Five Forbidden Foods

Now and then people ask me what I eat during boxing training. But I don’t have a training diet different from my regular diet. I follow The Zone, which is primarily a way of eating that controls your insulin production. Since that sounds like a complicated answer (and it is, a bit) I often find it’s easier to tell them that there are five foods I almost never eat:

I rarely eat potatoes, rice, bread, corn, or pasta.

And I’ve also eliminated many of the refined sugars and oils I used to take in.

This causes some shock to most people, and the truth is that these foods aren’t utterly forbidden; I do actually eat them on rare occasion. But the fact of the matter is that these five foods once made up about 80% of my diet (as they do for most Americans) and they are all high-density carbohydrates that shoot your insulin through the roof because our bodies just don’t need the level of energy they deliver at the speed they deliver it. Therefore most of their fueling power is wasted and simply goes into storage as fat. And you are left, an hour or so later, with the inevitable crash followed by the desire to get another fix in order to recover.

Sounds like a drug, doesn’t it? And it’s not a bad metaphor.

Our bodies just haven’t evolved to handle this kind of abuse, which is why eating practices like the Zone are also called the paleolithic, or caveman diet. You’ll also find it in Crossfit nutrition.

The One-Third, Two-Thirds Meal Plan

The way I approach it is pretty simple. At every meal, I eat one-third lean protein (no bigger than my palm and no thicker) and two-thirds vegetables and fruits that are low on the glycemic load scale. This means these fruits and vegetables are typically lower in carbs and higher in fiber than other fruits and vegetables.

At the top of the list of favorable fruits are berries of every variety, and at the top of the list of favorable veggies are just about everything except corn and white potatoes (although carrots are down there at the bottom, too). Pretty simple.

The idea is to not only eat the right foods, but to also eat them in correct ratios of protein to carbs, since they work together.

If I have wine (high sugar and carbs), I pair it with a low-fat cheese (protein). If I have chicken I pair it with kale or mushrooms or steamed apples or something else delicious, always in the one-third protein, two-thirds veggies/fruits arrangement. There’s Eggables omelettes (which are lower in fat) stuffed with veggies, turkey meatballs paired with asparagus and bell peppers, and even fruit smoothies with protein powder to enjoy. Once you get used to it, it seems incredibly easy and obvious.

About twice a week I will eat a roll-up (about the only bread I ever take in) with lean ham, melted cheese and a pile of nutritious spinach. Or a slice of whole grain filled-with-seeds toast.

I’m also a huge fan of fruit (low-density carbs) and cottage cheese (protein) or plain yogurt (protein). I typically add almonds for some good fats.

And I do splurge.

I love M&M’s but I’m able to eat only ten. I adore Funyuns, and will buy a lunchbox-sized bag to enjoy once in a rare while. I like microwave popcorn, which is filled with empty carbs and bad fats. And I would choose Barnum’s Animal Crackers over birthday cake any day of the year. The trick with all your splurges is to have them, but understand what they are, and have them rarely.

Eating this way means I have to shop more frequently for the fresh produce, but it also means most of my visits to the grocery are faster, since I mostly shop the perimiter of the store and skip most of the aisles. And it’s a huge leap forward in healthy nutrition, and it supports my boxing, which is it’s own motivation.

And I do read labels. High-fructose corn syrup is in nearly everything. I avoid most processed foods, particularly breads and cereals (except whole oats, which are one of the few good grains — pair it with half an apple and a round of Canadian bacon). I rarely drink juice or soda, both of which are crammed with empty sugars, although I will have a diet Dr. Pepper once in a while.

If you want to read more, I encourage you to pick up one of the Zone Cookbooks, which I’ve been using for quick and simple ideas ever since I started eating this way. It helps you get out of a food rut when you can pick up your cookbook and see a dozen new ways to plan some meals at a glance.

The nicest thing about all of it is that you will loose weight and be healthier. And you will do it all without being hungry (a pleasant side effect of keeping your insulin balanced in “the zone”).

So set small goals: try eating one Zone meal each day, and build up until you have your feet under you. And if you screw up, getting back on track is only one meal away.

