Essential Sports Nutrition


Are your healthy food swaps unhealthy?

The other day I received an email from a former Trimarni athlete who asked my thoughts about a product called Tofu Shirataki Spaghetti. This athlete has been working on losing weight and regaining a healthy lifestyle and is looking for a gluten-free pasta alternative.

At first glance, this looks like a delicious protein-rich noodle option. But when reviewing the ingredients, you'll quickly realize that there's not much to this product. 

Water, soybeans, yam flour, calcium hydroxide, glucono delta lactone, calcium sulfate.  

While the intention was good, with only 10 calories per serving (and less than 1g protein), I told the athlete that I don't feel this is the best "pasta" alternative. First of all, I can't see how this product would be satisfying. Secondly, I don't see much nutritional value in this factory-made concoction. 

The athlete then mentioned if spiralized noodles would be a good option in place of pasta. While offering a good dose of vitamins and minerals, there's not much to spiralized noodles.....just like with cauliflower rice. While these options are fabulous ways to decrease calories, it's important that your meal is still providing your body with the macronutrients (carbs/protein/fat) it deserves. For example, swapping out bread for a rice cake, spray butter for regular butter, a protein bar instead of eggs, sugar free jello instead of yogurt, or cauliflower mashed potatoes instead of regular potatoes may look like you are saving a bunch of calories (which you are) but you are also forgoing a bunch of nutritional content. For athletes, it's very important that your meals don't fall short in any one macronutrient (ex. carbs, protein or fat), for that's how sickness, injury and fatigue risk increase.

Instead, my option for this athlete was a plant-based pasta (ex. Explore Cuisine) and to add in crumbled tofu and marinara sauce for a hearty, satisfying and nutritious meal.

Although many "healthy" food swaps are no more healthy than the real-food option (ex. organic cookies, gluten-free bread, coconut yogurt, dairy-free ice cream), unless you have a medical/health or ethical reason to rid a certain food from your diet, make sure your recent "healthy" food swap is serving you well. Certainly, no food swap should leave you you exhausted, unsatisfied, hungry, constipated and moody.

It's time to take stock to any recent dietary changes that you've made. Take a deep look into your recent diet and ask yourself "have I made an healthy food swap that could potentially sabotage my health???"