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Is that healthy?

I recently talked about dieting versus creating a healthy lifestyle – there is a difference. One is short-term and one is long-term. But there is also a time and a place. If weight loss is the goal, then yes, you are creating a diet of sorts for yourself by moderating or decreasing caloric intake. Regardless of how many calories you’re consuming, if you’re creating a plan to lose or gain strategically – you are on a diet. That being said, it’s going to feel like a lifestyle if it focuses on behaviors, small changes and ebbs and flows with the rest of your life appropriately.

There’s an intersection, however, where our “what’s healthy” meets misconception and departs down an extreme path.

This isn’t always the case, but in my experience, working with my clients, more often than not, they see health as black and white – not grey and certainly not with bits of color.

As a health coach, I work with clients to determine the best approach to their daily diet – some recognize that slightly lower carbohydrates helps them manage other symptoms like with hypothyroidism. Others recognize have been diagnosed with gastrointestinal disorders or autoimmune disorders that can also have gastrointestinal consequences when certain foods are consumed. We look at the foods they like to eat already and where nutritional gaps are – can you add some fiber to the day, does it make sense to add some fruit as a snack because you want something sweet, what breakfasts are quick that keep you full?

I’ve had a number of conversations with clients about recipes – yep, that’s a part of the nutrition conversation – what are you making and do you like how it’s prepared…There have been times when I can see the lightbulb moment – they’ve made a connection of how they physically feel or emotionally feel with a food, and can move on.

The other day I had a conversation with a client about breakfast ideas. She’s getting bored with some of meals, so we talked about some of her staples, how often she wants to have a snack and the purpose of some of her meals.

She often has an English muffin with peanut butter.

If we were interested in keeping the English muffin around, I would suggest changing the kind of English muffin or the toppings – maybe cream cheese or a little jam. She could have it with fruit on the side and toasted. She could keep it with peanut butter, but add banana. But this conversation was about taking it out and changing up breakfast.

I recommended French toast.

She immediately said “how do I make that healthy?”

I told her most foods aren’t inherently unhealthy, but sometimes the concern is what else is being paired with the food, so let’s look at how you make French toast.

I make French toast two ways – one with whole eggs and one with egg whites – it depends on how I’m feeling and what I’m putting on my French toast.

The photo at the top of this post was partially made from this bowl of eggs and almond milk – I say partially, because this bowl made 5 pieces and I ate 2.

In this bowl there are two whole eggs, a splash of almond milk, a splash of vanilla extract and a dash of cinnamon. Combined: You’re looking at just over 140 calories for this bowl.

Because we’re fancy, we used Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin bread for our French toast. Below is a screenshot of the nutritional information.

For the purpose of this post, let’s just look at the calories and macronutrients. One slice is 80 calories with 1.5g of fat, 15g of carbohydrates (1g from fiber and 6g from sugar) and 3g of protein. I ate 2 slices and JP ate 3.

So that bowl and 5 slices of bread would be about 540 calories total, which honestly, wouldn’t be a problem. That’s about a third of the calories for a roughly 1,600 calorie diet.

If you look at the macronutrient breakdown it would be: 17.5g of fat, 75g of carbohydrates, 22g of protein. Again, this is a little higher on carbohydrate intake than I enjoy for breakfast, but this isn’t about me, if you enjoy a little more carbohydrates that’s not inherently bad.

I had two slices so a very rough estimate would be 216 calories for my two slices.

However, here’s the other part of that conversation. What do you pair with this or put on top of this?

The concern isn’t the French toast, it’s the toppings and the sides.

Do you add two slices of bacon? That may be an additional 80 calories for a serving of 2 slices. Do you actually eat only 2 slices? Look at the sodium – 320 mg per serving (for Oscar Mayer).

Do you add syrup? Most syrups have a 1/4 cup serving size. Do you use more or do you use less? That’s 210 calories with 32g of sugar for the full serving.

I added Nutella to my stack. A serving is 2 tablespoons and is an additional 200 calories or 11g of fat, 22g of carbohydrates and 2g of protein – but, I used have a serving.

I also added three chopped up strawberries that were an average size and a little bit of whipped cream.

I probably added 120 to 140 calories to my stack of 216 calories. But even with a range of 336 to 356 calories, it’s around 20% of my average intake.

I don’t think that’s a problem and the calories don’t necessarily make these unhealthy either.

While the fat sources are saturated, there are omega 3s in eggs. I don’t have an issue with gluten or grains in general, so this is a good source of carbohydrates for me. Obviously, there is added sugar with Nutella and the cinnamon raisin bread, but it’s still within my personal preference of sugar intake (under 50g of added and natural). There’s not a lot of protein in these, but I’m still getting 6g for my bread and a few grams from the egg I did have with it. There’s also other meals throughout the day that I can get protein in.

Is there something healthier than French toast – yep. But is French toast bad for you – not necessarily. Next time you think about if something is healthy or not, try breaking it down and looking at its building blocks.

If you are concerned with your relationship with food, please consider talking to someone about it. It’s not easy to admit or see our behavior clearly, but for resources to help you figure out where to start check out NEDA’s web site.

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