If you are a big person who would like to get smaller, the “Diet for a Small Person” is for you. It’s the updated and micro version of Frances Moore Lappé’s 1971 best-seller, “Diet for a Small Planet.”
That book introduced the concept of complementary protein. While she pushed the idea too far, her emphasis on high quality protein remains valid today.
Protein remains the key macronutrient of successfully becoming a smaller person, because it provides the fuel that our brains need to function. Fat is the complementary macronutrient that our bodies also need.
We don’t have any proof that we need the other macronutrient, available carbohydrates, those that come from sugars and starches, not fiber. Still, some of the best foods contain more carbs than they do protein and fat, the essential macronutrients. These are the good veggies.
The good foods are far too many to describe in a short article here. It is a myth — one that I long accepted myself — that a low-carb diet is too limiting to be enjoyable. In fact, I discovered a huge number of tasty new foods once I decided to severely limit my carbs in order to control both my blood glucose level and my weight.
So what is the crème de la crème of foods that will help to make a smaller you?
Protein has to head the list. While few foods are purely one macronutrient or another, the best sources of protein include:
1. Fish. Among fish, the best source is sardines, which are high in omega-3 oil, low in toxic mercury, and don’t pose an environmental threat. Whether the sardines you eat are canned in water or olive oil, they are delicious either as is or with a tablespoon of probiotic miso and a little hot sauce.
My second seafood choice is kippered herring. But since kippers are smoked, they may be too high in AGEs. While salmon is high in omega-3s, being higher on the food chain, it also has too much mercury. Wild-caught fish of any species — instead of those that are farm raised — are certainly better for the environment and for our bodies, even in the short term.
2. Poultry. Organic chicken, especially that which we can find at most farmers markets — is a mainstay of the “Diet for a Small Person.” Organic turkey and more exotic birds, when you can find them, are great alternatives. Poultry cooked in water that’s simmering is lower in AGEs than the usual ways we cook beef or pork or game like bison, elk, and venison.
3. Dairy. Greek-style yogurt has enough carbs that we need to limit how much we eat each day. But because of the small amount of whey that it contains, this is the dairy product that’s best for most folks. And organic is as always better than conventional. Strained yogurt is even better.
4. Eggs. Sure eggs are high in cholesterol! But is that bad? Nowadays, that seems like another myth.
5. Soy Protein. Tofu is high in protein, and some brands are low in carb. Texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and texturized soy protein (TSP) offer many different foods. For years one of the foods that I have liked most for breakfast is Morningstar Farms Sausage Patties. These veggie sausages made from TVP taste so good to me that I haven’t eaten meat sausages in years, so I can’t say how they compare in taste. These sausages have five times as much protein as they have available carbohydrate.
6. Quorn is mycoprotein. In other words it’s a fungus. Sounds delicious? It actually is. Quorn is a British brand that has now made it into the U.S., particularly in natural food stores on the frozen foods aisle. Two of the company’s products, “Naked Chik’n Cutlets” and “Turk’y Roast,” are low in carbs and are quickly and easily prepared.
Fat is fine in moderation. Especially the fat in these remarkable foods:
1. Olive oil. Everybody’s favorite, extra virgin olive oil is undoubtedly the best all-around oil for us to use.
2. Avocados. Truly a wonder fruit, avocados are mostly monounsaturated fat, the type that everyone agrees is what we need. In fact, the author of one book that I read recently likes avocados so much that he recommends that we eat three to five every day. I don’t go that far, because five avocados would provide more calories — 1,600 plus — than my daily intake from every source. But I do try to eat one avocado daily, usually with a little of my favorite salad dressing, Bragg Ginger and Sesame, or a sprinkling of garlic salt.
3. Nuts and seeds. Almost any nut belongs in the “Diet for a Small Person.” Nuts make the best snack and trail food, because they are so portable, requiring no utensils or refrigeration. In my book, the top three are almonds, Brazil nuts (no more than five per day because they are high in selenium, which we need but only in moderation), and macadamia nuts. Only one nut doesn’t belong in our diet: Cashews. While undoubtedly tasty, cashews are too high in carbs.
Some seeds also have a big place in our diet. The best seeds for us are probably chia.
3. Cheese. If you can tolerate the lactose in cheese, many hard cheeses have very little or no carbs. Even creamy mascarpone has no carbs. While I seem to be only slightly lactose intollerant, something else keeps cheese out of my residence. Cheese is one of those strange foods that I love too much. When I start eating cheese I just can’t stop until the supply runs out. So I limit myself to a serving or two of sample cheeses often offered at the markets where I shop or buy it in tiny amounts.
With fats in particular, the key is moderation, if you are trying to lose weight or hold steady. But even when we follow a low-carb diet, too much fat — particularly cheese and nuts — can drive our calorie count way up. I know that once I start eating cheese or nuts it is hard for me to stop. Now, from reading a great new article by Michael Eades, M.D. on “Low-Carb and Calories,” I know that I share this affliction with many others.
Fiber is filling while containing few calories. It’s not just a supplement, like the psyllium capsules that I take with each meal. Some tasty dishes are essentially fiber:
1. Raw sauerkraut and the Korean staple, kim-chi, are two of the top probiotics that also happen to be mostly fiber. Natural food markets like Whole Foods offer the Rejuvenative Foods brand of both. Their raw sauerkraut is nothing but fiber and a little protein, and their kim-chi is almost entirely fiber.
2. Shirataki noodles. I will write about these wonderful noodles here soon.
3. Black soybeans. The big exception among beans are black soybeans. Almost all beans are too high in available carbohydrates to include in “The Diet for a Small Person.” But almost all of the carbohydrate in the Eden Organic brand of black soy beans are fiber.
Take a generous amount of protein, fat, and fiber. Add in some of the good veggies. This gives you great variety in “The Diet for a Small Person.”
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.