Talking about diets in terms of their macronutrient ratios is very popular. It’s also popular in scientific studies. I can’t tell you how many diet studies I read where they list the macro ratios of the diets in their methods, but tell you NOTHING about the type of food that made up those diets! Without that information these studies are worthless, because trust me — you can design diets of all different types of macro ratios that are healthy and unhealthy. Macro ratio is worthless! Focus on the QUALITY of those foods, and make your diet mostly plants!
Let’s talk about how to be a good vegan. The other night I was talking with a friend who is a manager at a restaurant. This place serves traditional French cuisine, so it is not particularly vegan friendly (think: butter in everything.)
Even given the constraints of a French menu, they have several vegan options and many who work there are vegan. Upon request they can accommodate a vegan with many delicious meals.
That wasn’t enough to stop one particular vegan from tearing into them with everything he had the other day. While dining with some friends, this vegan was hurt and offended that they couldn’t make him the precise meal he was looking for and weren’t “quote” sensitive to his dietary needs.
It sounded like the dude had a straight up temper tantrum, causing a scene, and writing a scathing review on the restaurant’s Facebook page demanding an apology.
Vegans — this is NOT the way to act.
Years before I went vegan I was vegetarian, and for the longest time my last major holdout was cheese.
The stuff is admittedly delicious.
And even though I knew it was horrible for my health, the environment, and the cows, I felt as though I was addicted.
Knowing this and wanting to be vegan, I tried to find good substitutes. After all, veggie burgers weaned me off beef, almond milk was more delicious to me than cow’s milk, and even other fake meats sufficed in times when I was really jonesing.
So one summer on Cape Cod, my friends and I picked up a package of “rice cheese.” This was 6 or 7 years ago and this seemed to be the best available option on the shelf.
We took it back to our house and opened up a few slices to try.
And it. was. disgusting.
Truly gross. Terrible flavor, awful texture. Just unpalatable.
We tossed the slice out onto a trail in the woods (we lived on a nature sanctuary). Over the next few days I’d pass this slice everyday on my walk to work, and after a week it hadn’t been touched.
Not one bite, nibble. No insect or ants swarming. Nothing.
It was clear. Nature had decided. THIS IS NOT FOOD.
In that moment I declared “I guess cheese is just the one thing they can’t replicate.”
I resigned myself to needing to simply give up that flavor altogether in order to be vegan, and it took me a few years before I could finally let it go.
Well, the funny thing is a lot has changed in the last 6 or 7 years. Not only have meat substitutes become so good they trick meat eaters (I just tricked an entire Final Four party with Gardein Chik’n Tenders — no one could tell they weren’t meat!), but cheese substitutes have officially arrived.
There are a few brands I’ve tried and actually enjoy. Daiya was the original brand where I started to think “ok maybe they’re onto something…”
The latest is Follow Your Heart. My parents love this stuff and while I’m staying with them I have to say I indulge as well. The flavor and texture is spot on.
More artisanal options are popping up everyday as well. In Minneapolis the world’s first vegan butcher shop, The Herbivorous Butcher, sells incredible vegan cheeses that I promise you would fool your most diehard cheese addict.
It appears 2016 is the year to surrender to vegan cheese.
As an illustration of just how good these alternatives are, I present the case of my father.
Growing up he and I shared a Sunday afternoon tradition where we would make what he dubbed the “perfect lunch,” which was a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.
Long after I went vegan he kept this tradition alive, and I was bummed I could no longer participate.
Those days are over.
Today his perfect lunches are entirely vegan! He’s switched to Annie’s vegan tomato soup (which he claims is better than his beloved Campbell’s!) and his grilled cheese sandwiches are now entirely made with Follow Your Heart vegan cheeses!
If he’s making vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and still calling in the “perfect lunch,” you can bet this stuff is good.
If cheese is your last holdout before going vegan, or maybe ditching dairy is your first step into veganism, explore the world of vegan cheeses. We are lightyears away from the days of rice cheese rotting on a wooded trail. This stuff is good.
Learning a new habit isn’t easy. It takes time, and various stages. The goal of any new habit is to get to the “maintenance” phase. That’s the point where everything is clicking. It’s become second nature.
Most people this this is where the journey ends, that this is the goal, the stopping point.
When I was in grad school I had a professor say this to us: at some point in your life, each and every one of your healthy habits will be challenged and you will likely relapse into old patterns.
