Good Calories, Bad Calories

On Thursday I spent my afternoon listening to Gary Taubes at University Of Washington. Gary is author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, and has had a very successful journalism career exposing bad science. His talk gave background and analysis of research on ‘science of why we get fat’. You can watch this talk online.

I was attracted to Good Calories, Bad Calories sometime last year, primarily owing to my co-workers and friends (Chris, Lowell and Keith). Lowell is a very passionate ambassador of low-carb diet, he infact lost over 90 pounds in a year and a half by just changing his diet! The book is a dense read and I have barely finish first part.

I haven’t really switched to a low-carb diet, but Maris (specially) and myself have been looking in to ways to improve our vegetarian diets. The food in America is no way tuned for a healthy vegetarian diet. Maris researched on the protein aspects of the diet and came up with the idea of putting soy powder in curries. In fact she even bought a whole recipe book for tofu powdered cooking. The next culinary exploration we are going to try is vegetable smoothies.

As you will notice all our exploration has been to add protein to our vegetarian diets and eat more of leafy vegetables. But what i would take away from Gary’s book and talk is to actually try reducing the bad carbohydrates in our diets especially sugar, bread and white rice! I did end up asking a question along these lines to Gary and his frank answer was that he is not a good spokesperson for a vegetarian low-carb diet (given that all his bread substitutes are meaty/fatty), however one of his strongest proponent and friend is a vegan and he has seen improvements in health by reducing carbohydrates.

So what are bad carbohydrates?

  • Starches (esp. Fructose)  and Sugars
  • Bread
  • Pasta

What should a vegetarian substitute these with?

  • Soy  products
  • Green leafy vegetables

Any tips?

  • Start by reducing rice and bread in diet in lieu of salad!
  • Introduce the morning vegetable breakfast smoothie !!

The strongest criticism of low-carb diet is that the fat substitutes (esp. meat) are bad for your heart and will increase risk for Heart Attack. For a vegetarian this is not really the case and any reduction is carb is good!! :).

Any suggestions for good calories for vegetarian? Feel free to comment away!!

5 thoughts on “Good Calories, Bad Calories

  1. I recommend “Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet”. The original edition which is probably more than 25 years old was great at recommending food combinations that balanced protein and food groups. The food group I most ignored was beans.


  2. There is no magic soy powder cooking, there is just plain tofu – I’ve been adding silken tofu to curries (and smoothies). I think the most calorie dense substitute could be more beans/lentils, along with whole milk products, I think Taubes had a good point that it is not trivial to eat then a normal amount of calories a day if one cuts out carbs on a vegetarian diet.


  3. The key is to find out what a “normal” amount of calories per day is for your individual lifestyle and then work within that range. The “average” is frequently too much on days when I don’t exercise but on days when I do, it’s too little and I can get a headache or just feel sleepy. I’ve found the the recipes on the PCC web site can be quite good even if used just as a jumping off point to combining some ingredients in a new way. You have to enjoy the food that you’re eating and that also often gets lost in the process of attempting to count calories or grams of protein.


  4. @Ray Hayes:

    It’s not about calories. It’s about what those calories are composed of. If they are composed primarily of simple/processed carbohydrates, your body will tend to store those calories as fat, rather than burn them. Over time, this will lead to fat accumulation in many people.


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