What to eat? A Food Recipe Challenge!

In his recent blog post titled, "Learn from Success, Not Failure", author and runner Matthew Patten wrote about a recent conversation he had with someone unsuccessful in their own diet giving him advice on his. Whereas he focused the article on the nature of relationships and where to seek advise base on success or failure in a given subject matter, I couldn't shake the topic of his introductory discussion: diet.

I've been reading up and focusing on diets, the number and variety, over the last week or so. In part for my own edification, but also to understand what my wife is going through. The theories and strategies people employ are innumerable, confusing, contradictory, and even fanatical.  What I assume is "unhealthy" is "scientifically proven" to not only be healthy, but is the way everyone should eat.  Atkins, Paleo, Archevore (Paleo 2.0), South Beach, or something else?  The Hacker's Diet?  What should Meghan be following?

Perhaps the quotes around "scientifically proven" is a bit unfair, since food and diet is probably one of the largest and most prolific bodies of work in the science field.  What I generally have an issue with is how people use and interpret this information, which is often done to push a specific viewpoint or opinion.  With the advent of the internet, information is more readily available to the common person than any other time in history.  How does one approach such a vast set of knowledge and opinion?  How can the gems of objectivity be separated from cruft of subjective opinion?

To frame the discussion, I want to start out with a simple, commonly understood formula regarding weight change:
pounds in weight change = (Calories in - Calories out)/3500
Food Calories are actually kilogram calories (or 1000 calories per gram), but in the interest of brevity, the food industry has chosen to drop the appropriate prefix of kilo.  Maybe it sounded too metric for the American public.  The number 3500 is the estimated number of Calories per pound of human fat.  Calories in are the result of consumption, and Calories out are the result of those burned simply living (eating, sleeping, sitting on the couch) as well as any other exercise or activity you partake in (running, walking to the car, etc).

That's the whole discussion in a nutshell.  To lose weight, you eat less or burn more.  To gain weight, you eat more or burn less.  All diets are ultimately dependent upon this formula, though not all diets focus on it.  In fact, there are very intricate shell games being played in many diets, perhaps to take people's minds off the task at hand, make the "math" easier, or give them a "cheat" every once and a while, a reward.

Some diets play physiological games, forcing your body to change the preferred metabolic pathway to energy.  Atkins forces the initiate into a fatty acid cycle by inducing ketosis in the first two weeks of the diet - denying all but the equivalent of a single banana (27 grams) each day in carbohydrates (max 24 grams).  Given that carbs exist in pretty much every food item, including lean animal meat, you're on an all fat/protein diet for two weeks.

Runners and predominantly aerobic athletes are fortunate to enjoy a sport that requires long a calorie burn.  We equally exercise the glycolitic pathway as (carbs) well as the fatty acid pathway (fats), but we have an entirely different initiation phase... running, running, and more running.  Our benefit is that the "simple formula" of calories in v.s. calories out becomes an afterthought. We're always running, always burning, and in some cases, can't eat enough to keep our weight up. (One of my problems last year.)

So is there something to the whole discussion about "good foods" and "bad foods"?  Is there really something we should be eating v.s. something we shouldn't?  Lots of fat and protein v.s. lots of carbs.  We all want an answer to these questions, but we don't always get them, or rather we get too many of them.  How do you begin to contribute to the discussion without sounding like an advocate or fanatic?

The Challenge
I have an idea, a challenge that will result in an exchanging of tasty knowledge. 
  • Pick a food item and discover the basic nutritional information about it.
  • Take a week and make that food a focus of your meals, discovering or creating four recipes or ways to prepare that item:
    • breakfast
    • lunch
    • dinner
    • snack or desert
  • Optional: Add in the calorie profile for each recipe per serving.
  • Optional: Cheat and reference a recipe from the internet (but give due credit)!
  • Let us know about your approach to diet and why it works (or doesn't work) for you.
I look forward to hearing about what you bring to the table!