This is a brief review of dieting and some dieting options I’ve run across. To note I really don’t eat diet food. I eat regular food in controlled amounts. That isn’t to say my wife hasn’t gone out and bought this diet food or that diet food; she has. But if they look like snacks my daughter eats them, and I have no clue who ate my sugar free jello. So, in practice, I am having a hard time even trying to live on anything specific. I make do with what is at hand.

We’ll start with the 2000 calorie ADA style exchange diet I was given, which was:

13 starch/carb exchanges.
6 vegetable exchanges
10 (lean) meat servings
6 fat servings.

This is a fairly balanced diet, with a ratio of 42% carbs, 24% protein, 34% fat. If you’re not carb restricted, you might want to pull up an exchange calculator (here or here) and try replacing some fat with carbs. I am carb restricted so that’s a reasonable baseline diet for me to work with. If the exchange concept confuses you, the link on the side bar to the ExRx site gets you to a great list of exchanges.

The 1800 calorie exchange diet I was given is not much different, something like:

13 starch/carb exchanges
5 veggies
9 (lean) meat servings
4 fat servings

And right now, according to Web MD, my optimal calorie intake for 1 pound a day weight loss is a just a bit more than 1900 calories. So I can sit anywhere in between 1800 and 2000 and be pretty happy.

The 13 starch/carb exchanges fold in fruit exchanges and milk exchanges. That was kind of mind blowing to me, because I thought meat and milk were more similar than milk and potatoes. But the kicker here are the 12g of carbs in a cup of milk. Yes, milk is full of protein but it’s also full of milk sugars, so it gets lumped into the carbs overall.

With these kinds of diet numbers, I have to eat a lot of meat. It doesn’t matter too much what kind of meat I eat, but keeping track of how much and what kind matters. A single “serving size”, or exchange is usually one ounce. A single lean meat serving has approximately 7g protein and 3g fat. Medium fatty meat has 7g protein and 5g fat. A fat exchange is 5g fat. So, using these definitions, chicken without skin is called a lean meat. Chicken with skin is treated as a medium fatty meat. Salmon is lean meat without skin, I suspect it’s medium fatty with it.

A hot dog is both a medium fat meat exchange and also a fat exchange. It has so much fat two exchanges are needed to handle the “cost” of it. But in hot dogs size matters. The hot dogs served at Target are so big they count as 2 medium fatty meats and two fat exchanges; they’re twice the size of a typical hot dog.

Cheese fits in as filler. When I don’t have the inclination or desire to eat huge servings of meat, I pad my diet with cheese. Since cheese lacks carbs, it’s generally treated as a “meat” in an exchange diet. Lighter cheeses, like the Baby Bel light cheese, have a protein to fat profile similar to lean meat. Baby Bel Lights are 6g protein and 3g fat, so I treat them as a lean meat serving. One mozzarella stick (specifically, Andrew and Everett Mozzarella String cheese) is 8g protein and 5g fat, so mozzarella sticks act as one medium fatty meat exchange.

One ounce of the Kraft reduced fat cheddars are 7g protein and 7g fat, so they fit pretty well as one lean meat plus one fat. Also in this category is parmigiana reggiano, at 9g protein and 8g fat per ounce. Cheddars (a good tasting example is Black Diamond old cheese; Kerry Gold Dubliner is in the “cheddar category”) are usually 7g protein and 10g fat per one ounce serving, so they break down pretty well as one medium fatty meat exchange and one fat exchange. In other words, cheddar is about as good for you as a hot dog, and should be used the same as you might a hot dog in a diet. The light Laughing Cow “pizza slices” are 2.5 g protein and 2 g fat, so if you ate 3 of those, the sum would be 7.5g protein and 6g fat.. pretty close to reduced calorie cheddar. Softer cheeses, like camembert and brie, probably have to be treated in ways similar to hot dogs, as meat-fat hybrids.

At one extreme of the protein to fat cheese scale are products like Alouette Gourmet Cheese spread. They have so little protein and so much fat they’re a pure fat exchange. The other extreme are products like cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is a choice that can be used for no fat, high protein, some carb additions to diets. Another interesting choice are the plain Greek yogurts available. They add servings of milk, but their protein content is so high they are treated as a milk-meat hybrids.

