The Low Carb Diet Meal Delusion

Fat Head had a post up yesterday.  In it he has the picture of the dining cart scene from Silver Streak (loved that movie!)  

The gist, grandma (and his high school wresting coach) knew it was carbs that were fattening and the diet plates were LC.  I would point out that wrestlers employing various dietary schemes to make weight for competition are probably not a good advertising point for any diet.  Meeting a number on the scale, or in the case of body builders looking ripped for competitions, is not necessarily equivalent to consuming a healthful diet (especially for the long term).  Wrestlers are prevalent among the growing numbers of men with eating disorders.

The LC diet plate was true to a point.  The one pictured at left is another version of the diet plates I used to see in diners too, though usually not all of the things on one plate.  Tuna salad on salad leaves with tomatoes and maybe that egg would be one, cottage cheese with the peaches another.  A slice of dry toast was quite common too.

This is the usual "gotcha" line where you're supposed to make the logical leap to everyone getting fat because we adopted a low fat diet and this was somehow what caused us to get fat.  But first of all let me point out the obvious -- it was the folks like the "fat guys" in the movie that ate these diet plates, and mostly remained fat.  Meanwhile, the rest of the people in the diners were eating the other stuff on the menu.  In 1976 I was probably cutting out of morning study hall every so often to sneak to HoJo's with my friends for a honking pancake breakfast.  People got steak and eggs for breakfast ... and hash browns or other potato, usually with toast to boot!

The fact that the wisdom of the 60's and 70's didn't work very well back then against obesity is an "alternative lesson" to learn here, if you will.  And while Americans were nowhere near as obese on the whole back then, we were compared to other cultures.  According to this source, obesity rates in the US in the 1960's were 13% -- aside:  I find this a little difficult to swallow as that is more than 1 in 10 and that's not my recollection!  Still, even if that 13% is somewhat inflated, it was still greater than the 1-2% in the UK (source) even if that was slightly higher (if someone has comparative numbers from a single source for various nations, please link in comments, thanks in advance).   

Every ... every ... source says that we in the US are eating more.  That we are eating as much or a bit more fat in depending on the source, and carbs do represent the largest fraction of our excesses so we can play numbers games and claim we are eating less fat by percentage.  That is dishonest. C'mon.  More importantly, we were not eating a low carb diet, not even close, in the 1960's or before.  In his latest roundup of unattributed pictures, Jimmy Moore tries to claim the menu on the Titanic was pretty paleo/LC?!!!  LOL  Just don't have the dumplings, potatoes, custards, pastries and cheeses.  

Notice something else there?  How about the Tab?!  Tab, what a beautiful drink ... Tab, for beautiful people ... Tab you're beautiful to me .... 16 oz (YIKES, this was 1977)  and just one calorie ...  

We didn't have quite the sugar free options like "no junk" sucralose (or such is Quest's claim) back then, but diet soda was probably the first thing people did when dieting in the 70's.  And since the 80's there has been en masse substitution for sugar by many means, in foods that were already low fat so that line of reasoning is also bunk.   (Confession: I miss saccharin sweetened Tab. I was never much for soda except for a real root beer, they are too sweet and not refreshing to me. But Tab, especially with lemon, was and it wasn't so icky sweet as diet sodas got with aspertame and sucralose).

OK ... but let's look at what that diet plate WAS ... and what it wasn't.  I would note that there are no condiments on that patty.  No cheese, mayo or even ketchup.  It's also not swimming in a pile of grease and this does not appear to be the doing of impeccable plating.  It's also quite a pathetic "standard sized" patty, likely 4 oz before cooking and was likely smashed on a grill not fried in coconut oil slatherings.  I notice a little bowl with a half dozen olives and some carrot sticks that I'll presume each received.  So I ran it through tracker.  

There you have it.  With the Tab, 367 calories ... give or take.  It comes out to 20.2 g fat (~7g saturated) .  You'll notice that the full fat cottage cheese has only 5g fat so not nearly as decadent as the low fat folks admittedly presume.  This is a high protein meal at 33.5 g and with the tab we'll round the carbs to 12 grams even.  This works out to 50% fat, 37% protein and 13% carb.

