Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Less Waste = Smaller Waist Diet

I have been working on developing my thoughts about the concept of a "Less-Waste, Smaller Waist Diet" for a while. This isn't just a gluten-free diet or Celiac Disease diet concept, but a diet that can fit into anyone's life, presuming they are willing to give it a try. And, I have been putting it into practice for quite a few months now.

Basically the concept is that if what you eat produces little or no (non-compostable) waste, then you are likely to be eating a much healthier diet. And, a healthier diet will likely keep the waistline in check through reduced calorie and fat intake.

Hopefully you already compost your organic / biodegradable waste when at all possible, and are used to the concept. If not, here's a quote from the WorldWise definition of compostable:
A product that is "compostable" is one that can be placed into a composition of decaying biodegradable materials, and eventually turn into a nutrient-rich material.
The Proposed Diet / Concept
So, let's get started with what fits into this Less-Waste, Less-Waist (or Smaller-Waist) diet, with a focus on what will also clearly fit within the confines of the Gluten-Free Diet.

I've been ranking food choices
in order of which has the optimal health/waste ratio (optimal foods at beginning of list show below, then decreasingly suitable foods as you move down the list), and I've also considered the challenges to each:
  1. Home-Grown Fresh Vegetables and Fruit and Herbs. Not only do you typically consume a large portion of the fruit or vegetable eaten, but anything left over is fully compostable organic waste. This category is most certainly "safe" from a gluten-free standpoint, and, you can even make your own Fruit Juices (and/or vegetable juices).

    Of course, this food group is relatively low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients - great for minimizing that waist! In warmer climates, you may be lucky enough to grow Avocados and Olives too, which will add healthy oils to the mix! (sadly, that's not an option here in Ohio)

    (Large) Challenge: many of us may not have space to grow enough to eat, even if we were to convert our lawns to gardens. And, for those of us in Northern States, our growing season is quite limited. And, even if we can grow enough of our own gluten-free diet foods, we can freeze some for later, but this requires electricity to keep them frozen for long periods of time.

  2. Home-Grown Tree nuts - in many parts of the country, it is possible to produce tree nuts with heart-healthy Omega 3's (like Walnuts, and to a lesser degree Almonds and Pecans), and the trees don't need quite the attention a garden would, and can coexist with your grass yard. Nuts are rather easy to harvest and store (aside from competition from squirrels!), and can be turned into a great gluten-free baking ingredient (nut meals) too!

    (Large) Challenge: again, growing acreage is a problem. Also, if you don't have established trees, this is a long-term investment / commitment proposition.

  3. The above, but purchased from a farmer or retailer with minimal packaging (none if possible). Focus on local sources first if possible, and organic if possible and affordable - since, local sources require less energy-waste for transportation, and organic growing methods should minimize the negative environmental impact of petroleum-based fertilizers.

    Challenge: in Northern regions and other inhospitable growing-zones, year-round supply of locally or regionally sourced items it going to be rough, and organic options are likely to be even more difficult to find and probably more expensive.

  4. Whole Grains and flours - gluten-free grains like Quinoa, Sorghum, Rice, Corn, Millet, Buckwheat, Teff, etc., are all fine in our diets, especially in their least processed form that offers the most health benefits for us (and for our waists, blood-sugar levels, gastrointestinal tracts, and more), and least wasteful overall. Any leftovers that will not be consumed are also fully compostable.

    Challenge: to keep waste down, minimizing packaging and transportation are important, but can be a difficult task when there are minimal certified gluten-free diet options available.

  5. Dairy products and meats. This is where my "less waste" objective really starts meeting substantial challenges. Fact is, you could live on just the items early in this list - meaning: vegans manage to live just fine (sure, there are vitamin and nutrient-balance challenges, but it can be done). Just like the diet recommendations from the American Heart Association and others, keeping consumption of meat and dairy items to a minimum is better for you. Likewise, it is less wasteful overall.

    Meat is especially wasteful from an environmental standpoint. It takes many pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat. I've heard that a pound of chicken requires 3 pounds of feed to produce, pork = 5#, and beef = 8# feed per pound of meat. And, it's nearly a given that any meat and milk products you consume have also required large amounts of energy to produce, keep cool, and transport.

