Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lesser evils: Beef Jerky

Let me paint an unflattering picture for you.

It's 3:00 a.m. and you've been drinking heavily. The aforementioned wobbly behavior keeps you from getting into a car (and really, at this time of night you'd probably make a big mistake beyond drunk driving ... food choices are usually pretty awful at that time of night). You open the fridge and realize that you have nothing but spent milk, bottled water and more beer.

So you stagger over to a 7-eleven or gas station convenience store and you're met with some really bad options.

You could barely satiate your hunger with a sugar-loaded calorie-dense candy bar or a carb-loaded, calorie-dense bag of chips. Or, if you really want to shit fire, you decide to get some Spicy Roller Trash Meat Concoction like a taquito or a who-knows-how-long-it's-been-there hot dog.

And let's be honest, most of the "healthy looking" food really is packed with sugar and might not have any nutritional value whatsoever. Perhaps you can get lucky and nab some fresh fruit. Maybe a little bag of almonds could do the trick.

But sometimes the Call of the Booze will force you to take more drastic measures.

To my surprise, Beef Jerky isn't a horrible option when faced with this dilemma. According to the nutrition facts of a bag of 7-Eleven Teriyaki Beef Jerky, an entire 3-serving bag contains 270 calories, 3g of fat, 24g of carbs and 33g of protein.

Now it's not all rosy, though, since the 1800mg of sodium will account for a whopping 75% of your daily recommended intake. The snack is also disturbing for a person who needs dental insurance like myself, as the chewier pieces tend to make my jaw snap more than The Incredible Hulk.

Still, nutritional beggars cannot be choosers. The jerky has a relatively simple list of ingredients (only 3 or 4 things sound like Frankenstein monster concoctions) and will satiate your hunger with that heavy dose of protein.

Obviously, the focus of this blog is to be healthier and jerky is by no means a healthy food. That being said, another aim of this blog is to find practical solutions; when you're drunk you're far less likely to want to scramble eggs or make an elaborate salad.

Remember, kids: you don't have to be perfect. Being better is pretty good, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cereal Killer

There are a lot of foods that seem like they're healthier than they really are.

Take, for instance, granola. The hippie food staple is often thought of as an end-all be-all of nutrition but those typically food-savvy folks will lead you astray; it seems that granola really isn't that great for you after all.

One food that ranges quite wildly is cereal. Oddly enough, my old standby site Eat This, Not That (which I haven't checked in a while) highlighted a list of the Best and Worst cereals.

That list can give you some really good, practical options. This post highlights the things I've learned and how I purchase cereal (although, admittedly, I don't buy that much in the first place).

1. Don't base your purchase on the front of the box

Read the nutrition facts, not just the front of the box I'm super cereal.

The only thing you should care about is a) if there's a cartoon character on the front (to easily eliminate that option) and b) if it looks like something that will taste decent. After all, you can have the healthiest cereal in the world but why not eat something that you enjoy while not being a Count Chocula'd idiot?

2. Keep your sugar low

While I recommend finding cereals that you enjoy, there are a few that should be eliminated. Be mindful of your sugar intake.

One of the tastiest healthy series is the Kashi "Go Lean" cereals. I quite enjoy their berry cluster variety (I believe it's called "Go Lean Crisp.") If you're feeling especially spry, you can just get one of those really bland cereals and throw some fruit in there for sweetness. For me, it's baby steps, though.

3. High fiber

Fiber content is the #1 priority after keeping sugar low. Since you'll be eating this for breakfast, you want something to keep you full until lunch.

4. Protein is good too

It's not quite as important as having a high fiber cereal, but a high protein breakfast will also be very helpful in keeping you fuller, longer.

5. Vitamins are solid too

Admittedly, I've been getting my vitamins from fruit and vegetables but the Total line does provide a lot of nutrition. Honestly, I'd rather have a scattering of 35%'s than 100%'s because sometimes you can get too much of a good thing.

That being said, if you can get a high-fiber, high-protein and vitamin enriched cereal with low sugar and moderate fat/calories then you're doing a great job.

It's also worth nothing that you should try to eat cereal earlier in the day, so it's easier to work off all those carbs.