If one ate these diet plates for three meals a day, we'd be in Fat Fast calorie range ~1100 cal/day, getting in enough protein at right around 100g, and below the magic 50g/day carbs that might hamper weight loss.  

Now.  Do you think if someone did this they would lose weight because:
a.  They are in caloric deficit     or      b.  They are keeping their insulin low

I would note that this meal provides practically no vitamin A until you add the carrots, zero vitamin D, less than 100 mg of omega 3 fatty acids, a 10:1 O6:O3 ratio, nominal amounts of vitamin E, under 40 mg of magnesium.  While providing almost 700 mg potassium, it does also come with almost ever so slightly more sodium.   There are some bright sides nutritionally, but this meal would fall far short on nutrition especially if two others during the day 

Bottom line?  The diet plates of old may well have been slightly different in composition, but they are alike in one very important way.  They are low everything on an absolute basis ... because they are LOW CALORIE.  That meal would fit perfectly well in a high protein low fat reducing diet of say 1500 cal/day 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carb.  They still have 30g fat to go for the day, so could eat two high fat diet plates if they so desired.  Meanwhile, most low carbers would not touch the cottage cheese what with its dastardly 5g carb/serving.   Lastly, I've said it before and I'll say it again.  For women, I think if we could isolate a single problem with the diet advice for weight loss, it would be that 15% protein notion.  When you get to 1500 cal/day, you are at 56g/day.  If you go lower -- the standard 1200 cal/day diet that many women need to employ to see losses noticeable enough to keep going -- you're at 45g/day.  You're also in Fat Fast range which is why it was never intended as more than a morale boosting gimick.  It's not enough.  Not for satiety or for maintaining LBM, though at least folks will stand a chance if the remainder of the diet contains carbs so as to spare the protein.  Most Americans lean towards 17-18% protein which equates to 87.5g protein for 2000 cal, 109.4 for 2500 and 131 g for 3000 cal.  Eating 35% protein of 1200 cal/day is 90g protein.  That's in a "normal" and "usual" absolute value range for many.   Dietary advice has evolved.  It's only the low carbers that seem hell bent on pigeon holing LF diets as they do.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Moore was gaining weight like gangbusters on meals like this.  Maybe, just maybe, it was because of 2 burgers vs. 1 (and his burgers were usually 8 oz. so realistically we're comparing 4 burgers to 1), the cheese and mayo on the burgers and that Atkins bar.  ALL of those calories.  Just sayin ....

The above is not what anyone had in mind with all the promises made by Dr. Atkins and all that have come along since.  The "Diet Plate" is but another version of the same old bait and switch.


eulerandothers said…
Just looking at the grams, multiplying carb grams by 4, protein grams by 4 and fat grams by 9 for calorie amounts, I get: 197 calories for the beef, 25 calories for the carrot, 4 calories for the tomatoes, 22 calories for the olives, and 113 calories for the cottage cheese.

That plate doesn't look like 4 calories worth of tomatoes, anyway.

The majority of calories on that plate still come from fat. That's not going to change. We're talking about beef, after all.

Did I miscalculate?
carbsane said…
Your calculations are in line with what I posted ... realize the report rounds to whole grams and I know not how they break things down for low cal foods that really need to be analyzed in large amounts to give good values.

So it's about 50% fat if we're talking an 80% patty (pretty common, lower than that yields a very greazy burger) fried on a flat top (pan broiled is what I considered equivalent).

I'm not sure your point here. It's low fat in terms of total amounts was my point. 20g. Some people poop that out every day :D
Screennamerequired said…
I asked my grandma what foods she thought were fattening when she was young and she said desserts and cakes. No surprise. I wonder if Chinese and Japanese peoples grandparents used to "know" that starch/rice was fattening before the evil Ancel keyes brain washed them into believing carbs are good.

I was also quite disturbed Tom naughton has his kids wearing "wheat is murder" tshirts in his latest video.
carbsane said…
Yes, his kids' video is quite disturbing, as are those T-shirts in general. I wish all of these activists -- political, nutritional, religious, etc. -- would keep their kids out of it. That's no better than (not to take sides) the pro-lifers dressing their kids up in T-shirts with aborted fetuses on them and lining them up across pro-choicers with their kids dressed up in T-shirts with women bleeding to death from a back alley abortions. Don't make your kids pawns.
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