Healthy eating is about choices

I was at the bike store-coffee shop this morning for an Americano between clients (Cyclelogik has great Americanos – featuring beans from Francescos….mmm…) and was feeling a little snacky. It was almost 1130 and I had another couple of assessments before lunch. So I noticed the snack offerings they had today: a big oatmeal raisin cooking and a protein bar. Not thrilling, but I considered them enough to look at the nutrition numbers for each. The power bar looked decent: less than 250 calories, and it was somewhere in the 3:1 to 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. It has fat, but fat is really not such a big deal – unless there is so much that it increases the calorie content too much. In fact some would call fat essential. And by some, I mean smart people who understand nutrition: The “Essential” in Essential Fatty Acids is not just a marketing thing.

Then I took a look at the cookie. I’m a bit of a sucker for cookies. I mean, what’s not to love about a cookie?

 

In this case, the 420 calories is what’s not to like! Yikes! I put the cookie down (after taking a picture naturally!) and contemplated the protein bar. In the end, I decided to skip the snack and tough it out until lunch. But I couldn’t stop thinking about this ridiculously caloric cookie.

I kept thinking about it as I was making my lunch, which ended up being a ham sandwich on Ace olive and thyme bread with dijon mustard, sliced heirloom carrots, and some tomato avocado salad that I whipped together (about 15 minutes to prep the whole lunch – delicious, healthy; quick – and I’ve got 2 more salad servings!).

And I wondered how does that cookie compare to my lunch in terms of nutrition? As it turns out – my lunch is literally within a few calories of the cookie. Seriously! Here’s the breakdown:

Calories: 417
Fat: 13g (28%)
Carbohydrate: 48g (44%)
Protein: 28g (28%)

Looking beyond the calories, the macronutrient breakdown (carbs, fat and protein) of my lunch is also much better than for the cookie, which at 30% fat, 60% carbohydrate and 7% protein is actually not bad for baked goods, but still not ideal.

But the real reason sandwich + salad beats the cookie? Because it will actually fill you up and tide you over further into the afternoon. That crazy cookie will hit your waistline as though you’ve eaten a full meal, but your appetite will be back much sooner.

And lets face it, in the taste department a delicious sandwich trumps a crappy cookie. And avocado tomato salad? If that doesn’t sway you in the taste department, then I’m not sure I want you reading my blog anymore. Possibly a different story if it was a delicious homemade cookie. Now here’s the irony: a delicious homemade cookie would be a much better option! Primarily because they’re usually smaller, and so the damage to your caloric bottom line is not as big.

So please take a lesson from my nutrition experience today the next time you are faced with a snack decision: Take a look at how many calories it has, give some thought to how much food you could eat instead, and then think about how tasty that snack will actually be. It might just be that you could have a full and tasty meal for the same nutrition cost as that snack. Now if it’s going to be an amazingly tasty snack, then it might be worth it, and that’s absolutely fine on occasion. But if that is a decision you make every day, then understand that it will probably prevent you from reaching any weight loss or maintenance goals you may have.

Life is, after all, about choices. But please do me a favour: if, after looking at the calorie content of the snack, and after thinking about just how much food you could eat instead (a frickin’ sandwich AND a salad!), AND you realize that it’s really not that great of a snack anyhow; please, just leave it!

Either hold off until your next scheduled meal, or grab some real food instead. Future you will be thankful.

Need a little more perspective? That one cookie packs the same calorie punch as:

  • A quarterpounder at McDonald’s (it’s actually 430 cals – so the cookie has 2% fewer calories)
  • 5 oreo cookies. Yup. 5.
  • a 7 oz porterhouse steak.
  • A president’s choice meat lasagna

It’s so important to read the label! If you’re going to eat a 420 calorie snack; make sure you’re getting your calories-worth.

Elsbeth Vaino is a personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada.

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4 thoughts on “Healthy eating is about choices”

  1. Great post! I think the issue is that too many people prefer the comfort food (cookie) or the cheap/quick option (quarterpounder at McDonalds) instead of the healthier sandwich and salad. I try to teach people to have a couple options available – written down in the glove compartment – for when they MUST eat out or stop for a fast food lunch (hopefully helping them avoid making a bad decision like the 420 calorie cookie). Planning out meals is the only way to stay safe all of the time. And, thanks for posting the ingredients to your meal…it looks delicious!

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