Let’s play a little game…
I am going to give you some details about two different food items. After I give you the details I want you to decide which food item you would eat. I will then give you some more information and ask you again. Keep playing this game with me and I promise you will walk away with some useful information!
Ready to get started? Here we go!
Here is the energy summary from Cronometer of two food items.
From a caloric point of view the two are interchangeable for the most part, however the macros are quite different.
Which one would you choose just based on the information above and why?
Got the answer?
Let me give you a little more context…
Here is the breakdown of the fats and carbs.
Food Item A clearly has more fat in it and Food Item B clearly has more carbs. From a fiber point of view it is a toss up.
Does that information change your mind about which food item you would eat?
Ok here is a little bit more information….
What about the vitamin and mineral content of the food items?
Food Item A really doesn’t have much going on from a vitamin and mineral point of view, while Food Item B gives you a good whack of quite a few vitamins and minerals.
Does that change your mind as far as which food item you would choose?
Want more information?
OK, one final piece of information.
The total weight of Food Item A is 32 grams and the total weight of Food Item B is 584 grams.
Want different units?
Food Item A weighs 0.07lbs or 0.032kgs.
Food Item B weighs 1.28lbs or 0.58kgs.
Remember both food items have pretty much the same calories…
Now does this change your mind about which food item you would choose?
Want to know what the two food items are?
Food Item A is a Perfect Keto Chocolate Chip Nola Bar.
Food Item B are the veggies I eat for my breakfast everyday.
Does that change your mind as to which food item you would choose?
There is no right or wrong answer here, each food item has its utility, however our mindset around what is best for us can highly influence our decisions as to which one to eat.
If you are in the low carb/keto mindset you might be looking at the macros of the veggies and saying “That is way too many carbs!”
If you have a low fat mindset you might be looking at the “Nola” bar and saying “That is way too much fat!”
Which one is right?
Instead of relying on a dietary mindset, let’s instead think about it in terms of what your goals are.
If your goal is fat loss, which one is the best choice for you?
Again take the macros out of the picture because you can lose fat regardless of the macros. You can’t use calories either, they are pretty much the same.
So which one should you choose?
I am going to argue the veggies.
Because you are eating over 1lb of food for 140 calories, it’s composed of food in its whole natural form, and you are getting a bunch of minerals and vitamins.
Why does that matter?
Eat 1lb of food and tell me how long it takes you to get hungry again? By the way, because it’s a whole food it’s going to take longer for your body to digest and break it down. You are going to have that full feeling for longer!!!! You will be more satiated without the need to snack. In addition, all the vitamins and minerals you get from the veggies is also sending a signal to your body that it got the nutrients it needed.
Contrast that to the Nola bar. That will take less than a minute to eat, and I guarantee you will not be satiated after it. It’s also pretty hyper-palatable, that chocolate is going to send signals to your brain to get more of that tasty stuff. Plus you get nearly 0 vitamins and minerals from it. It is sending all the wrong signals to your body if you are trying to eat less, and I am willing to bet you will be wanting to eat something else very soon after.
Concerned about the carbs in the veggies? Don’t be!!!!! Show me a person who developed type 2 diabetes from eating too many veggies? It’s just not possible. It will take you so long to digest those veggies that it will be like a slow drip of carbs into your blood steam. In other words if ketosis is your thing,I bet you could down those veggies and still stay in ketosis.
Now let’s consider a different goal.
What if your goal is to put on muscle?
In this case the veggies may not be the best choice.
For the exact reason they are a good choice for the weight loss goal, it’s going to force you to eat less. When you are looking to put on muscle and need to be in a caloric surplus it’s going to be hard to achieve the surplus when your meals look like those veggies, it’s too satiating.
Does that mean you need to be eating a diet composed of processed foods?
No, not at all. You should still eat your veggies, but after you do, you might need to turn to something like a Nola bar to get in a bit more calories and spike your hunger signals to eat more food later on.
Of course we need to consider other things besides calories, macros, vitamins and minerals when choosing which foods to eat.
One of the big ones is digestion.
Depending on the person either the veggies or the Nola bar may cause you a boat load of GI distress, and if you can’t digest the food properly you won’t be getting any value from it all.
We also need to consider the downstream effects of the foods we choose to eat. I mentioned this above, but it is worth repeating, if eating the Nola bar triggers you to immediately want to eat something else, that’s not going to be a good thing when you are looking to lose fat. If eating a bunch of veggies before you go and work out leaves you with a rock in your stomach, you wouldn’t want that either.
There is a lot that goes into our food choices, but sometimes I find we ignore the logical food choice because it doesn’t fit into our diet’s guidelines. I used to be guilty of this as well. I didn’t eat fruit because it was too “high carb”. I eliminated ALL grains because grains were “harmful”, I added tons of extra animal fat to my food because fat was not the enemy. However, that did not match my goals as an athlete, took away foods I loved (bananas), and in the end made my health worse.
Now I eat fruit because I like it. I incorporate white rice and gluten free oatmeal because as an athlete I need to carbs. Now almost all my health markers are better than they were before. It’s not that the veggies are universally good and things like the Nola bar are universally bad, you need to decide whether one or the other or both are good or bad for you in the situation you are currently in.
How do you decide if you should eat a food or not when it appears they are virtually identical on the surface?
Instead of making a food choice based on guidelines, first consider your goals, then consider your personal response to the foods in question, and finally you can consider the guidelines of the diet you are trying to follow.
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