    Plus, this food group is bound to be packaged in non-recyclables in many cases. I often see meats packaged in Styrofoam and plastic-wrap. And, though you could (theoretically) compost the leftover organic material, it is generally not recommended as it attracts rodents and can perhaps even spread disease. So, on many accounts, it's not a good fit for my proposed diet.

    But, I understand that these items are important to many diets. I for one enjoy dairy products a lot! I love my gluten-free cheesecakes, flan, custard, puddings, tapioca, and all sorts of cakes, pies, cookies, and so forth that contain dairy products like butter. I know that my less-waist diet is bumping up against a strong, nearly instinctual drive for me to eat these tasty foods :)

    Challenge: to keep waste down, minimizing packaging and transportation are important. See if you can find regionally produced products. And, see if you can purchase products (like milk) in recyclable plastics and be sure to recycle them. Also, for the waist-reduction side of the equation, try to keep the servings of these items down in relation to other more healthful (and less wasteful, less waistful) options.

  6. Processed and Packaged foods and drinks: this category tends to be rough on the waistline and on the waist-line. Gluten-free items or not, most packaged foods (by definition) are going to have packaging that may well not be recyclable. In addition, the "processed" factor implies less "Whole Foods" and more refined carbohydrates (like high-fructose corn sweeteners and starches like potato starch, corn starch, etc.). In addition, the chance of gluten entering the picture always increases the more steps down this diet-prospects list we go.

    Challenge: again, try to minimize consumption of processed foods and reduce non-recyclable packaging. A smaller waist may result!
Summary:
This diet is very much in line with modern guidelines for diets that help improve your health by reducing sodium intake, refined carbohydrate intake, and the like, which should minimize the likelihood of diabetes, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and colon-cancer (to name a few conditions whose incidence can be statistically reduced through proper diet). In addition, I'm trying to target the environmental waste side of the equation while I'm at it, and that works rather well in theory here.

Working from the top-priority diet items on downward in my list, the gluten-free adherence aspect of the diet goes from easiest to most difficult too, which is an interesting and useful correlation.

There are challenges certainly.
I know for a fact I will not eat only what I "should", but will also include what I enjoy as well. But, I am trying to focus on minimized packaging and maximized recycling where possible - though not directly impacting the waistline, this still fits with my "less waste" portion of the diet. I take my reusable canvas bags to the stores all the time now, and bypass all those paper and plastic bags at the checkout. And, I compost everything I can - to reduce the waste-stream that would otherwise be incurring further transportation costs and energy-use to get it to the dump.

Now, the Diet Results
Both my waist, and my waste, have been reduced considerably since I have focused on this approach! I'm gluten-free, and feeling healthy. As with any diet approach, a nice dose of exercise always fits into the plans nicely too, and is recommended.

Hope you find this useful!

5 comments:

Catherine said...

How does this fit with your first resolution to eat more cheesecake? ;)

Orla Hegarty said...

I have been gf for almost a year and in the first month I lost 20 pounds of what I call 'gluten puff'.

I was not overweight before....now I am thin (or perhaps my 'normal' weight).

Gluten puffs us up. Mentally, I believe, too. I noticed that my brain was clearer after a mere two weeks(!). In talking to other gf people...they know what I mean too. It is like the fog of gluten lifts from our bodies AND our minds once we remove it from our bodies.

Great post and great blog. Thanks!

Mike Eberhart said...

Catherine,
I admitted I have a weakness for Dairy products :)

Actually, I don't eat much dairy at all outside of what is in my desserts. I drink soy milk and almond milk almost exclusively, and I consume Yogurt on occasion for the pro-biotics. Lately, the biggest dairy item is the whey-protein I have been using in my various gluten-free baking experiments.

Either way, it's the addiction-factor that leads me to include those "Challenge" statements in the diet for a reason. Perhaps challenge is an understatement?

Orla,
Thanks for sharing your experience and feedback. I know what you mean. I think I dropped about 10 pounds of that "poof" or "puff" initially after starting my gluten-free diet. And, I definitely see a big improvement in mental acuity since, also.

Dianne said...

Hi Mike

Thats a really well thought out, well written article. Thankfully I'm also well on my way to achieving those goals too. I'm currently writing a post along similar lines myself ... you beat me to it!

D

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