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7 Responses to Five Forbidden Foods

  1. schooldad May 22, 2009 at 3:32 pm #

    Since I’m married to Lisa, I’m kind of following The Zone diet a little bit, too, though not nearly as strictly as she is. FWIW, the easiest thing for me to do was to simply cut back on potatoes, rice, bread, corn, and pasta. Even though I’m not really trying to lose weight (and those of you who know me understand why), everything Lisa was telling me about what The Zone books said (about the downside of all the high-density carbs we typically eat) made a lot of sense.

    And no, I haven’t eliminated those five foods entirely, but I have cut back on them about 70-80%, and it was remarkably painless. If you’re looking to start eating a Zone-like diet, that’s a pretty good place to start.

  2. Metricula May 22, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! I’m not as organized about my diet as you are, but I noticed a HUGE change when I cut out sodas, processed juices, and most processed foods. I lost weight and gained energy. It’s great! I’m still trying to cut out more grains but I’m not overly worried about it. I’m also primarily a pescetarian but I occasionally eat other meats so it won’t make me sick if I have it.

  3. Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 22, 2009 at 8:58 pm #

    Metricula, we eat lots of soy, and I would eat more fish but I hate hate hate cooking it in my house. We don’t drink cow milk at all, only soy milk, and I add tofu, tempeh, soy protein, and other good non-meat sources of protein like almonds and eggs to my diet. So it can be done without much meat, and in fact there’s a Soy Zone cookbook, too. We were vegetarians for years (the Husband, above, was more a vegan) so it wasn’t too hard for us.

    Sounds like you are totally on track with cutting out juices, sodas, and processed foods; that’s one of the best investments you could possibly make in your health. Yay, you!

  4. Shane May 23, 2009 at 10:19 am #

    This is quite similar to what Tomra eats — if she doesn’t she has episodes of arthritic pain. However, we don’t do soy anymore because of some of the issues with it. We have found that coconut milk (now sold by the gallon as a cow milk substitute) is pretty tasty, especially on cereal. I still like “cow milk” in my hot tea.

  5. Sine Botchen May 23, 2009 at 7:39 pm #

    i love me some moo.. could prolly never do soy milk. however, i do 2% milk and pretty much use it (only) for coffee. i like the organic ultra-pasturized stuff (yeah yeah i know..) since it keeps forever and really my only use for it is to replace the nasty-ass partially hydroginated powdered stuff (ne creamer) and such. ..an maybe the occasional bowl of cereal (which would be organic granola, etc.) — although raisan bran crunch is “THE SHITZ..” (once you go *crunch* you never go back.. really!)
    i lost over 80 pounds doin a south beach type of diet and it has become a lifestyle ‘cept for the bi-weekly pizza.. but ‘who ya gonna call?’

  6. Geoff Doyon May 23, 2009 at 11:46 pm #


    That was a very simple.but well articulated article on eating habits. Before my cancer diagnosis, and being a full time “clicker” my diet was awful. During my recovery phases, I have trimmed down my portion sizes to the ones are describing, and I find my appetite satisfied after much less food. Once I am done with this round, my goal is to give this a whirl 100% and drop back down to size. Thanks for the words of practicality and encouragement! You are making a very positive impact on my recovery from AML with your stories or family, joy, and wit. I hope to have a family like your full of live, love, and challenges to overcome.

    Thank you so very much.


    Geoff Doyon

  7. Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 24, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    Shane, I’d be curious to know more about the connection between diet and arthritis; I’ve never heard that before. But it doesn’t surprise me, since so much is connected to diet.

    Sine, my Dad calls it “moo juice” (but I never hear him call raisin bran crunch “the shitz,” lol). And I think the South Beach diet has much in common with the Zone; it’s mentioned several times in the Zone books. 80 lbs, wow. I’ll bet you can do a lot more miles on your bike without that extra 80. Good on ya, mate.

    Thanks for the kind words, Geoff. I have a great community of support and encouragement around me, and I hope you do too, especially as you deal with the leukemia. Being connected with people who love you can make a lot of difference in a person’s life.

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