Monday, April 26, 2010

When bad diets happen

Today’s lesson will be on Slim Fast. Slim Fast is primarily a meal replacement diet in the form of shakes. Now they have variety of calorie reduced products aimed at making your diet effortless. Now I am not the best at following any restrictive diet, in fact more often than not I am likely found eating a really bad breakfast (like today) then not eating again until dinner. Part of that comes from just knowing that the calories I ate should last most of the day. I just watch the total and try to keep it as low as possible. I digress however…

Let’s talk about the shakes, aside from being just nasty (I have tried them). They are small nutrient packed shakes, now that is fairly accurate. They do have vitamins and minerals. The thing is, they recommend drinking one or two “shakes” a day instead of meals. These shakes are also full of sugar which may spike your cravings as the day goes on. So at an average of 220 calories a shake (although some have more) that has to last you all morning. So at 440 calories, for breakfast and lunch (hoping that you were good and did not get a bag of chips at 2:30), and with a sensible dinner at about 450 calories, you have eaten 890 calories. That is starvation.

Now I am not really assuming that most people do that, in fact most people follow a diet to their own specifications. Most people I have seen try this diet have actually consumed them with meals, so your average meal at 400 calories plus the 220 calories in the shake has ballooned your calorie intake to 1060 calories assuming you did not snack. Still that is viable for weight loss but is still near or at starvation

Let’s breakdown what is in the shakes and a shake for breakfast is better for you than a serving of Cheerios:

Nutrition Facts

Slim Fast Strawberry

Amount Per Serving

Calories 220

Calories from Fat 58.5

% Daily Values*

Total Fat 6.5g 10%

Saturated Fat 1.6g 8%

Cholesterol -

Sodium -

Total Carbohydrate 24.2g 8%

Dietary Fiber -

Sugars 24.1g

Protein 14.1g

Vitamin A 35% Vitamin C 35%

Calcium 59% Iron 36%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Nutrition Facts

Honey Nut Cheerios

Serving Size: 3/4 cup and ½ cup skim milk

Amount per Serving

Calories 150 Calories from Fat 15

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 1.5g 2%

Saturated Fat 0g 0%

Monounsaturated Fat 0.5g

Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0mg 0%

Sodium 250mg 10%

Potassium 320mg 9%

Total Carbohydrate 28g 9%

Dietary Fiber 2g 8%

Sugars 15g

Protein 7g 14%

Vitamin A 15% Vitamin C 10%

Calcium25% Iron 25%

Vitamin D 25% Thiamin (B1) 30%

Riboflavin (B2) 35% Niacin (B3) 25%

Vitamin B6 25% Folic Acid (Folate) 50%

Vitamin B12 35% Magnesium 10%

Zinc 30%

So let’s see, with the bowl of Cheerios you get less fat, less sugar, more fiber (one of the keys to that full feeling), and many more vitamins and minerals. It also has fewer calories so you can eat an apple, banana, a ½ cup of strawberries or even a tomato and get more nutrition. You will also feel much more satisfied with the fiber in the various fresh fruits.

On a practical level, I think that the Slim Fast diet is just a nice way for starving yourself. You can’t live on just the shakes, they are not filling enough and do not pack enough nutritional punch. You can’t starve yourself to lose weight, I know. Starvation makes you tired, makes you crave food and it can force your body to turn what calories you do take into fat.

I am not a doctor and I am not saying live on Cheerios instead of Slim Fast. I just think that behind every fad diet there is very bad health and very good marketing. We want a panacea, that magic pill to make us thin and sexy. Sadly enough they are not out there, any pill, supplement, and most diet plans are not sustainable. Just focus on calories in, calories out.

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