Friday, 7 October 2016

My Sweet Life: the Bitter Facts

I am trying to live a healthier life.
As well as my new Jazzercise regime (woo hoo!) I have made changes to my diet, increasing my fruit and veg intake and decreasing the meat and dairy.  I am neither vegan nor vegetarian, but I am heading in that direction.

I started tracking what I eat at Livestrong, because I have never understood the report I received when I took part in a workplace eating survey, which suggested I was eating 3 times as much as I ought.
If that was true, I thought, I would be obese by now!
It should be much easier to control my diet now, as I am not catering for anyone else.  I can make my own choices.
Looking back, I realise that FL and I got through rather a lot of pies and puddings and wine...!

However, even on what I thought of as a healthy day, Day One of Livestrong tracking saw me overshoot my recommended calories by 30% and my levels of sugar and cholesterol were too high, while my protein level was too low.

This was really disappointing.

The Livestrong tracker lets you drill down into each item of food, to see where the trouble lies.
Eggs (my main source of protein that day) sent my cholesterol count soaring.
Fruit clocked up the sugar.

I decided to look at the mythical Kitkat.
If I choose to eat my previously-daily treat it adds 232 calories, which is less than a Mars Bar and therefore didn't really bother me... until I realised that 99 of those calories come from fat and that it contains 23g of sugar.
My recommended daily allowance of sugar according to Livestrong (based on my current weight and height) is 29g.

The Maths:
There is 7g of sugar in a single clementine.  I eat three of those a day, plus a pear (14g) and sometimes an apple too (15g)... oh and during the week I grab a Tesco fruit salad (13g)
21 + 14 + 15 +13 = 63g

Bang!  That's me at more than double the limit already!

Add a Kitkat at 23g and I am clocking in at 86g of sugar on a typical day, when I didn't drink any alcohol or add in any desserts.
The 2.6g of protein in that Kitkat should really not be viewed as a positive, but hey, I will grab my brownie points where I can!

I'll give you another example.
This morning I ate a small bowl of unsweetened muesli (16g) with half an apple in it (7g), and at 10am I ate a clementine (7g).  That's me at 30g already.
And oh look - there goes my Friday Kitkat (23g)!


The Kitkat wrapper says:
Per 100g
Per serving**
Reference Intake*


of which: saturates
of which: sugars
*Reference Intake of an average adult (8400kJ/2000kcal).
**Per bar.

Portions should be adjusted for children of different ages.

What I find really interesting is that the wrapper on my Kitkat tells me that the "Reference Intake" of sugar is 90g.
That's three times higher than Livestrong recommends.

I thought (hoped) they might be over-stating the case, so checked the NHS website:

Added sugars shouldn't make up more than 5% of the energy (calorie intake) you get from food and drink each day. This is about 30g of sugar a day for those aged 11 and over.

I clearly have some work to do on my sugar-filled diet.

The good news is that my increased level of activity counterbalances the occasional calorific indulgence: 45 minutes of Jazzercise equals one Kitkat - boom!

But I definitely need to address my protein deficiency:  I only manage to consume about a third of my recommended intake a day.
This is why people eat meat!

I am horribly aware of my tendency to obsess about these things.
I must beware orthorexia.
But I am genuinely shocked that I have been getting it so wrong.


  1. Not generally one to comment, but I thought the eggs and cholesterol thing had been busted
    From the NHS:

    and from the British Heart Foundation:

    So enjoy them as a good cheap source of protein and vitamins

    1. Thank you Liz- those are really helpful links. It just goes to show the importance of examining the evidence behind targets.

  2. According to the NHS, the sugar in a clementine does not count towards your 30g of added sugar a day. Fruit sugar consumed in solid fruit doesn't seem to count, only fruit juice. Maybe you just need to go for the 2-er Kitkats instead!

    1. Oh I see what you mean: the NHS talks about "added" sugar, whereas Livestrong doesn't discriminate, it is just "sugar". This really is not simple is it?!

  3. Very interesting. I have been checking out the Livestrong site. I have been very concerned about how much sugar (in particular) my family have been eating recently, even though I try to keep an eye on what the kids and cooking from scratch. My husband is currently trying to lose weight, but is unable to excerise at the moment having fallen off his bike again. It is frustrating for me, because I can see him eating stuff that ideally he shouldn't (but can becuase he is usually exercising quite a bit)and he continues to eat that stuff when he is not exercising and wonders why he puts on more weight - urrgh. sorry bit of a rant there! He has used calorie apps in the past, but seeing how the constituents of a meal break down might be helpful on his daily intake.

    1. That was my starting point with Livestrong - curiosity about how my food breaks down by nutritional value. They calculate your daily calorie allowance according to your starting point and your goal - so you can aim to maintain your weight, lose it or gain it and then track your progress meal by meal and balance your diet. It is the "balancing" I knew I needed to do. I once read that if you ate pasta you might as well eat cake instead, and I am afraid I took that literally at times.

