was a boatload of sugar in it.)  But what I didn't get ... is there is sugar in so much more than just my soda and dessert.  There is sugar in my salad dressing, my pasta sauce, my crackers, my canned veggies. The list goes on and on.  And once you eliminate everything with sugar in it, you have successfully eliminated almost all processed food.  You are no longer buying anything in box or can.

Which then leads me to my 5th Aha! Moment ... Almost anything with a complicated nutrition label is most likely not actually nutritious! 

Over the past three years since we have been living with T1, we have become experts at reading nutrition labels.  Ben immediately looks for the carb count and also knows to consider what the suggested serving size is.  When Ben was first diagnosed, foods with nutrition labels seemed like safe foods to eat.  If there was a nutrition label then we knew the carb count.  There was no guessing.  And that was comforting.  But today I see all those packaged foods differently.  I no longer even consider them real food.

Mostly, I consider them man made science experiments designed to maximize our desire to buy more of them!  If I were to make mac and cheese it would have pasta, milk, flour and cheese.  I wouldn’t include: thamin mononitrate, riboflavin, sodium phosphate and yellow #5 or #6.  I don’t even know where to get those ingredients (maybe a hardware store or high school science class.)

Now that I have radically reduced the amount of processed food we eat and loaded our plates (all of them, breakfast, lunch and dinner) with whole real food I have reached my 6th Aha! Moment ... If you are going to eat real food you need to cook! 
This leads me to my biggest and most dramatic change. In our house, breakfast was always been a self-service meal.  The boys would drag out the milk and then fight over their favorite cereal.  Occasionally, someone would toast an english muffin or ask Jeff to make them an egg.  But for the most part everyone fended for themselves.  Lunchtime was not all that different; the boys would make themselves a PB & J sandwich or make some mac and cheese.  You would think I would at least cook a good dinner, but that would only happen about 50% of the time.  Now my excuse has always been that we are busy.  I work full time, as does Jeff, and the boys are involved in every sport on the planet.  But now that I loaded my frig with veggies and stopped buying processed food I was forced to start cooking, every meal (and that's a lot of cooking.)

Which now leads me to my 7th and final Aha! Moment ... It is OK for your kitchen to be a humongous mess!
Once Jeff or I finish cooking breakfast for 5 people the kitchen ends up a mess of dirty frying pans, pots, cutting boards and loads of dishes.  I do work full time and we are all in hurry to leave the house in the morning.  Cooking and then cleaning the kitchen every morning was becoming stressful and difficult to manage.  I was convinced that all good moms kept a tidy house and my kitchen needed to be spotless before I left in the morning.  However, over the last couple of months I have learned to slowly let my clean kitchen standards go ... And it feels good!  Here is what my kitchen looked like just this morning before I left for the office.

And now today I post this picture proudly.  My kitchen is mess!   And that is OK … because my family ran off to enjoy their day well feed!


  1. On my fake Whole30, I usually have tea/walnuts/dates for breakfast; a sweet potato/avocado/boiled egg for lunch; a huge kale-y/cabbage-y/olive-y salad for dinner. And apples/clementines/veg throughout the day. Perhaps not surprisingly, I have not attracted any followers.

    I also allow beer for downers and Diet Coke uppers on my fake Whole30. Because I still haven't read the book.

  2. After my Whole30 ... for the first time all of my food cravings were gone ... and I attribute that to removing all sugar from my diet (including fake sugar) ... so I still encourage you to give the book a read ;)... (and you only have to give up the beer for 30 days)

  3. Diet Coke is a huge problem, and has a little bit of the cache of bacon--that "oh, aren't I so naughty having this delicious thing?" I try to remember all of those photos of John Edwards drinking Diet Coke while campaigning, but it only makes me want it more.

    I will totally read the book! Unfort. not before 2PM today.

    : )