Condiments & Other Foods: Are You Overwhelmed with Too Many Choices?
What if you think a certain food is great, but it is really laced with hidden sugar or grains that you didn’t know about? As Barry Schwartz talks about in The Paradox of Choice, too many options can lead to over analysis and can create a crummy situation. Simply, more is often less.
As we are bombarded by countless options to purchase at the grocery store, you almost have a heart attack just thinking about food. Many of these foods are less than spectacular.
In Barry Schwartz’s Ted Talk, he mentions that in his local grocery store he is facing 285 choices on cookies, 75 iced teas, 230 soups, and 175 dressings. If you went out to pick up just those four items alone, you are talking about 860 million different combinations you could choose from. Talk about being smothered.
After a while it gets confusing and depressing enough that you give up and go back to eating what you comfortably ate before: pasta and donuts, or whatever you love.
With so many options it is easy to have mental paralysis. This is what I call the Hamlet Complex. You outthink yourself out of action. You freeze and go back to what you have been comfortable with in the past because it is easy.
Making changes can be hard, especially when so many options are thrown at you. Stick to what we are sharing here at Know My Body and be patient with getting the results you want. You will see results, even if they don’t come in the way you expect or as soon as you expect.
The other burden with all of these food choices is that we end up less satisfied with so many to choose from. When you have all of these options, you assume your result will be great and fit you perfectly. Your expectations become skewed and biased. You think you will find the perfect food and it will cause you to lose 30 pounds in a half hour.
The honest trust is that there is no perfect food. Even the best stuff is imperfect.
For instance, fruit and vegetables still come with fructose in it. Then after you have made this complicated choice in the food aisle you think, “I could have done better.” It becomes so much easier to regret your choice and start second guessing yourself. This only leads to more anxiety and depression. Don’t do it.
As Barry Schwartz says jokingly, “The secret to happiness is low expectations.”
Even if you pick an imperfect food, forget it and move on to the next option and try to do better in the future. This isn’t about winning each battle, but winning the whole war.
With all of these complex choices, the grocery aisle can become daunting. Take a deep breathe and remember to stick to a few basic foods when you go shopping:
- Animal protein
- Fats such as fatty animal meat, avocado, macadamia nuts, and oils like olive, palm, sunflower, and coconut.
It isn’t always that simplistic, but that is about as close to simplistic as you can get. Let’s talk about healthy condiments and those you should stay away from.
What Should You Stay Away From?
Most Sauces or Dressings: I would stay away from all of the sauces and dressings that are creams or filled with sugar. This includes all of those creamy dressings, ketchup, mayo, miracle whip, etc. These processed additions are either spiking insulin or causing gut irritation, possibly both. Salsa, sugar free mustard, or guacamole are fine.
Creams: Whether coffee cream, creamer, cool whip, or whipped cream, all of them are in the dairy family and comes with those gut irritation issues. Quite a few have sugar as well.
Now It Seems Like No Options!
Now I know some of you will start leaning the other way and say it isn’t that much of a variety. That just simply isn’t true. There are countless meats, fruits, and vegetables you can eat. You can add a ton of variety with oils, herbs, and spices.
First, let’s look at oils. Here are some of the best condiments:
Olive Oil: This oleic acid in olive oil is great for cooking in high heat. I would get the large container at Costco for cooking. Make sure that is extra-virgin, cold pressed olive oil.
Some, like my mom, even recommend getting a pricey bottle of olive oil for salad dressings or anything you eat cold without cooking in high heat. (Yes I just referenced my mom.) These more expensive bottles of olive oil tend to be higher in phenolics which are compounds high in antioxidants. I also like it more because it has a “thinner” taste.
I am not a “foody”, so I don’t know if “thinner taste” is the right term. Forgive me. If you are a connoisseur of oils, then you know what I am talking about. As Robb Wolf mentions, Pacific Sun provides a high quality olive oil brand that would work well. You can find quality brands at places like Good Earth, Sunflower Market, Whole Foods Market, etc.
Coconut Oil:This is a short-chained, saturated fatty acid that is high in lauric acid. This is great for helping remove gut irritation from years of eating grains.
If you are cooking in high temperatures this is a good choice as well. Compared to a polyunsaturated choice like canola oil, it has lower oxidation potential in high heat.
It is also fairly balanced between omega-3 and omega-6’s. Tropical Traditions has several options for you to buy. It doesn’t have the LDL cholesterol problem because it is neither high in palmitic acid or providing the dangerous small, dense LDL which causes the major cardiovascular problems of plaque and hypertension.
Palm Oil: Palm oil is high in lauric acid, which helps with the gut irritation issues brought on by grains, dairy, and legumes. They also do a solid job of balancing omega-3 and omega-6 levels.
Sunflower Oil: As we mentioned, sunflower is a great for any high heat cooking. There are two kinds to look for: high-oleic sunflower oil and high-stearic sunflower oil. They help to balance omega-3 and omega-6 levels as well.
Herbs and Spices
Some of the best gluten free condiments you can include in your meals are herbs and spices. They can take food to another level and add variety. Initially people get concerned about flexibility with a diet based around protein, vegetables, and fats, with sides of fruits and nuts. They are worried it is too bland.
First, stop being stuck on the paradox of choice and become best friends with herbs and spices. This can help overcome those feelings of the meals being mundane. Just by testing out different herbs and spices, you are talking about countless different tasting meals.
Let’s say you picked 5 meats, 5 vegetables, 5 fats, and 15 spices. That would be about 15,000 different meals. Being we eat about 1,000 meals a year, it would take us 15 years before we repeated a meal.
Considering all of the meats, vegetables, fats, fruits, herbs and spices that are out there, you could easily go a lifetime without seeing the exact same meal twice.
In all reality, it is common for us to stick to a few meals consistently because we don’t like to complicate things. We don’t like the paradox of choice. So by having these herbs and spices, it can be the ace in the hole you need to keep you from going back to sugar and grains.
You want to have at least 15 herbs and spices on hand to give you options. I would even double that and test out 30 or so. They tend to be cheap and can add so much to otherwise bland food.
There are a variety of herbs and spices you can include as low carb condiments:
- black pepper,
- chili powder,
- Italian seasoning,
- thyme and
- vanilla to name a few.
What About Salt and Pepper?
Pepper is just fine. Salt on the other hand can be a bit more of a concern. As you start removing grains and other carbs, you tend to excrete more sodium. It will pull the water out of your body and the blood pressure will go down. At the same time it is probably safer to avoid salt, especially if you have any hypertension (high blood pressure) issues. This also includes soy sauces, which has a good deal of sodium chloride.
With that said, salt can help give people energy if they are suffering from low levels of cortisol in their adrenal glands. That translates into salt can help give you energy. So the bottom line is salt won’t impact fat loss, can help energy, but it can negatively impact you if you are already struggling from high blood pressure.
So let’s say you are a busy person and you don’t have the time to cook or you are in a hurry. There are a few places where you can get snacks if you are on the run. A solid place online is Paleo Brands. They offer a couple versions of beef jerkey and almond raisin paleo cookies. Don’t go overboard on these things. Again they are not ideal and maybe one every couple of days or once a week.
Make Your Choices Easy
So as a reminder don’t get caught up in choices. Instead focus on what you should be eating: animal protein, fruit, vegetables, and fat. Include herbs, spices, and oils in your meals and you should be doing just fine.
Don’t expect this to be perfect. Eat your best and forget the rest. And if you really want to be satisfied, look to give some of your healthy food away to others that are in need of it like Schwartz mentions.
It will help you stay lean as you reinforce your belief in good food and it will also help you be happier.