Food Substitutions

creamyToday’s topic is food substitutions. You know, this is where health magazines and fitness gurus everywhere tell you “exchange this food for that in order to save X calories.” It typically goes something like this:

  • Skip the triple mocha with heavy whipping cream. Drink a glass of water.
  • Instead of eating that softball-sized muffin, have a small slice of dry toast.
  • Swap out your sixty-four ounce, full octane sugar soda for a thimbleful of lemon juice.

As you can tell from my sarcasm, I have a problem with these things. Actually, two problems:

  1. They’re almost always forehead-slapping obvious.
  2. They don’t address the psychological issues.

And that is how I’d like to help you today. I’d like you to look past the face value of these tips and understand what’s really going on. To help with this, let’s take a look at one I read on recently:

Instead of eating a 4-inch-wide chocolate chip cookie, enjoy four 1-inch squares of dark chocolate.

If there’s a single one of us who hasn’t already heard about all the benefits of dark chocolate, I’d be really surprised. I mean, chocolate? It’s — gasp! — good for us? (Like that little bit of news didn’t travel like wildfire when it first came out.)

But let’s face it: a square of chocolate and a cookie are not the same thing at all. Yeah, maybe if all you’re trying to do is get a chocolate fix, this might help. But if you’re really jonesing for a cookie, this isn’t going to cut it. Then what do you do? Do you drop everything, run to the web to find the perfect diet substitute for a cookie? No, you’re probably just going to eat the cookie and figure out how to pay for it later.

And what about worse examples: like mashing up cauliflower and saying it tastes just like mashed potatoes? Yes: mathematically speaking you have saved a bunch of calories and carbs. But if anyone believes you’ll feel equally satisfied eating a bowl of crap over a bowl of wonderful, hot, steamy, buttery, mashed potatoes with fresh cracked pepper and a fistful of salt, I’d be amazed.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, food substitutions. Don’t let me get off on potato tangents like that again.

The bottom line is this: you already know what’s good for you and what isn’t. You really do. You don’t need a health magazine to tell you that smothering your pancakes in a gallon of syrup is bad for you and that using a fruit spread is better. You don’t need a fitness guru to remind you that fat free milk has less fat than whole milk. I think we have the basics down by now.

So the next time someone asks, “Would you like a bowl of mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower?” what are you going to do? You know what you should do: but that’s not really the issue, is it?

And that’s my point. The real issue is never addressed.

8 Responses to “Food Substitutions”

Fitness said
September 11, 2008 at 1:35 am

She will cover tips on topics such as eating out, preparing healthy meals for families, healthy eating habits, quick snacks, organic foods, and more. Fitness

Charlie said
September 11, 2008 at 6:44 am

Fitness … what? You didn’t finish that last sentence. Don’t leave me hanging! I hate when a robot comes by and doesn’t finish its message!

Rachael said
September 11, 2008 at 7:22 am

Who is she??

Oh, and Charlie, I love the pointless points. πŸ™‚

Rozi said
September 11, 2008 at 12:10 pm

I get tired of articles that tell me that if I do this or that, I save 100 calories a (take your pick) week, or day, or month and I will lose 5, 10, 25 pounds a year. Have any tests done to prove that you lose any at all? My body simply seems to adjust. Anyway they always say things like give up sugared sodas which I havent had since Tab first came out. Big help!!!

Charlie said
September 11, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Oddly enough, Rozi, you just reminded me that I never really got around to one of my main points: the fact that these things don’t work. Sure, mathematically they’re correct. If I knock off 50 calories from ten different items, then I’ve saved 500 calories. But have I lost any actual weight? Probably not. It’s like money.

If you save $50 on ten different purchases, you’ve saved $500 bucks. But in the end will you actually have $500 extra in your bank account at the end of the year? Doubtful.

Why? Because the whole point of saving is spending. If you save $50 on one purchase, you’ll give yourself permission to go $50 over on your next one. Same with food. Skip the chips for lunch and you’ve suddenly justified the extra scoop of ice cream for dinner.

Anyway, the bottom line is being mathematically correct doesn’t help much when you don’t factor in the psychological components.

Jennifer said
September 12, 2008 at 9:51 am

I tried the cauliflower mashed potatoes hoping I could eat unlimited bowls of it. Creamy, wonderful, warm, buttery “mashed potatoes”. Boy was I wrong! They were the most disgusting thing I had ever tasted! Next time, I will eat the real stuff! I’ve kind of made a decision about cheese too. I’m eating real cheese from now, not the fake fat free, doesn’t melt, tastes gross when all I really want is a little real cheese!

Tracy said
September 12, 2008 at 6:14 pm

i wish i’d stop seeing those food substitutions everywhere. it just reminds me that there are more things to eat. i personally would eat the dark chocolate square because its good for me and tasty. THEN i would eat the cookie to treat myself for making a good food choice with the dark chocolate. i’d win twice πŸ™‚
love me some dry toast, you know whats better? put blueberry spread on it with some butter and a side of blueberry muffin.
shoulda had a v8

Erik said
September 14, 2008 at 8:01 pm

A calorie counting website I’m on just suggested substituting onions for red wine. Somehow I don’t think that substitution is really going to be all that useful.