Food Plan FAQ

GENERAL QUESTIONS:

Do any foods count as “free” in the Live-it?

We don’t have a “free foods list”, but there are definitely things like mustard, ketchup, and other low-calorie condiments that do not really need to be counted as they are not a threat to maintaining one’s calorie range for the day. Also, many behavioral therapists do not agree with the “free food” idea as it can lead to people consuming more calories than they think they are.

A general rule of thumb is that if something has under 20 calories and is consumed in one portion (not three, which would be 60 calories) it’s not really worth worrying about. But again, this requires critical thinking and discretion of the individual. Reading labels is a fundamental skill in First Place for Health and we want people to use that tool to help provide them with the information they need to make healthy choices.

I noticed on the MyPlate.org website, it includes “discretionary calories”. What are they, and does the Live-it Plan have them too?

You only need a certain number of cups, ounces and teaspoons of foods and oils to obtain adequate nutrition (vitamins, minerals and carbohydrate, protein and fat). The calories provided from these foods are the “essentials”, if you will. These are the minimum calories required to meet your nutrient needs. Then you have some “extra” calories that are important for providing you with enough energy. Think of it like a calorie budget – most of the budget is dedicated to essentials and the rest is for extras. These extras are things like higher-fat choices from the food groups and occasional sweet treats.

Instead of giving a discretionary calorie amount for each calorie range, we decided to add those calories in and distribute them for you across the food groups. For example, instead of recommending someone on a 1500-1600 calorie diet consume 1.5 cups of fruit and 5 ounces of grains, we increased these amounts to 1.5-2 cups and 5-6 ounces, respectively. We did this to encourage balance and made the assumption that people will make choices from each group that span from the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie items to the higher-fat, higher-calorie items.

Basically, if you follow the LOWEST levels of each range in numbers of servings from each of the groups and made the lowest calorie choices (avoiding “caution” sections), you would have about 100 “discretionary” calories per day to use for most of the calorie levels.

Why aren’t the cups, ounces, and teaspoons listed with the recipes online or with the Bible Studies?

Actually, we have not given you the cups, ounces and teaspoons for the recipes because we want you to learn how to do it yourself, using the information for each group in My Place for Nutrition (what counts as a cup, what counts as an ounce, etc.), visual cues (the size of the palm of your hand is ~3oz. meat), and reading labels and ingredients lists. If we gave you all of that information then we’d be cheating you out of learning how to do it when you’re at a restaurant or perhaps a friend’s house for dinner. When you have a recipe of your own, you would do the same thing– take each main ingredient and divide by the number of servings it provides. For example, 12 ounces of chicken used in a recipe that serves 6 would yield ~2 oz. per serving, and 3 cups of cooked noodles would yield a ½-cup serving.

Of course, if you follow the two weeks of “Jump Start” menus/recipes found in each Bible study exactly as written, the numbers of servings provided from each food group have already been calculated FOR you, so you could just write “followed Jump Start menus” on your tracker for that week and record the daily totals listed for the 1300-1400 calorie level.

Is this program suitable for people living with diabetes?

Our program is most certainly suitable for most anyone with proper tailoring if needed. Someone living with diabetes can still follow our recommendations, but choose, for example, less starchy vegetables and more green ones to reduce the carbohydrate intake from that group (generally, each ½ cup serving of starchy vegetable counts as 1 “carb” serving for diabetics”). The same thing goes with the meat & beans group – more animal protein (very low in carbohydrate) may be required as opposed to beans, lentils, and other starchy vegetables that are high in carbohydrate as well as protein. Our recommendations are very similar to the ADA’s plan, with the exception that starchy vegetables are considered “carbs” in that program, and in ours they are simply listed as starchy vegetables. Simply, in our plan foods are not grouped based on their carbohydrate content, but rather on the nutrients they provide.

Carbohydrate counting has become one of the easiest ways for people living with diabetes to eat a variety of foods yet still maintain control over how many grams of carbohydrate they take in daily. Should you have a diabetic in your class, they need to consult their doctor, of course, then be proactive in counting carbs and reducing their intake of starchy vegetables and refined carbohydrates. We talk a lot about quality and quantity throughout our materials. Quality carbohydrates (such as whole grains, fresh fruit, and an assortment of vegetables) are completely appropriate for someone living with diabetes. When they begin choosing less quality choices and in higher quantities, that is when the problem begins.

How do I determine a calorie range for myself?

Instructions for determining a healthy calorie range for yourself are found in My Place for Nutrition, pg. 10.

Is the program suitable for compulsive over-eaters? Do you eliminate certain “trigger foods” from the plan?

Our program is a very safe and general approach to healthy and balanced eating. We do not follow hard and fast rules about cutting out specific foods altogether, but we do encourage people to make those decisions for themselves if they feel that a particular food is triggering them to overeat. We have also taken the extra step with the new materials to designate certain high fat/high sugar foods as “Caution” foods, many of which would be considered “trigger” foods by many. You would be provided direction on how to modify your environment (pantry, fridge, etc.) for the goals you want to accomplish, but as far as making those kinds of rules for everyone – we do not. Our long-term goal is for people to live without fear of food and see food as neither good nor bad, but just food. Moderation is our big theme – that all foods can have a place in a healthy diet, but not all foods should have a prominent place.

Can or should we count calories?

If you prefer to keep track of your calories on your Live It Tracker (or using an online tool or phone app), this is perfectly fine, but not required. We’ve found that keeping a running total of one’s calories for the day can be very helpful for certain personalities. We offer quite a few methods of quantifying your choices – cups/ounces/teaspoons, calories, visual cues, etc. Use what works for you best, but definitely keep in mind the goal to eat a variety of foods each day and balance them among the food groups and oils.

I want to understand better how to spread my calories throughout the day. How do I go about doing this?

