To Your Health: Save a spot on the menu for moderation
Everything tastes better with bacon. And butter. Sugar doesn’t hurt, either.
It’s true, which is why a maple bacon donut sells itself, just like a sausage and gravy sandwich and a fried-egg-topped burger.
Someone once described the ideal cardiac diet as “if it tastes good, spit it out.” Which pretty much knocks out bacon, butter and sugar.
Now I’m not the kind of cardiologist who tells patients to NEVER eat red meat, cheese or sweets. First, because I know everyone indulges from time to time. Second, because I believe in enjoying life. If everyone did everything that they should, they might not all live longer, but the time would definitely pass more slowly. Finally, because that way when I tell my patients that they can NEVER smoke I can remind them that I said they could enjoy their favorite foods once in a while.
Having said that, moderation in our diets seems to have gone the way of having to get up to change the channel, long before there was a Food Network to tune in to.
Five Guys sells large fries that have 1,464 calories, which is as many as some of us need in an entire day. McDonald’s shakes with 1,000 calories, hot chocolate from Starbucks with 600 calories, not to mention adding bacon or shredded pork to your cheeseburger ... all delicious, not nutritious, but job security for a cardiologist.
Even when we are trying to be healthy, it’s easy to be fooled — a Chop’t cobb salad wrap has more calories than a Whopper with cheese.
Just what you want to hear heading into the holidays.
The average American will consume up to 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving, a lot of it while watching TV rooting for Green Bay to beat Detroit (it’ll help the Bears). And then there’s Christmas, New Year’s and all the gift baskets in between.
So what is the path to moderation?
Watch portion size. If it ends up on your plate, it will end up in your stomach. Smaller plates can help.
Eat slower and wait. Give yourself at least 20 minutes before going for seconds. It takes a while after you eat for your brain to realize you’re full.
Avoid “hollow” calories. There may be no bigger waste of calories than sugared beverages. A 16-ounce glass of Coke has 128 calories. Three glasses is the same as that slice of pumpkin pie you want for dessert.
Quit while you’re ahead. Stop eating when you’re almost full. In my family, a favorite phrase is, “I’m stuffed, I’m just eating for sport.”
Speaking of sport, let’s discuss the other part of the equation: Calories burned.
Weight gain occurs when we take in more calories (energy) than we expend. There is a great evolutionary advantage to being efficient at storing energy as fat: We began as hunter-gatherers who had to use a lot of energy to find food, and had to store energy reserves for times of hunger or famine, the so-called “thrifty gene.”
Not exactly the same program as the drive-through window. So get up and exercise; even an hour of walking can burn 260 calories.
Heart patients often ask for disabled parking passes, but unless they really are disabled I tell my patients that I want them parking as far away from the mall as possible.
As a species, we are living a lifestyle our bodies were not meant for: readily available food, much of it in the form of highly processed sugars that digest quickly. This raises insulin levels, leading to rebound hunger shortly after we’ve eaten. It is the recipe for the epidemic of obesity that is overtaking the nation.
As for New Year’s resolutions? Exercise a little more, eat a little less. Try to shift toward a Mediterranean diet: use olive oil instead of butter, snack on nuts instead of Nutter Butters.
And another reason my patients love me: modest daily alcohol consumption (two drinks for men, one for women ... sorry, ladies) is associated with lower cardiovascular mortality.
Americans gain an average of 1 to 2 pounds per year as we age, and the older we get, the harder it is to lose. So make small changes. Try to lose a couple of pounds this year instead of gaining. And celebrate your achievement on New Year’s Day 2015 with a maple bacon donut.
But just one.
Dr. Paul Silverman is chief of the Section of Cardiology and an interventional cardiologist with AMG Cardiology. Advocate Christ Medical Center is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.