    2. I've lost a stone by cutting sugar andcarbs and eating plenty of fat. Watch the fat vs carbs programme on BBC iplayer for some background - and look at the fat is my friend website, written by a GP.

    3. Thanks for your input Knitlass! I find it very confusing when the advice conflicts. It comes down to what works for you. I don't want to lose weight. I just want to be healthy. Less sugar that is certain!

  4. Ha ha - I must have orthorexia, too. I only wish it actually stopped me from eating too much sugar. I had to laugh that you are featuring KitKats. They are my daily downfall! I like the Dark Chocolate ones. Gah!

    Wishing you luck on your journey to better health. Wishing me luck, too. :-)

    1. I am sorry to tell you that the Dark Chocolate ones are even worse...!

  5. Calories are not Very useful, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Sugar is sugar - however it comes (kit Kat or tangerine) and carbs also breakdown to sugar in the body, so as diets go it's best to focus on fat and protein. There is NO link between dietary fat and cholesterol - and there are now lots of medics advocating a high fat low carb diet because the research evidence supports this rather than high carb and low fat thing we have been peddled. Check out Zoe Harcombe, Aseem Malhotra and Nina Teicholz.

    1. Thanks for that 😊 I will have a look.

  6. I've always been told that the benefits from eating fruit outweigh the sugar content, so if you exceed your sugar allowance because of fruit it's not that big a deal!

    1. Thank you for saying this. I am coming to the conclusion that I did not pick the right "expert"!

  7. I am astounded that anyone, or any programme, would suggest that you eat too much! You obviously eat the correct amount for you!
    The egg thing is rubbish, by the way! I see that someone has given you links to the current thinking. Eating more fruit and veg is good for all of us. Other than that, I'd suggest enjoying life is far more important than obsessing about every little thing you eat!
    All said with love!

    1. Emma - much appreciated! It was the suggestion that I was eating too much that threw me the most!

  8. I don't know Livestrong, but I did some dietary tracking last fall using a phone app and while it was interesting, I found it very hard to be precise enough about both my caloric intake and my activity levels to be useful---depending on how I tweaked my estimates, I could be well within healthy levels, or way off. You may be more inclined to measure every little thing than I am, though.*

    *have just eaten doughnuts and popcorn for supper, so all my claims of health consciousness are highly suspect. ;)

    1. Doughnuts AND popcorn! Well that's a balanced diet right there - popcorn is a vegetable isn't it?!

  9. I think that as a protein source eggs were now thought to be so good that the issue regarding cholesterol is moot. I know what you mean about fruit and sugar I need to establish more veg, not fruit, but still better to eat the fruit than not. Think of all those micronutrients.

    1. Thanks India - yes I am very wary of giving up eggs, as I need the protein. And fruit is my favourite food next to brocolli, and I can't live on brocolli alone!

  10. You might take a look at an app called My Fitness Pal -- what I like about it is you can input raw ingredients and it'll calculate calories for home cooking ... and I don't know -- Livestrong? Lance has been so discredited that I'd be suspicious of their results, especially if they're saying someone as thin as you shouldn't eat whole fruit, or eggs ... that doesn't make any sense.

    1. Thanks Charlotte - that is an option I had in mind, as I can get it on my phone. But I am actually starting to think I should not track at all - it just adds to my confusion!

  11. You might take a look at an app called My Fitness Pal -- what I like about it is you can input raw ingredients and it'll calculate calories for home cooking ... and I don't know -- Livestrong? Lance has been so discredited that I'd be suspicious of their results, especially if they're saying someone as thin as you shouldn't eat whole fruit, or eggs ... that doesn't make any sense.

  12. I'm vegetarian and for years I fell into the trap of not eating enough protein. I now eat plenty of nuts and seeds and feel so much better.

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  14. I think the best advice, and practice, I have had is not to worry about eliminating food but rather adding more of the good stuff (which I consider to be 'real' food like fruits and veges and legumes and eggs and whole grains etc etc - minimally processed foods, your particular foods depend on you as per below). If you focus on adding extra veges or nuts you might find you don't want the KitKat as often? I can't cite any of this but three articles I have read, at least one on the BBC website or The Guardian, state 1. Each body reacts differently to different foods, for example one person's blood sugar levels might spike after eating tomatoes and another's won't, so listening to your own body is most important and you are the ultimate authority on you! 2. Cooking veges very gently (eg. soften in a pan over low heat with the lid on or roast slowly) in good fats like extra virgin olive oil is the most nutritious way of preparing them. 3. Exercising a minimum of 20 mins a day at the level of fast walking might not have obvious immediate results in terms of weight loss but don't give up because before you notice firmer muscles or external weight loss, you will be loosing fat from around your internal organs which is the most dangerous place to have too much fat. I am fascinated with this topic and wish you well on your explorations! I hope they are most of all satisfying and delicious!