When it comes to spreading your calories throughout the day, flexibility is a good thing to keep in mind. If you plan on having three meals and two snacks don’t think that you have to equally divide your calories into 5 segments. Meals should be a bit more than snacks, usually, but there will definitely be days when certain meals are larger than others. Dividing your calories among your day’s meals and snacks is simply giving you a ballpark estimate so you are aware of what is appropriate for you each time you sit down to eat. For example, someone on a 1500-1600 calorie range would likely figure ~100-150 kcal for snacks and ~400-450 kcal for meals, in general. Then, when they eat out and look at the nutrition facts for an item on the menu, they can automatically know if the item is too high, too low, or just right.

LIVE-IT TRACKER QUESTIONS:

For combination foods, how do I break them down into the groups?

Mixed dishes, like casseroles, have always required some educated estimation, especially if you are eating away from home and do not have access to the recipe. There are a few ways of doing this. If you do have access to the recipe, you could always divide each of the main ingredients by the number of servings provided to figure out how much of each is provided. For example, in a lasagna recipe you could divide the ounces of pasta, ounces of meat, cups of vegetables, teaspoons of oil, and ounce-equivalents of cheese, cups of tomato sauce, and divide by the number of servings. This would give you a pretty accurate estimate of how many cups, ounces and teaspoons you’re getting for each group. If you are eating a casserole at a friend’s house and feel comfortable asking about the ingredients used (most people LOVE to be asked for their recipes!), you can do the same thing. When eating somewhere that you are not “sure” of the ingredients (for example a restaurant buffet or church potluck), it is often better to stay with the simpler choices (plain meats, vegetables without sauces, etc.) to avoid consuming too many “mystery” calories, but, if you really would like to try something, opt for a small portion and do your best to quantify the ingredients for your Live-it Tracker using visual cues.

For foods like a granola bars or other prepackaged products, you are encouraged to ask yourself two simple questions. The first question you need to answer is whether or not the product is a quality one. Some granola bars contain soy protein which is a very lean, cholesterol-free, quality source of protein. Some include nuts which would provide healthy oils, and some include granola and oatmeal which provides servings of whole grain. Read the label. If sugar is one of the first two or three ingredients listed, I would find another one lower in sugar. Secondly, ask yourself whether or not the total calories are appropriate for you given your calorie range for the day. For instance, you probably wouldn’t want to eat a 300 calorie granola bar as a “snack”! If you determine that the calories are acceptable, and whole grains are the first thing listed in the ingredients, start with counting it as a grain, and use weight in ounces to determine how many ounces of grain to record. You may also look at the grams of carbohydrate. One ounce of grain typically contains about 15 grams. Then look for the fat grams. Every 5 grams of total fat in a grain product counts as 1 teaspoon of fat. These are just general rules. Don’t “over-analyze” and stress over it.

GRAIN GROUP QUESTIONS:

How do I know if something is one ounce, especially if the nutrition facts panel shows it in grams?

28 grams equals 1 solid ounce. Therefore, if the label has grams listed, just convert to ounces by dividing the number of grams on the label by 28.

DAIRY GROUP QUESTIONS:

Which yogurts are best for me?

For a yogurt to be a good source of calcium, it needs to contain at least 15-20% DV for calcium, the amount you would typically get from a 6 oz serving. NOTE: This is equal to the calcium in ½ -2/3 cup of milk.

Not all Greek yogurts are created equal:   Greek yogurt by nature should be higher in protein and fat because of how it is made. Many people like this because the protein makes them feel more “full” and satisfied than regular yogurt, holding their hunger level under control better. Some yogurts say they are “Greek style” because of alterations in texture, but actually are NOT true Greek yogurt. An easy way to confirm is to look at the protein content. Most Greek yogurts have 10-12 grams of protein per serving. Some of the “Greek-style” ones have only 5-6 grams.

Look for the “Live and Active Culture” seal which means that at least 100 million bacterial cultures per gram are present at the time of manufacture.

Try to avoid yogurts with extensive, long ingredient lists!

Pay attention to HIGH sugar content in some yogurt. Some of the “sugar” is lactose from the milk itself (12 grams in 1 cup milk), but many have lots of sugar added in the form of table sugar, fructose, “evaporated cane juice”, honey, or even maple syrup, causing some to have as many as 30 grams of sugar (almost 8 teaspoons) per serving. You may want to choose yogurts with artificial sweeteners, but if you are avoiding artificial sweeteners, one Greek yogurt that has been noted for low sugar without artificial sweeteners is Stonyfield Oikos Nonfat (only 16 grams sugar). Stonyfield Farm only uses fruit or vegetable juices for coloring (no artificial food dyes) if you are concerned about those.

Why is the one cup equivalent for cottage cheese so much?

Yes, the ratio for cottage cheese to milk is 2:1 – that is because 2 cups of cottage cheese contains the same amount of calcium as 1 cup of milk. However, we are not suggesting that 2 cups for your typical portion! A common portion would be more like ½ cup cottage cheese – which would count as ¼ cup milk. In the Live-it Plan, foods are categorized by the predominant nutrients they offer. In the dairy group, this nutrient is calcium.

PROTEIN GROUP QUESTIONS:

It looks like I have less protein than I should. Please explain this.

Americans only need about 20% of their total daily calories to come from protein. This is substantially less than what the typical American consumes. We obtain protein from a variety of sources other than animal protein (chicken, meat, fish). For example, you get 3 grams of protein for every serving of whole grain, 8 grams for every 8 ounce glass of milk, and various amounts from vegetarian sources of protein like beans, nuts, and legumes. Thus, our program is designed to provide you with protein from various sources – not just meat and beans. Although it may be less than what you’re used to consuming, our recommendations follow that of the USDA and they include ample amounts of protein.