I was pretty shocked. Every habit will relapse at some point? But she was convincing — the research suggests that any new health habit you acquire is temporary, and at some point, it will fail.
It may be after 5 minutes (like trying to quit smoking), 5 days (a crash diet), 5 months (an exercise program), or 5 years.
It may be after 30 years.
But no habit is safe.
Why is this? Why can we never rest on our newly found laurels? We’ve just spent months or years learning these new habits. We’ve got systems in place. We rely on our routines. Life is good, everything is on autopilot.
That’s the thing about life. It is inherently unpredictable, uncertain. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or a hermit that never leaves the house.
Life changes, all the time. You move. A relationship starts or ends. Jobs, kids, the economy — it all changes.
That’s not to say you can’t get back to maintenance. That process will likely be easier the second time around — you have a history with this habit, and you can probably find your way back. But you will experience a period where it falters and your old habits reemerge.
For me, I find it very hard to believe that my vegan/plant-based diet will ever change. This feels more than just a habit. But maybe even that isn’t 100% safe. I shouldn’t show such hubris.
One habit that is in flux right now, at the moment, is meditation. I have been trying to build this habit for nearly 3 years now.
For a good year or more I was meditating every morning when I awoke and every night before bed, along with some light yoga.
It was a great habit, and lead to some profound personal growth and discovery. It made me a better, happier person.
But even though the research suggests benefit even with as little as five minutes a day, there is something so challenging about…just…stopping. It’s so antithetical to our western, fast paced culture. With the internet always on, we can be always on.
Taking a break to just sit there quietly with your breath and noticing your thoughts, who’s got the time for that?!
Well I did — off and on for 3 years.
But life happens.
For the past few weeks I have been in transition mode, between apartments and possibly moving cities for a new opportunity. While everything that is happening is both exciting and challenging, the uncertainty is stressful.
Of course, this would be likely the most important time for me to be meditating regularly.
Yet the mind goes elsewhere, old habits come back in. Novel life stress causes relapse in habits, and getting lost in Netflix all of a sudden is way more appealing. I spend all day consumed by the anxiety of my thoughts, why would I want to devote 5-10 minutes a day to listening to them even more intently??
So I have not been meditating. I have relapsed. Relapsed into old patterns, old stress-relievers, etc.
I still carry the lessons I learned from when I was in maintenance of this meditation habit. It still has made me a million times better at coping with this life stress. Those lessons are with me.
I share this story not to scare you but to simply share the reality — no habit is safe from relapse. Instead of having that scare you I hope it helps you feel OK when it does happen. It’s normal. Be gentle with yourself when it happens, dust yourself off, and figure out what you need to do to get back to it.
For me, it starts tomorrow!
….wait. I said that I learned the lessons of meditation.
It starts NOW! (Off to meditate!)
A week or two ago I saw a meme on Facebook.
Ok I see lots of memes on Facebook, and to be honest, most are pretty meaningless.
But this one was a quote from the Dalai Lama. He’s a pretty wise man, so I tend to listen to what he has to say.
Take a look:
This meme succinctly describes the hypocrisy of how many modern humans conduct their lives. I’m not here to point any fingers or blame anyone for this imbalance. I merely want to shine a light on it, and suggest that we’ve got it all wrong.
I want to make the plea for health.
We tend to sacrifice a lot of ourselves in the pursuit of attaining more – more money, more status, more clothing, more possessions, etc.
We tend to, as a culture, be over-worked and over-stressed in these pursuits.
We, as the quote suggests, sacrifice our health in the pursuit of wealth, only to, as we get older, use that wealth to try to buy back some health.
As I said, we’ve got this all wrong, and I can prove it.
The future does not exist.
Bear with me for a second here, I am going to get just a bit existential.
The future does not exist. It’s not real. That may or may not sound controversial to you. But it’s hard to argue with.
We can reasonably predict that some future will take place in some way.
Things have continued for however many years we’ve already lived, and with a little luck, we can reasonably assume that we will continue to exist in a relatively similar fashion.
But we have little actual impact on that future. The amount that we control in that future is very very small.
This isn’t to say that we should not work hard or save money. For many life goals, money is essential.
But while the future is and always will be a fantasy, an idea, there is something real that you are experiencing right now.
Can you guess?
It’s… RIGHT NOW.
The present moment is real, it is tangible. You are experiencing it right now, and believe it or not, it’s all you actually have. Even when the future comes you will experience it in the present moment.
