Nutrition is a word that evokes feelings of confusion in everyone, and rightfully so. The public is constantly swayed with research and big industry marketing to either purchase more of one thing or switch to something else entirely.
Remember when they said in the ‘90s that eggs were bad for you? Slowly, the ‘Incredible Edible Egg’ campaign rolled out strong and encouraged the public that eggs were still a valuable dietary input. Another major food freakout of the ’90s was milk. In fact, the marketing ad that helped revive American Dairy Farmers is still active and well known. The ‘Got Milk’ and now, ‘Milk Life’ campaigns are examples of yet another huge movement in influencing consumers on what to eat.
So, what does one do with all this conflicting information and marketing campaigns that are unreliable? What do calories really mean?
Understanding food and their labels is the first step in eating better. For example, most people would say that eating 400 calories for a meal is about average, but to really understand what the nutritional value is, you must first breakdown the components of the food.
One of the examples I use for the patients at Island Health Center is a spicy chicken thigh from a local fast food chain. One chicken thigh averages 260 calories. Not bad, right? Not exactly, because we still don’t have enough information. We need to assess what the chicken is made of and how it was prepared.
We know meat is high in protein, and protein is good, right? Generally yes, but in this particular case, the chicken is tossed in batter and then fried in oil. Chew on this: that piece of chicken is made up of 18 grams of fat and 460 mg of sodium (the max daily recommended amount).
But what does all this really mean? To burn one 260 calorie piece of chicken it would take the average person a brisk walk from the Causeway Bridge where the tall, blue Galveston signs are posted to where Broadway ends by Stewart Beach! That’s about 6.75 miles per piece of chicken.
Additionally, 18 grams of fat per thigh looks like 2 squares of an equally divided stick of butter. That’s a considerable amount when most people will consume an average of two chicken thighs during a meal, plus beverages and sides.
With this in mind, we must seek an alternative to the fried chicken. A better alternative would be chicken that is prepared without oils, such as grilled chicken. This option contains about half the total calories and fat. That’s a lot less walking!
As a guideline, use a baseline of 100 calories. To burn those calories, you must either walk briskly for 28 minutes, jog for 12 minutes, swim laps for 8 minutes or cycle for 15 minutes. Therefore, the amount of energy expenditure is easily calculated by multiples of 100.
Nutrition labels are available at almost any restaurant and fast food chain. These labels will help you assess what foods you want to consume. Remember to also pay attention not only the amount of calories, but the total fat and salt content as well.
As for fat, for every 9 grams of fat, imagine one square of the eight equal pieces from the stick of butter we spoke of earlier. Fat clogs blood vessels and is linked to many heart troubles. It’s best to remain on the lower end for unhealthy fats. Healthy fats are usually plant based such as olive oil.
Although there is a lot of bad press about the foods we consume, we need to remember that we already have the answers we need. Eat fresh foods such as vegetables and home prepared meals since they are generally better prepared than those we consume while dining out.
Nutrition is not a perfected science. It will continue to grow and change as technology advances. Therefore, stick to what you already know and you will fare well. Eating well and exercising is the key to having a healthy body.
As for last night’s Spicy Chicken dinner, you better hit the pavement!
This article was written by Dr. Poorvi Sandesara, a Chiropractor at Island Health Center who treats many people for various causes. She believes that presenting clients with information that makes sense to them leads to better outcomes and therefore happier patients.
Dr. Sandesara has treated Galvestonians for over three years and continues to gather a following at IHC. She treats patients for anything from headaches, general muscular problems to sciatica and physical medicine and rehabilitation.
No matter what your health care needs are, Island Health Center is ready to meet them. Call us today at 409-762-7646, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us on the Web at IslandHealthCenter.net. Our clinic is located just off the Seawall at 4623 Fort Crockett Blvd., between Goodwill and Academy.