Adding more discipline to your diet means that the occasional indulgence is more satisfying. That's how things felt when we settled into some decadent desserts after a fine Italian dinner at Amerigo the other night to celebrate Ms. D's birthday. She even gathered up half her key lime pie to bring home with her—partly out of a sense of extending the pleasure, partly in a show of strength in the face of temptation and mostly because they gave her nearly half of the damn pie.
A little success is spurring me to try more. This past week I've been looking into the other steps that I can take when it comes to what I choose to eat and how I eat it. So I thought I'd fill you in on something I plan to try—called "food combining" (or "uncombining") in some circles.
It's almost impossible to avoid the low-carb craze today, so it's something I've researched from a lot of different angles. I think the danger of low-carb diets is the sense that a lot of practitioners get that (1) eating all the animal fat you want is acceptable as long as you avoid the bread or pasta and (2) that pre-packaged foods that claim low-carb status will help you lose weight if only you eat them. That said, those popular notions seem to obscure some of the things that are important to focus on when it comes to protein, carbs and calcium.
In the "Healthy Hedonist" book I discussed last week, author Janet Bridger talks about when to eat certain foods—that is, how to combine them—in order to feel good throughout the day. According to her basic plan, it's best to eat proteins earlier in the day and carbohydrates later in the day, with fruit and vegetables sprinkled throughout. She also makes the point that our bodies are better able to digest single foods at one time, which means it can be a good idea to stretch your eating out throughout the day—something that we've seen as a recommendation for people who want to speed up their metabolism and better manage their diets for energy.
Bridger's day starts with a single serving of fruit—this is ideally the fuel that you use to get you through your morning walk or similar exercise designed to help you start your day without coffee—or at least with less coffee. After your walk, a protein-powered smoothie is in order, or, if you have time, eggs and/or lean meat are options. Vegetarians and others might also consider soy protein energy bars.
Mid-morning you can opt for fruit or a protein bar or something similar. For lunch, Bridger recommends more protein, although she isn't adamant about it—bean soup, for instance, or low-fat yogurt or a similar dairy product would work, as would lean meats or grilled fish with a light salad, sandwich fixings or dark, leafy greens. By mid-afternoon, you can switch to fresh fruit, raw vegetables, baked chips or nuts; by evening, a pasta, potato dish or other complex, whole-food carbs and properly cooked (or raw) vegetables are appropriate.
And here's a tip for those daytime snacks—you can get more protein and live a "low carb" existence earlier in the day by looking into soy-based options; soy seems to have enough health benefits—disease- and cholesterol-fighting traits—that it can be recommended for anyone who doesn't have an allergy. Soy snack foods—even those in packages at the health-food store—can offer a balance of soy protein and relatively low fat and carbs. Buy products that include organically grown soy and avoid foods that are over-processed.
According to theory, at least, this is a great way to parcel the right foods to you at the right time during the day. It also makes all these meals easier to manage because you don't have to worry about the complexity of building a "square" meal every time you eat. For those of us doing a lot of this "on the go," just the cue of "protein early and carbs later" (all of it being low-fat within reason) might help make the five-meal-a-day thing easier to manage. And when such things get easier, I think you're more likely to do them. I certainly am.