Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Nutrition Debate #252: “400 Calorie Meals for Fall”

“400 Calorie Meals for Fall,” the email from proclaimed. Exciting, I thought. Small meals. I’m always looking for ideas for small meals that are very low in carbs. The reason, besides the fact that I have been a type 2 diabetic for 28 years, is that if they are very low carb, moderate protein and high fat, I won’t be hungry after eating it. I will be able to eat just 3 small meals a day, without snacks, and always feel satisfied. And I will lose weight, which it seems we all always need to do.

So, I opened it to find 10 more links to recipes that promised “delicious healthy meals.” “Try any of these low-calorie dishes and see just how great it feels to eat well while still staying healthy,” FITDAY urged. Sounds promising, I thought, since FITDAY is well known for helping people who both need and want to lose weight keep track of the macronutrients of the foods they eat. Macronutrients are the carbohydrates, protein and dietary fats that add up collectively to total calories. Carbs and protein each contain 4 calories per gram, alcohol has 7, while fat contains 9 calories per gram.

 So, I started reading the FITDAY descriptions to check them out. And sure enough each of the 10 small meals was 400 calories or less. I noticed, however, that only the total calories and fat grams were provided in the FITDAY write-ups. There was no mention of carbs or protein in the FITDAY narratives. Okay, I thought, that’s “old thinking.” Most dieters still think that only calories count and that dietary fat makes you fat. But, for the enlightened reader, a fuller nutritional analysis is necessary and surely would be included with the recipes. So, I looked further.

Each link opened to a different website that provided the ingredients and preparation needed to make each meal. Of the 10 links, however, only 5 provided a nutritional analysis, usually as a sidebar. And of those, the carb counts per serving for these small meals were humongous, including 41g for recipe #4; 45g for #5; and 47g for #10. Those numbers were so large that 1) fat burning would be impossible (the body will burn the carbs first), and 2) when the carbs were “burned,” the body craves more carbs (the sugar burner’s “hunger syndrome”). If I ate these meals, my blood sugar would spike like crazy and then crash (leaving me both tired and hungry). Is this what FITDAY means by “how great it feels” to eat “healthy meals”?

Okay, not all FITDAY users are type 2 diabetics, or even pre-diabetics. But it’s safe to infer that virtually all of them are overweight or obese, and overweight correlates very highly with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. In fact, it is the leading “risk factor” for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Somewhat over 85 percent of type 2 diabetics are overweight or obese, and the percent of U.S adults (≥20 y.o.) who are overweight, including obesity, is 69 percent (2011-2012). So, why would FITDAY advocate that its users “incorporate [these] delicious healthy meals into [their] daily diet”? That’s worth pondering.

Well, FITDAY could still believe that only total calories and fat grams count. After all, the Dietary Dictocrats at the USDA still tell us all (EVERYONE) to “eat less and exercise more.” But the government will be the last bastion of misinformation in the cause of the “diabesity” epidemic. And they will be preceded only by the AHA and the ADA, whose corporate sponsorship by agri-business and big pharma are nearly as corrupt and/or misguided as the Federal Government’s approach to funding research. It’s just such a myopic view and dogmatic attitude towards obesity research and public health policy that has plunged the entire U.S. population into this 60-year dietary experiment, with the disastrous outcomes we see unfolding before us.

Besides, can we really blame FITDAY if their potential user population – those who are exposed to their advertisers since their site is “free” – itself believes that only total calories and fat grams count? That’s still the main message we hear from main-stream media, both print and TV. After all, total “members” are how FITDAY sells their site to advertisers. So, until the pendulum swings in favor of using macronutrient distribution as the means to determine whether a meal is “healthy,” we will continue to be blithely “misinformed” and not know that eating 400 calories meals that are low carb, not low fat, will lead to 1) losing weight easily, 2) feeling satisfied (full) longer, and 3) regulating blood sugar better with lower A1c’s.

But then, if we all learned to do that, FITDAY would lose “members.” We would have discovered 1) what foods cause us to gain weight (carbs, not dietary fat), 2) feel hungry a few hours after eating, and 3) spike our blood sugars (if we have impaired glucose tolerance). And that wouldn’t be good for (FITDAY’s) business, specifically their advertising revenues.

Ask yourself, when you have discovered “how great it feels” to eat “healthy meals” that are low-carb, and you lose weight, and are full of energy, and your doctor likes what he/she sees and pats you on the back, why would you need FITDAY?


  1. One of my conundrums has been how to do a high fat, low calorie diet when fat is so calorie-dense. It's much easier to cut calories on a cheap, poor quality carb-laden fare. But if you do that, you'll be hungry all the time. I think we're lucky, sometimes, being diabetic. That's because we know exactly how blood sugar affects us. Too many people blame themselves and what they perceive as a lack of willpower, when their hunger is really just a physiological reaction to the carbs.

    1. Your last sentence really nails it, Jan. Too many people indeed. Virtually everyone, still, except for those few of us who know otherwise.

      As respect to you, I see your point, but I have gone for days without eating or feeling hungry. I don't say that that is health. It's starving. But, one can do it without hunger if you eat just fat and a little protein (to prevent too much muscle wasting and for the other cellular benefits of the essential amino acids), I say cut the carbs completely and you will not be hungry. And your body's fat cells will break down rapidly to provide the energy your body needs. I know you know this. I just repeat the mantra for the other readers who haven't tried this WOE yet.