Thursday, February 23, 2012

FITNESS : Be Careful What You SWITCH For

Samantha Salis

Certain dietary substitutions may not be as beneficial as you think...

Why did the tomato blush? It saw the salad dressing. And, "let me tell you," the tomato recounted later, "she was fat."

I will never forget the excited look on her face when Anna marched up to me from the lunch cart.
                       “Look! I got a salad!” She exclaimed. 
Her eyes were big and puppy-like; they were begging for praise. Anna had wanted to lose weight. Like many other misinformed teenage girls, she believed that skipping meals was the “quick-fix” answer. Her meal of choice was lunch. I encouraged her that she should start eating lunch at school, and choose a healthier alternative than the (acne-inducing) pepperoni pizza or the (bloat-me-in-a-box) bagel and cream cheese. So, she bought a salad. Unfortunately, this “salad” was hidden under a tsunami of fattening, creamy, heart-attack-in-a-tube ranch dressing. Unfortunately, it was me who had to be the downer:

“Anna, you might as well have bought the pizza.”

This story is a sad but true example of the dietary misconceptions that plague those hoping for a healthier lifestyle. We think salads are key to that desirably lean physique. Sadly, salads are often only disguised as healthy alternatives; Tasty additions such as cheese, candied nuts, and high calorie dressings could rack up the calories to that of a nice, fatty cheeseburger. See salad as not a whole, but a sum of its parts. Those who really care about a healthier lifestyle have to have a more cynical, judgmental eye. Does this salad really love me, or is it just trying to get in my pants (and thighs)?

Snacks can be a major pitfall for the misinformed. The frozen yogurt epidemic, which I myself have been a victim of, has affected all ages, particularly those health-conscious young college women.

“This is so good for being non-fat.” She says.

“It’s not even that different from ice cream, but so healthy.” She says.

“Frozen yogurt is a healthy alternative.” She says.

These phrases are all correct to a certain degree. Yes, frozen yogurt has less fat than ice cream. But, what frozen yogurt lacks in fat, it makes up for in sugar content. Filling your self-serve cup to the rim may be equivalent to the sugar content of a candy bar (Ugh!). Optimally, frozen yogurt will weigh 4-6 ounces, and will have a small amount of candy toppings and/or a large amount of fruit toppings. I admit this is difficult, it takes immense self-control to stop the flow of the frozen yogurt once the machine starts dispensing. But if you must, carry the attitude that this is still a dessert--- a serotonin-inducing food matter almost completely void of nutritional value.

I hate to be the cynic. Ignorance may be bliss….until you can no longer button your jeans. If you haven’t started yet, begin to read your labels. You do not have to count your calories, but if you are really serious about being healthier, you should be well informed about what goes into your body. So become a little smarter and a little less naïve: ask what does your food contain? How do these ingredients affect my body? When is the last time you read a label of your favorite snack that said: “Low in fat, but very high in sugar. Likely to induce love handles, dramatic decrease in energy, and future health risk. Enjoy!”

In this age of ever-spreading information, lack of knowledge is no longer an excuse. We have so many resources at our disposal. Why let them go to waste?

For instance, use this information right here... 
Some healthy snacks to invest in are:
-Almonds (a healthy source of fat),
-Apples or celery and almond butter (much better for you than peanut butter),
-(As I always say) any greens,
-Non-fat milk and whole grain cereal,
-Berries (they have antioxidants too!),
-Greek yogurt (no Yoplait!) sweetened with honey,
-Whole wheat bread (no bleached white bread!), 
-Avocado (a healthy source of fat) or handmade guacamole (avocado based of course, and add cilantro, tomatoes, lime, a little salt, and maybe even peppers),
-Bell peppers and other vegetables dipped in humus (grapeseed-oil based),
-Tuna salad (table spoon of grape seed oil, chi chi beans, tuna and cut up celery),
-Cottage cheese and low-sodium wheat crackers,
-Bananas and almond butter,
-(If you must have chocolate)... DARK chocolate...

The list goes on. If you have any questions about dieting or further suggestions, leave a comment below. In the mean time, do some research and treat your body as it deserves to be treated! When looking for healthy alternatives, go for the high fiber foods-- read the back labels

The Woman Behind the Fitness Section:
Samantha Salis is a Psychology Major and Political Economy Minor at UC Berkeley. She is a dedicated young woman, ambitious and sharp as a whip. Our dear Samantha tutors high schoolers and works at a Psychology lab at UC Berkeley. Even with this busy schedule, Ms. Salis creates the time to divulge to us her passion about the fitness and health of women, and is (fortunately for us) very well informed on these topics. Enjoy!

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