Garbage in, garbage out. I remember hearing that saying in a circuit design class, talking about why it’s important to match impedances on I/O pins. When you put a low quality input into a system, there’s only so much the system can do to improve the output. You may be the fitness equivalent of analog TV. The input can be full of garbage, but you can still see the picture through all the snow. Some of us (myself included) are the fitness equivalent of digital TV. Unless the input is pristine, the output is unwatchable.
With food, garbage usually means two things, 1) carb- and calorie-heavy food; and 2) natural and artificial preservatives. I’m not gonna tackle the latter issue in depth, but I’ll say that I generally prefer not adding things to my food unless they positively contribute to my body. Doesn’t mean I think the preservatives are bad, only that they are symptoms of a compromise that the food manufacturer is making. They’re focused on more than just providing you with great tasting and nutritional food.
The big issue with processed foods is that they’re carb- and calorie-heavy. Usually this is because they’re using shit product with no flavor, so they spice things up the easiest way, by adding tons of tasty, tasty carbs and fat. Not only that, but they use the super cheap stuff like high-fructose corn syrup. You’ll find sugar in some of the weirdest foods. Why? Sometimes because it masks the flavor of preservatives. It aids browning (and evenness of browning). It acts as a preservative itself. And as mentioned before, it tries to make up for the fact that they’re using shitty, bland ingredients.
What sorts of shitty, bland ingredients? Eat a store tomato and then eat a tomato from the farmer’s market (or, even better, from your own garden). Eat a store cucumber and then a homegrown one. Eat frozen green beans and then fresh vine picked green beans. Produce growers are incentivized to grow uniform, good looking produce, because that is what people will buy off the grocery shelves. Ugly, delicious tomatoes would rot on the shelves. Misshapen but delicious cucumbers would be passed up for bitter, shapely ones. Odd-sized backyard green beans are unpopular in comparison to the bland cookie-cutter green beans you find in the freezer section, the canned section, and the produce section of the supermarket. Add on to that the fact that the food manufacturers putting together processed food aren’t even buying the top grade grocery produce, and you see why they need to do something to spruce up their bland dishes.
You’ll see pasta sauce with substantial sugar in it. Loaves of bread chock full of sugar. HFCS lurks everywhere. In the abstract, these are just carbs, and 5g of sugar from an apple is the same as 5g of HFCS in your pasta sauce. However, we don’t eat in the abstract. The reality is that we usually don’t even notice the sugar (or oil) in our processed foods, causing us to overeat. “Whole” foods are naturally balanced. Yes, you ingest sugar when you eat an apple, but you also get a substantial amount of fiber, and quite a variety of nutrients. When you strip out all of the nutrition and just put the caloric essence into your foods, you unbalance your diet and threaten nutrient deficiencies, obesity, and diet related diseases (diabeetus).
What’s better? Inconvenient eating. Start with ingredients that are recognizable as crops or animal byproducts. Rather that buying that HFCS laden white-whole-wheat loaf of bread, mix up some whole wheat flour, some yeast, some water, and some salt, and make your own bread. Rather than heating up that salisbury steak TV dinner, fire up the grill and toss a sirloin and a couple cobs of corn on. Rather than buying peach rings in the candy aisle, get some decent quality peaches from the local farmers’ market. When she goes to the grocery store, I tell Mrs. trshmnstr that I want to eat meat and veggies with some fruit for a snack.
If you haven’t done so already, teach yourself to cook half decently. Buy a few cookbooks (I recommend this one), and make recipes until the end product is not only edible, but better than the crap you can get in the freezer aisle or at the local Chili’s.
The single best improvement to my health was when I shifted my diet away from processed foods and focused on eating inconvenient fresh foods partially or fully from scratch. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to learn to cook well, and it’s a pain in the ass to source quality ingredients, but the gains in energy and in fitness have been worth it. Not that I never splurge on a McDouble or a Sharing Size Bag of Pretzel M&Ms, but they’re exceedingly rare treats, and the less I eat them, the less I crave them.
HIIT workout of the week
- 10x jumping jacks
- 20x butt kicks
- 10x push ups
- 35x crunches
- 10x squats
- 20x situps
- 25x lunges (each side)
- 30 second plank
- 30 second wall sit
Repeat 3x for a 30 minute workout.
Recipe of the week
Tundra’s Sheet Pan Chicken
- 4-6 Chicken thighs
- 12 oz cauliflower rice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1/3 cup EVOO
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 3 oz fresh baby spinach
- 90 g crumbled feta
- 90 g Kalamata olives
- Fresh basil/oregano/parsley garnish
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Spread cauliflower rice on a sheet pan.
- Drizzle oil on top of rice and spread garlic on top of rice. Mix together well with hands.
- Place thicken thighs on the rice and drizzle with more oil.
- Salt the chicken and the rice.
- Bake 25-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the rice starts lightly browning in spots.
- Pull the chicken thighs and let them rest.
- Add spinach, feta and olives, and mix together with the rice.
- Cook rice mixture another 5-8 minutes.
- Pull the sheet pan, garnish to taste, and add chicken on top of garnished rice mixture (whole or sliced thighs are fine)