Tag Archives: self testing

How to Plan Meals

Meal planning

Several of you asked how I approach meal planning. I break this into nutrition, budget, time management, taste, and quantity. Getting your meal planning in order will help inform many other weak points in your life’s organizational structure.

Meal planning- Burger

 

Budgeting

Most finance sites recommend you spend no more than 14% of your budget on food. You can use this calculator to see how your food spending compares to people like you around the US. My philosophy is to spend as little as possible while eating food that is healthy and appealing to your palate. I don’t pinch pennies when it comes to food. I don’t have to. I buy the food I want at the lowest price I can find while also looking for discounts. I follow a hierarchy of purchasing criteria which I’ll get to at the end. This ends up being temporally staggered as I run out of things in the fridge. By shopping at ALDI first and filling out the weekly haul with the higher quality stuff from the bigger chain stores one saves significantly.

 

Nutrition

We all have nutrition goals. What we eat impacts how we feel, sleep, perform, and look. It can indirectly impact our self-image. Thinking about nutrition is a necessary piece in living consciously. To eat without choosing thoughtfully is to acknowledge that how you feel, sleep, perform, and look is not important to you. It’s denying that our food choices impact our mental and physical states in profound ways. If your mind and body are not important to you, do you think it will be important to anyone else?

That being said, consider your goals. They are extremely important in meal planning. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to sleep better? Do you want to feel energized for exercise? Do you lag after lunch? Do you go to sleep distracted by hunger or being too full? I won’t answer these questions here, but think about them and think about ways you can address them. Food can be more than sustenance, it can be medicine. Use this web app to see what nutrients your diet is lacking. Get your levels lab-tested by a service like Spectracell or DirectLabs. Know about how many calories you want to eat and what your portions should look like. If you want to get it perfect, weigh your food with a simple scale. Your nutrition and health should set conscious parameters on what you buy and cook.

 

Taste

This one is all about trial and error. Using the insights you gain from your nutrition goals, what in your ideal nutritional diet actually tastes good? Identifying this will help you stick to your meal planning and help you get excited about meals and improving its structure. It is imperative that you keep an open mind during your initial meal planning stages. You may find that some things (like Kale for instance) suck in one form (raw) but are delicious in another (cooked and blended into a soup.) I eat a ton of blended vegetables because I find them much more pleasant like that. Try out restaurants and note how they prepare your favorite dishes. Do you understand salt/acid/fat and how they balance? Don’t even begin to add seasoning until you’ve got a handle on the balance of salt (e.g. table salt or Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning), acid (e.g. lime juice or vinegar), and fat (e.g. olive oil, butter, avocado, ground beef). Learn the way seasonings complement certain meats. The Flavor Bible is an epic resource for this. There are some great cookbooks that focus on learning to cook. I love Ruhlman’s 12, 4-Hour Chef, and How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Each in their own respect will teach you to think like a chef. From there, with a basic understanding of ingredients and flavors, begin trying out recipes in one of the classic “everything” books: how to cook everything or the more classic and just as ubiquitous middle age-mom cookbooks, “joy of cooking”.

Meal planning- Flavor Bible

Quantity

Nearly one-third of all food in the US is thrown away. This constitutes a major ethical and financial issue. Don’t expect to buy the proper amount of food right away. Buy what you think you need and be observant of what you’re throwing away and what you’re keeping. Have an understanding of food expiry dates. Understand what bad food looks and smells like. After a few weeks of shopping, note how much you threw away. Being conscious of this will impact your purchase behavior at the grocery store.

 

Fresh produce and meat is great. But, it spoils quickly. If you’re trashing fresh produce now, chances are you will continue to do so. Don’t keep doing the same thing. Convert your fresh supply grocery list items into frozen. Frozen vegetables can be as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. Tend to purchase frozen vs. freezing fresh items. The professional freezing process is less damaging to food than your fridge.

 

How you prepare your meals is up to you. Consider how much variety you think you need. Do you really need it? I’m happy eating 2 different meals for dinner during the week and often the same things for lunch every day. It sounds boring, but it really isn’t. Food is satisfying when you’re hungry as long as it’s tasty. I sometimes prep meals in bulk (4-5 lunches) but I find that I end up wasting 1-2 portions each week. Batch cooking dinners and eating leftovers for lunch. But, I know that leftovers lead to uncontrolled snacking. To prevent between-meal snacking I prefer to have very little prepared food in my fridge. This is a personal preference as with so much of what I’ve written (perhaps not just here, but on this entire blog!)

