11 June 2011

My Diet

Thanks to a number of requests, I am going to share my diet. In doing so I need to emphasize a number of things. First, I am not a nutritionist or a registered dietitian. Second, this is not a diet in the weight-loss sense of the word. I'm not saying you won't lose weight when you limit calories and combine this with exercise but it's instead a diet that I live by, as these are the foods in my diet. Third, this diet was formulated for me because of chronic and severe inflammation of part of my small intestine (I don't have a large intestine - surgically removed due to ulcerative colitis.) An Oriental Doctor with an Eastern Medicine point of view is responsible for the restrictions found here. I began going to him on a suggestion by my surgeon when antibiotics were ineffective. Fourth, if you decide to eliminate categories of food from your diet, you want to proceed slowly. And it is important to consider how you will make up for the healthy nutrients found in those foods you are no longer eating. Finally, this does not follow the "everything in moderation" approach. It has some major restrictions which I choose to follow very closely for the most part. Therefore let's start off with the restrictions and then I will get into what I DO eat and where I do "cheat".

  • No dairy of any kind. That includes milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, butter, whey protein, and anything else from milk.
  • No meat except fish and seafood (such as shrimp). Duck is also permitted but I don't eat that either. Tthat means no beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or any other land dwelling animal.
  • Hot spices are not allowed. That means everything from pepper to cinnamon to chili are out.
  • Tomatoes (unless cooked well, such as in a sauce) are too acidic and are off the list.
  • No sugar, fruit juice, artificial sweeteners, and similar. That means no soda, juice drinks, or things like that. Honey is allowed in moderation. A little sugar in bread products as part of the baking process is okay. 
  • No dried fruit
  • No alcohol.
  • Avoid preservatives and artificial anything.
  • Nothing eaten or drunk very hot or very cold. (I can't handle this so I have not followed this restriction.)
Have you stopped reading yet?! Those are the major restrictions. Depending on what you are used to eating, you may ask yourself, "What's left?!" There is plenty but it may not be as easy to get or as "comforting" to eat. I'll do a list with some general groups and some specific options available. These are based on current thinking about nutrition and aren't necessarily specific to my Oriental Medicine Doctor's diet.

  • Vegetables - steamed, boiled, raw, grilled, sauted, etc. A few examples include broccoli, cauliflower, sweet peppers, green beans, peas, carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, cucumbers.
  • Fruit - Bananas, avocado, apples, oranges, peaches, melons, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes.
  • All nuts as long as they are well chewed or as a nut butter.
  • Legumes such as kidney beans, black beans, etc
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, corn, whole grain pasta and breads, etc. I am working on keeping all grains to a minimum.
  • Fats - the best to use is olive oil. If you have to use a vegetable oil then Canola and Safflower oils. The fat from fish (salmon), avocados and almonds are considered good fats. Fish oil and flaxseed oil have Omega 3's and 6's and are useful as supplements.
Based on well-respected triathlete coach and nutritionist Bob Seebohar, I try to minimize my grain consumption, including whole grains. Instead I try to get my carbohydrates from other sources, especially fruits and vegetables. It is a struggle though. I eat a bagel every morning and I often snack on pretzels that are not even whole grain. I also eat tortillas and tortilla chips. It's a constant struggle for me not to eat those things.

What do my meals look like? First, remember that I'm not perfect at this. 2nd, this is an evolving thing. It took a few tries before I forced myself to stick with the major restrictions. I'm still working at reducing grains but I've made a good start. 85% of the time I don't have grains at lunch or dinner. I am fighting against the elimination of my bagel at breakfast and I also can't seem to do without the 'crunch' and the convenience for some of my snacks. I've managed to remove bread from my lunch and I don't usually eat grains at dinner. I do eat potatoes which are not part of Seebohar's guidelines. I don't really like sweet potatoes but they are considered a much better alternative.

Pre-workout in the morning - banana, teaspoon of nut butter
Breakfast - whole grain bagel with a little almond butter and honey (or a plain blueberry bagel), 2 soy sausage patties (Morningstar Farms), banana or other fruit
Snack - fruit and nuts; OR pretzels or dry shredded wheat cereal squares (no sugar) and nut butter
Lunch - 12-16oz cooked vegetables (broccoli is my favorite) with Olive Oil, ~3 oz canned salmon or tuna, seasoning; OR salad, fruit, and canned salmon or tuna; OR cooked veggies and a garden patty (vegetable and soy-based hamburger)
Snack - same as above
Pre-workout in the afternoon - banana, and  peanuts or almonds
Dinner - Salmon, baked potato, sauted mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers, steamed veggies (usually broccoli or green beans); OR veggie burger patty, baked potato, salad; OR cooked vegetables and soy meatballs, potato wedges/fries (not deep fried); OR a big veggie burrito from Chipotle (black beans, a little rice, peppers and onions, guacamole, lettuce)
Snack - fruit and nuts; and/OR frozen smoothie made from unsweetened soy milk, banana, strawberries and/or other berries, and blueberries; sometimes pretzels or chips (it's a constant battle!)

One final part to my diet is hydration, or drinking. I mentioned the restrictions of no alcohol, sugar, artificial sweeteners, fruit juice, and hot or cold temperature drinks (that restriction I ignore). Besides not drinking alcohol (unless you count O'Douls beer with its very small amount of alcohol), I don't drink regular or diet soda, fruit juice, milk, sweetened soy milk, or sweetened teas. That pretty much leaves me with plain coffee, plain tea, and water. Since I'm not a coffee fan my drink of choice is decaf iced tea, brewed in the sun... sun tea. (Sun tea is not very strong.) If I'm cold I'll make some hot tea. If I need a good smack to stay awake then I'll drink tea with caffeine, though I generally avoid it, especially during the final 2 months before an Ironman. My reasoning for this? I do not want to interfere with my ability to sleep, be it at bedtime or if I can sneak in a 10-20 min nap at work during lunch. I also can have restless legs at night and I don't want anything that might make that occur. Finally, I've experimented with the use of caffeine during races and doing that is only effective if you have been off the stuff for a good 3 weeks or more. So, on an average day, not including workouts, I probably drink about 2/3rds of a gallon of water and mild iced tea.

As I said, this may not be what you were expecting. It's how I eat. I purposely didn't include fueling for long training and races, nor did I go into pre-race meals. I also didn't go into my supplements. It's obviously not a diet that I follow to count calories either. I've gradually lost weight, 30 lbs, over the 4.5 years of multisport but that has a lot to do with exercise, overeating less often, and trying to think like an athlete, and not this diet. I've followed these restrictions for 12 or 13 years.

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