Ever wonder what a medical professional would say if you were actually honest about how many beers you had per week—or how few vegetables? To find out, I tracked my diet for a workweek and asked Shelby Cox, director of clinical services for Colorado State University’s Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center, to pass judgment on my consumption. She (perhaps too happily) obliged.
*Cox’s answers are denoted with asterisks
8:45 a.m.: Eggs, chicken sausage, whole-wheat toast with butter, orange juice, coffee*
10:30 a.m.: Kind bar
1 p.m.: Chicken noodle soup, Coca-Cola Zero
3:25 p.m.: Dark chocolate candy bar, apple, Lärabar
7:30 p.m.: Pork tenderloin and baked potatoes, IPA, Halo Top mint chip mini pop
8:22–8:54 p.m.: 2 IPAs**
*You’re generally eating consistently throughout the day and starting the day with breakfast. This is important to regulate energy and appetite, helps reduce overeating, and allows you to be more intentional about your food choices.
**Besides the added nonnutritive calories, alcohol is linked to a number of short- and long-term risks, including high blood pressure and various cancers. Moderate consumption is considered one drink per day for women and two for men, which you exceeded here.
8:45 a.m.: Eggs, chicken sausage, whole-wheat toast with butter, orange juice, coffee, Kind bar
12:09 p.m.: Chicken noodle soup, roll, Coca-Cola Zero, apple
3:30 p.m.: Kind bar
7:30 p.m.: Burger, french fries, lemonade, Halo Top mint chip mini pop*
*Sometimes, due to the health claims and marketing of “healthy alternatives,” people believe they are healthier than the real thing. They may be lower in calories, but that’s not always equal to healthy; they tend to be highly processed and have high sugar alcohol content, which can be hard on the gastrointestinal system. This also encourages eating a larger volume because “you can.”
8:45 a.m.: Eggs, chicken sausage, whole-wheat toast* with butter, orange juice, coffee
11:00 a.m.: Peach, Chick-fil-A grilled chicken sandwich, french fries, Diet Coke, Kind bar
4:50 p.m.: Honey Bunches of Oats, apple
7 p.m.: Grilled chicken breast, broccoli, rice, Halo Top mint chip mini pop
*The recommendation is at least 50 percent of grains coming from whole-grain sources, which provide fiber for digestion and heart health in addition to antioxidants and other nutrients like iron, zinc, and magnesium. You’re not quite there, but it looks like you’re getting at least one serving per day most days.
8:30 a.m.: Eggs, chicken sausage, whole-wheat toast with butter, orange juice, coffee
1 p.m.: Chipotle Mexican Grill steak bowl,* Coca-Cola Zero
1:30 p.m.: RxBar**
8 p.m.: Barbecue (ribs, brisket, and pulled pork), cornbread, green beans, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream
8–10:15 p.m.: IPA, brown ale, Junior Mints, witbier
*Most of your protein sources aren’t lean, meaning your intake of saturated fat—which is linked to increased cholesterol and lipid profiles—is pretty high. You should incorporate fish twice per week to get adequate omega-3s; they boost heart and brain health and reduce inflammation.
** You eat a lot of bars as quick snacks. They can be useful tools, but it is important to make good choices. Minimal-ingredient options such as RxBars or Lärabars are preferred, and it’s better to choose a bar (or any snack) that includes both carbs and protein, an important balance to achieve satiety and lasting energy—which should be the point of snacking.
8 a.m.: Eggs, English muffin with butter and jam, coffee
1:30 p.m.: Ham sandwich, tortilla soup, Ritz crackers, Coca-Cola Zero, pretzels and peanut butter, plum,* chocolate chip cookie
7 p.m.: Barbecue (ribs and chicken), baked beans, french fries, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, witbier
*Fruits and vegetables are critical sources of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You’ve got a solid intake of the former, but the latter could be increased dramatically. (You’re consuming about a serving a day, and the recommendation is three.) A variety of fruits and vegetables is important—eat the rainbow!—because the antioxidants found in the deep, dark pigments in their skins help protect your body from damage to cells, protein, and DNA that can occur as a result of stress and free radicals, the unstable atoms that contribute to aging.