 

Meal-building

Know your nutrition. Purchase with your budgetary standards in mind. Note your tastes. Note which fresh food items you frequently trash. Meal planning is an exercise in conscious living. Consider it an act in cherishing life.

 

My Meal planning purchase hierarchy

 

  1. Go to ALDI

    1. Is there something on deep discount that I’d enjoy? Buy that.
    2. Are there other items there I’d enjoy?

 

I usually end up getting a few deep discount items at ALDI, like

  • Eggs
  • Sauces
  • Specialty yogurts
  • Specialty drinks like Kombucha

 

I always buy there:

 

  • Avocado (1)
  • Onions (if needed)
  • Sweet potatoes (if needed)
  • Organic chicken
  • Organic ground beef
  • Staples like salt, oils, or flour
  • Jasmine rice
  • Hard cheese (Romano/Parmesan/Asiago)

 

  1. Giant or regular nicer grocer

  • Fresh herbs
  • Nicer pasta sauces without high sugar/HFCS
  • Wild caught fish
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Nicer salsas (I like Mrs. Renfro’s)
  • Ground chicken
  • Marinated organic chicken
  • Frozen vegetable blends (cheaper than ALDI).
    • I really like the Normandy blend
  • Frozen Kale (for Fiber and Micronutrients)
  • Strawberries to freeze
  • Bananas for smoothies
  • Better than Bouillon Chicken broth base
    • Very good for flavoring soups and sauces. (ain’t no way I’m keep a running frozen stock at my place with a fridge shared by 4 guys).
  • Ginger Kombucha

Meal planning- Salad

 

Consume Consciously

 

Think consciously about your meal planning choices. They impact you in lasting ways. Consider the impact your choices have on your budget, taste, and nutrition. Do your actions line up with your goals? Consider reflecting on the thoughts here to structure meal planning that caters to your overall tastes, health goals, and budget.

Finding your detailed ancestry, disease risk, and unique diet with affordable and easy genetic testing

Disclaimer: This is speculative information only. Any medical issue should be addressed by your doctor.

Genetic testing is incredible. You can spit into a tube and find out your entire genetic makeup in a few weeks. I’ve been thinking about getting genetically analyzed for a few months. I recently decided to pull the trigger. The whole experience has been fun and informative. I’ve learned about my ancestry, disease risks, what supplements are a good idea to take, how I respond to training, and what my optimal diet looks like.

While these reports give some valuable insights. Genetics are not a standalone indicator of anything. What your DNA looks like doesn’t have much practical relevance until it become physically expressed in your body. That being said, DNA can tell you a lot about trying out new foods, supplements, exercises, or anything that affects you physically.

The test

For $199, 23andme mails a testing kit and analyze your genes. The test is based on a saliva sample. The process takes about 5 minutes, you pack it in their self-addressed paid box, and send it back.

In about a month I received reports from 23andMe on my ancestry and genetic markers, along with access to a raw .txt file containing my entire genetic makeup, over 500,000 alleles that make up my unique DNA.

While the 23andMe website is lackluster, there are several sites that offer free or inexpensive analysis of your raw data. I will explore a few below.

Try out 23andMe here to get access to all these results now.

Ancestry

The ancestry portion of 23andMe is robust. It’s clear I’m almost entirely European: 97.2%. I’m primarily Italian (60%) and Irish (16%) with smaller lines of French, German, Iberian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern.

Upon further analysis with http://www.interpretome.com/, I found detailed graphs of my lineage based on region. This recognizes me as similar to the genetic signature of Northern Italians.

In my trace ancestries, for my miniscule African lineage I resemble the Mozabite peoples of the Northern Sahara (Algeria). In Asia, I most resemble the peoples of Northern Pakistan (Kalash and Pathan.) Sounds about right, I likely have at least one relative within 5 generations back from at least one of these places from what I know.

Digging deeper

Genetics is a fast growing field with tons of research being updated. Research is publicly accessible. Unfortunately, 23andMe is not permitted to compare your genetic data with the current research materials. You’ll have to go elsewhere for this. 23andme’s report has 30 genetic markers. Most of it is novelty stuff like hair color. The raw report they give you has nearly 10,000x more information buried within. You can unlock it on several third-party sites.

