Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 28th 2018 Contents propa eats B5
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
The overconsumption of high-energy, low-nutrient ‘food-like’ products is at the
centre of the global obesity crisis. Most junk foods come disguised in brightly
coloured packaging emblazoned with mascots and health claims that trigger
a dopamine response in the brain. This can cause people to indulge and often
over-consume processed foods. Promises of an instant sugar fix are somehow
more appealing than a simple fruit, nature’s candy. However, the season of
Lent offers a great opportunity to abstain from these foods that seem to test
our willpower. Here is a list of 5 foods that are generally unhealthy to fast from
along with their healthier alternatives.
1. Deep-Fried Foods
Doubles, aloo pies, fried chicken and chips, bake and shark—some of Trinidad’s
signature foods are not the best for our health. What do these foods have in
common? They’re all deep-fried! Frying not only triples a food’s caloric content,
but heating foods to high temperatures can cause the formation of cancer-
causing compounds. Fried foods can cause weight gain and the potential
development of lifestyle related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as
obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. If we had to put this into
caloric terms, one doubles contains an average 350 calories and 11 grams of
fat. Eat three doubles for breakfast and you will already have consumed half a
day’s worth of energy.
Alternatives: Cut the fat and keep the flavour by learning how to ‘fry’ foods in
the oven. Simply dip fish or chicken pieces in a beaten egg, coat with Panko,
crushed cornflakes or breadcrumbs and bake in a oven at 350oF until golden
brown. Replace deep-fried potato chips with oven-baked sweet potato chips,
tossed with varying spice blends.
2. Soft Drinks and Other Sugary Beverages
Added sugar seems to plague every aspect of the modern diet. Sugar is
considered unhealthy because it provides empty calories: a lot of calories with
no nutrients and is also linked to the development of NCDs. It’s so hard to quit
sugar mostly because it’s an addictive appetite stimulant that leads to cravings
and binge eating.
In Trinidad, the foods we hold dear to our hearts just aren’t the same with their
soft drink counterparts. Take for instance, roti and red drink, doubles and apple
fizz, pelau and blackcurrant juice. These brightly coloured, fizzy and sugary
drinks trigger that dopamine response that keeps us going back for more.
When you consume a sugary beverage, your brain does not ‘register’ it as food;
so, you don’t automatically compensate for this by eating less food and end
up drastically increasing your caloric intake—this can lead to weight gain and
the development of NCDs.
Fruit juice, even freshly-squeezed juice is often mistakenly assumed to be healthy.
It is actually nothing more than fruit-flavoured sugar water with the same or
even higher calorie and sugar content as soft drinks. While it is true that these
juices can be high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants, the amount of liquid
sugar that you are consuming must be taken into consideration. It is much
easier to drink 10 oranges than it is to eat 10 oranges.
Sports drinks have slightly lower sugar content than soft drinks and fruit juices
and contain added electrolytes designed to replace lost nutrients in competition.
However, unless you are an athlete, you do not need to consume sports drinks.
Alternatives: Drink water to quench your thirst. Flavour water or club soda with
fruit slices and herbs for a vitamin-infused beverage. Try fresh green vegetable
juices with small amounts of fruit added—or better yet, just eat the fruit whenever
you’re feeling for something sweet. If you’re a highly active person, drink coconut
water or add rehydration salts to your water to replace lost electrolytes instead
of relying on commercial sports drinks.
3. Packaged Junk Foods
Almost every bagged item on the snack shelf has been created in a factory,
contain little to no nutritional value but do have plenty calories, salt and fats.
These include chips (even the ‘healthy’ ones), puffed corn snacks, even flavoured
popcorn. These tend to be highly processed and rich in unhealthy ingredients
and artificial chemicals. The packaging is usually brightly coloured, aimed at
luring in the unsuspecting consumer. It is best to keep these out of sight so you
are not tempted to graze absent-mindedly; once you start, it’s difficult to stop.
Why? One ounce (11 chips) of a standard corn chip contains 150 calories and
8 grams of fat. Compare this to one cup of homemade air-popped popcorn,
which contains roughly 30 calories and no fat.
Alternatives: Prepare healthy snacks at home (and actually save a lot of money
doing so). Air-popped popcorn and homemade kale or bhagi chips are great
substitutes for packaged potato or corn chips. You can even slice root vegetables
like beets and sweet potatoes into thin rounds and bake them for a healthier
crisp. If you’re craving something on the crunchier side, baby carrots or 1⁄4 cup
of nuts will get the job done.
4. Milk Chocolate, Candy Bars and Sweeties
Chocolate is actually quite healthy—cocoa and dark chocolate are powerful
sources of biologically active and functional antioxidants with a multitude
of health benefits that improve several risk factors for disease. What’s not so
healthy is sugary milk chocolate. Studies show that once milk is added to pure
chocolate, it binds with some of the antioxidants rendering them unavailable
for absorption by the body.
Candy bars are high in sugar, processed fats and refined flours that are low
in essential nutrients. They are engineered to be extremely palatable so you
crave them and eat more. Their high fat content sometimes does cause some
short-term satiety but because of how your body metabolizes these treats,
you’ll catch those hunger pangs in no time. Many protein bars and granola bars
are so high in sugar, you can actually consider them candy bars, too. Needless
to say, sweeties and other candies are pure sugar with no nutritional benefit.
On average, the standard 2-ounce candy bar weighs in at about 250 calories,
11 grams of fat and 27 grams of sugar. Compare this to one cup of mixed fruit,
which will give you around 65 calories, 10 grams of sugar and no fat.
Alternatives: One ounce of over 70 percent or higher real dark chocolate will
provide you with a great range of antioxidants along with iron, magnesium,
copper, potassium and manganese at 170 calories. (Bonus points for choosing
local dark chocolate made with our own Trinitario beans!) Another healthy snack
option between meals is one to two servings of fruit that will supply you with
lots of vitamins, potassium and fibre to keep your gut and immune system
strong. (One serving of fruit is about the size of a tennis ball.)
5. Refined Carbohydrates
The easiest way to clean up your diet is to switch from refined carbohydrates to
whole grains. Refined grains are milled, a process that strips out the bran and
the germ from the grain to give them a finer texture and longer shelf life. The
most common examples are white flour, white breads, rotis and pasta. Whole
grains in comparison have not been stripped and their nutrients remain intact.
Whole grains are great sources of dietary fibre and other nutrients like potassium,
magnesium, selenium and phosphorus. They are found as single foods such
as brown rice, oats, barley and quinoa, or as ingredients in products like whole
grain bread or whole-wheat pasta. A high-fibre diet will help normalize and
maintain bowel movements and gut health, control blood sugar levels, lower
cholesterol levels, keep you satiated and help you in achieving a healthy weight.
Alternatives: Choose whole grains rather than refined grains. Swap commercial
white bread for whole grain bread, sprouted grain bread or sourdough bread.
Swap white rice for brown, black or red rice, white crackers for multigrain or
whole-wheat crackers, white pasta for whole grain pasta, white flour for green
fig flour and dumplings with provisions. Make roti with whole-wheat flour and
vegetable purée like carrot or pumpkin for a super nutrient boost!
For a longer list of unhealthy foods, visit propaeats.com and for more nutritional advice,
visit purplecarrotnutrition.com and follow Purple Carrot Nutrition on Facebook.
5 UNHEALTHY FOODS TO GIVE UP FOR LENT
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