So if you are still with me, it stands to reason that we should place more value on what is now than what will be. (Again, I am not saying throw away all planning or forethought toward the future, just stay with me.)
And while a lot of people think that investing in your health is solely for the purposes of attaining more future (increasing the amount of years you have on the planet), the real benefit of health is experienced in the NOW.
This is the only time when you can experience anything!
That, and because health is a present state of being. I am not a healthy 80-year old. I am a healthy 29-year old, and as such I am fit, in shape, and eat a diet that gives me abundant energy in the moment. It makes me feel good today, not 50 years from now!
If I am fortunate the choices I make today can lead to a better reality for myself in 50 years. But that is simply a fantasy, an illusion. Not entirely unimportant to consider, but not where the real benefit of a healthy lifestyle is conferred.
Look, money, hard work, promotions – these are good things for which to strive. But do not sacrifice your health in their pursuit, because this is a truly foolish trade. You trade your wellbeing now (the only time you can experience wellbeing) for potential future wellbeing. Once this future is achieved, you need to trade back the money you got for the health you gave up in the form of expensive drugs and surgeries.
It’s a raw deal.
Invest in your health TODAY, in THIS MOMENT. It is far more valuable than any sum of money you could possibly dream of.
If you were like me, growing up you and your friends likely asked each other pretty regularly what super power you most wanted.
The hot debate was always between flying or super human strength.
What I didn’t realize at the time, however, was that I had access to a super power all along! It took me 20+ years before I finally discovered my super power, and now I’m here to tell you that you have one too!
It just has so far gone untapped.
Let me describe a scenario, see if you can relate.
You wake up for work, pretty normal morning, but you’re just feeling “blah.” You go through the day kind of feeling tired and you have no idea why. Even though your workday was fine — nothing major happened — you just felt low energy all day. Essentially you were in a “funk.”
Can you relate? This ever happen to you?
I know it happens to me.
Have you ever caught yourself in that moment? Can you bring awareness to this feeling in the moment? Or do you generally have no idea what’s going on until later?
For me, for most of my life, I didn’t really catch myself feeling this way until way later. Finally after hours of having just a crappy day I’d realize something was off.
That is until I discovered my super power.
What are all these funky names and acronyms?
They are all tools for meditation. Omvana has an extensive catalog of free and paid meditation tracks, and Headspace has a great 10-day beginners program that is totally free.
MBSR stands for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. This technique is non-denomenational, was developed at UMass-Amherst by neuroscience researchers, and classes are taught all around the country.
Essentially what regular meditation allows you to do is create space between you and your thoughts.
There are different methods and ways to achieve this, but about the most basic meditation on Planet Earth goes like this:
Sit quietly. Focus all of your attention on your breath. When your mind wanders (which it will constantly, at first), just bring your attention back to your breath. Do this as long as you can — starting with 5 minutes a day is great — everyday.
Essentially what this — and other meditation practices — teach you is that you are not your thoughts. They exist in your head, but they are not you. You can choose which ones to listen to and follow and which ones to ignore. What was automatic and unconscious becomes a conscious choice.
I’ll never forget when this concept first really solidified in my mind, and when I first started to think “hey, I’m kind of developing a super power here…!”
It was around the time I was taking my MBSR class. I was also in grad school at the time, and I often biked to campus. It was a bitterly cold morning, and my commute was all uphill — both ways! (Ok just one way, my way to school).
When you are biking in sub-freezing temperatures, you need a lot of gear. Windproof jacket and pants, gloves, hat, facial cover, warm boots, etc. It’s quite a process, and biking up a massive hill in this gear can be pretty annoying. You sweat inside your gear but are freezing on the outside. It’s unpleasant.
So I battled my way up the hill, slogging the whole way. I get to campus and walk into my office building, to the bathroom to change into my work clothes. I open my backpack only to find that I forgot my work pants at home!
Instantly I had a vision of them still sitting on my bed. So stupid!
At this point the thought of riding all the way home and back in the bitter cold sounded like the worst thing ever. And on top of it, the trip would make me really late for work!
But I had no choice and so I got on my bike and set off.
As I started my ride my mind was going crazy. I was impatient, anxious, frustrated, tired, sweaty, late. It was a bad brew of thoughts and emotions.
And then… it all stopped.
All of a sudden this rational, “all-knowing” voice appeared in my head, drowning out the anxious chatter that was currently driving me crazy.