Promethease

The first place to dig into your genetic reports is Promethease.com. For $5, you can connect your entire genome to SNPedia, a site dedicated to maintaining a public database of diseases and traits associated with the different mutations you have in your genes. Promethease tags all possible variations in genes (called  polymorphisms) and will links them to current research reports. Their database allows you to see what diseases and physical traits your genes predispose you to. With over 500,000 alleles, many are not catalogued and even more don’t have enough research for you to make any reliable conclusions. Promethease will allow you to sort your results by the strength of the current research. How to use this site is beyond the scope of a single article. I will say that their search tags are very helpful. You can sort through your 100k+ alleles for the genes that other sources (such as National Geographic, NutraHacker, or Dr. Amy Yasko) have determined to be key. You can also sort your alleles by disease, trait type (weight management, skin color, Vitamin D levels, etc…)

Some of reliable genetic markers I have indicated:

My susceptibility levels to certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. I learned I’m part of a small portion of the population with an enhanced tasting ability. I learned the way my body responds to various drugs and caffeine more or less than others. My genetic report confirms that my body has a strong likelihood of processing caffeine more quickly (and therefore more intensely I think) than other people.I have never liked drinking coffee because I considered myself sensitive to it. I have a somewhat conflicting report on my propensity to a few different diseases.

The diet guide

The guys at Rockstar Research put together is flow chart, based on genetic research, that supposedly tells you how you should train (High intensity or not?) and what types of food (low fat vs low carb) you should eat. This chart seems to be verified by lots of people online, but I can’t speak to it’s effectiveness. The idea is cool and I’ve been implementing what I learned from it. You can quickly look up all those alleles found in the chart by using this page on 23andMe.  Based on my preliminary results, I think I’m seeing some good improvement from the recommendations on the chart. But, I don’t have a large dataset to prove anything definitively.

http://rockstarresearch.com/
from http://rockstarresearch.com/

Decodify.me

This is another site that, for $10, parses your genetic data and makes recommendations for supplements. Supplementation should start from symptoms and blood testing, though. Not genetics. This site will quickly tell you which of your genes are rare. Don’t confuse that with most important, though. It hasn’t been the most helpful compared to the other sites mentioned.

Genetic Genie

Genetic genie focuses on genes associated with the methylation cycle. Methylation is the process by which the body converts various vitamins and compounds into useable energy and resources for your body. Various genetic alterations can make your body more or less likely to process certain vitamins and foods. Genetic Genie is a quick way of looking into your unique genetic makeup with regards to the methylation cycle.

I’ve found, not surprisingly, I’m susceptible to high dopamine levels (high energy, heavy emphasis on data and analysis, obsession with progress). I also have difficulty methylating certain types of Vitamin B and D. This probably means I should be supplementing them. I can confirm this with blood levels I’ve recently seen.

Nutrigenomics

There is a burgeoning field called Nutrigenomics focusing on the practical application of genetic research with regards to nutrition. While the research is still nascent, it does seem to be significant. Everyone has unique genes that affect the way they process their food. This can also mean that not everyone should be eating the same diet. Sorry Dr. Atkins, not everyone will benefit for low carbs. It seems that a huge reason for the failure of some people’s diets may be due to their consumption of the wrong ratio of nutrients.

 

For the true nerds, this page seems to be the most robust online. It is referenced several places. That page will allow you to find your unique methylation challenges and make recommendations on how to optimize the.

 

I won’t dig deep into the weeds but I will go through a few things I found to show examples.

 

  1. I have the COMT +/+ mutation. This means I likely hold on to more dopamine than usual. I probably shouldn’t have too much caffeine and things like meditation may be particularly useful. I also probably shouldn’t take a lot of pre-methylated B12, because my body already likely overproduces that.
  2. I have the MTHFR mutation which means my body is not good at methylating Folic Acid into. Luckily, I can supplement with Folate that has already been methylated.

Nutrahacker

The last site I’ll mention. Nutrahacker analyzes your 23andMe data and makes more recommendations of foods/supplements to take or avoid based on your genetic structure.

Here’s a sample report. I would skip the paid version and use the Nutrahacker tag when browsing Promethease. You’ll save money.
Disclaimer: This is speculative information only. Any medical issue should be addressed by your doctor.