So why not just eat fatty stuff all the time? You can take care of your meat and fat needs at the same time. The answer is you really want some “good fats” in the diet, vegetable based unsaturated fats, and you also want some omega 3 sources in the diet as well (i.e. wild fish). So trying to keep your meat (and cheese) profile as close to lean as possible gives a dieter the versatility to add things like olives, olive oil, nuts and so forth – even chocolate – into the diet. And as can be seen, if you’re a cheese lover, you don’t have to lose out either.

My wife has been wanting to got to Fresh Market ever since a coworker of hers, one with a diabetic husband, recommended it as a place to get things friendly to a diabetic. Now I have been to the Dunwoody Fresh Market. The easy availability of fresh fruits, quality meats, and small portion cheeses doesn’t hurt. However, I tend to think the main supermarkets, such as Publix and Kroger, are better places to get diabetic specialty items, things like sugar free jams and preserves, Glucerna bars, etc.

Anyway, before I tee off on the high end groceries in general, let’s talk a bit about the layout of Fresh Market. On entering you pass through flowers and the bigger editions of these stores have a florist on hand. Next is fresh produce, which is of good quality and tends to be expensive. If you want things like exceptionally sweet carrots or golden raspberries, they have them here. In terms of size, this one is more Trader Joe’s sized than Whole Foods sized, but there are still important differences between Joe’s and Fresh Market.

Unlike Trader Joe’s, the two Fresh Markets I’ve seen have bakeries and a butcher and a good but small collection of fish. There are a lot of prepared sweets in Fresh Market (none of which I can eat) and they have a deli-like section to get things like Boar’s Head meats and high end  cheeses. They have good breads and an above average collection of dairy products. The store in general is full of eye candy and an interesting place to shop.

Are the high end grocers diabetic friendly?

To be brutally honest, I don’t think any high end grocery deserves to be called diabetic friendly, because they’re not. The sheer quantity of unmeasured, excessively rich prepared foods guarantees that. And when they offer prepared foods I can eat, like cooked whole grains, or a beef stew, where are the measuring cups? Tongs  and oversized bowls don’t cut it under these circumstances. Having to walk through these displays to get to cash registers and not having an effective way to partake is almost criminal.

That said, I don’t think they deserve the phrase diabetic unfriendly either. Small portions of protein and fats are key to someone like me being able to keep up my calories outside the home. Nuts, olives, small meat and fish portions and especially low fat cheeses make my quality of life much better. Rich selections of oils add variety to the kinds of food I can eat because two things I can be versatile with are fats and proteins. I can eat almost any vegetable, and it’s hard to eat too many. Fruits I can eat in measured quantities. Some diabetics can fit in the high cocoa chocolates (70% or more) as a calorie boost.

One of my issues when dieting is that I don’t eat enough. One way to boost my caloric input during the 2.5 meals I have to eat at work is to keep canned fish around. Sardines would be perfect, but they are also rich in purines and that doesn’t sit well with my other health issues. I like canned salmon when I can get it. I didn’t find any canned salmon at this Fresh Market but I did find canned mackerel. This Fresh Market has a rich collection of olives, which are diabetes friendly and a wide variety of ounce sized cheeses. They even had Black Diamond, a cheese that in the 1980s was proclaimed by some to be the best cheddar in North America. 3/4 ounce slices make it easy for someone like me to make last minute adjustments in a diet lacking calories, and in the process, I’m not giving up quality taste.

Black Diamond: 7g protein, 10g fat per ounce.

Chips and the diabetic.

I’d have to say finding how how diabetic sensitive tortilla and potato chip labels are to diabetes was an accident, and I’ll note that Jeff’s article on Adventurous Tastes, titled “Is the Serving Size Game Coming to an End?” was a key to noticing this. He was complaining about how stupid chip labeling is, that they use a portion size that’s ridiculous. I was agreeing with Jeff and while doing so, actually read the label and noticed the magic number: 15 grams of carbs. 15 grams of carbs is one starch exchange, the size of a single serving for a diabetic.  All I can conclude is that someone in the chip industry has diabetes, or a relative with diabetes.

Recently I went to the closest Walgreens to me and looked at the carb portion of a single serving size of every bag of chips, tortillas, tortilla scoops and popcorn I could find All of them had a serving size whose carbs ranged from 13 gram of carbs to 19 grams of carbs, and a substantial plurality were dead on 15 grams of carbs. So, it appears to be an industry wide phenomenon.