I simply thought: “there is nothing I can think that will change this situation. No amount of thinking will make the work pants appear in your bag. There is no reason to suffer in this moment. Accept it.”
All negative emotion instantly vanished. I realized that there was nothing I could do to change what had to be done, and my only real options were: 1. make myself miserable as I ride home to get my work pants and then ride back, or 2. ride home to get my work pants and then ride back.
Option 2 sounded far more pleasant all of a sudden.
But here’s the thing — if it wasn’t for the regular meditation practice I was developing, I wouldn’t have even been aware of option 2!
We are so programmed for these responses, especially in stressful situations. And when you are so identified with each and every thought that enters your mind, you can never get any separation. It’s only through this separation that you can gain perspective, and make a better choice.
Just last week I found myself pacing around my apartment with in a funk, like we talked about before. Normally you just kinda have yourself a bad day.
But with my super power I caught myself, and that higher voice came in and said, simply, “I am feeling stressed today.”
No judgment, no trying to change it. Just noticing that the feeling was there. With that noticing I was able to allow it to pass more freely through me, instead of trying to resist it, and ultimately I had a better day thanks to the super power that comes from regular meditation!
If you are at all interested in starting up a regular meditation practice, I’d highly recommend checking out those apps I mentioned, Googling “MBSR [your zip code],” or simply starting with the five minutes of conscious breathing. Or, you can watch this funny video my friend and I made about how to start a meditation practice!
Go get that super power!
Dietary advice these days is just too complicated. There’s literally thousands of different “miracle diets” online and in best-selling books. And the worst part is you can routinely find polar opposite advice being sold as the miracle answer.
Well, I’ve got my own miracle answer, but unlike the others out there, I’m not selling anything and my answer is super super simple. Like, really simple.
If you want to lose weight and get healthy just do this one thing:
I’m not sure why, but I am really drawn to dietary experiments.
I find them really fascinating. I think it’s really powerful to, instead of contemplating how a dietary change may affect your health or your weight or your bottom line or your taste buds, to simply do it.
Just Do It.
It’s how I went vegetarian, how I went vegan, and how I started to eat whole-foods plant-based.
Each time I started with trial periods. I just did it.
Sure I had thought about some of the changes before taking action. But at the end of the day, taking the leap was far more powerful — and taught me more — than any amount of thinking ever could.
So with that in mind, I recently embarked on a one-week trial of a completely salt-free diet.
Why did I want to test this out?
Well I work with people who weigh-in everyday, and one thing I’ve noticed is that their weight tends to fluctuate a decent amount from day-to-day. It depends a bit on the person, but some people can change as much as a few pounds every single day. Up one day, down the next, then up a bit. It’s this vicious cycle (when you’re not used to it) that stresses people out when they start tracking their weight.
Yet tracking your weight is so important to weight loss and weight maintenance. And what is ultimately going on here is not changes in fat, but changes in water retention.
One of the big culprits in water retention is the amount of sodium we eat.
So, I entered into this experiment hoping to learn about how sodium affected my daily weight.
But I also wanted to learn more. Many followers of a whole foods plant-based diet also follow a “No S.O.S.” diet, which means no added salt, oil, or sugar to their food.
In short, I personally don’t add oil to my food. The only sugar I add is some maple syrup to my oatmeal and have sugar in the occasional vegan dessert or some processed cereal as a treat.
But I’ve never explored salt. Ever. I’ve literally never even thought about it, except to feel that by avoiding most processed foods and all animal products, and staying hydrated, I’d be fine. Salt was not a worry.
A few months ago I saw a YouTube video by a vegan who ate no salt in her diet. Her video was on the opposite experiment to mine — she added salt to her food for one week. And in that week she noted feeling bloated, fatigued, and having headaches.
Was I having these symptoms without noticing simply because I’d never gone salt-free? I was reminded of going plant-based — before I ate this way I had no idea I could feel this good, this energized.
When you eat a Standard American Diet you really don’t know what healthy feels like. It’s only when you have that feeling that you realize how awful you felt in the past.
Was the same true about salt? I had to find out.
I tracked my weight for the week leading up to the experiment so I would have baseline data. How did my weight fluctuate on my normal salty diet?
THURSDAY – 173.8
FRIDAY – 172.8
SATURDAY – 174.6
SUNDAY – 177.2
MONDAY – 174
TUESDAY – 174
WEDNESDAY – 172.8
As you can see from the graph, my weight fluctuates a decent amount during the week.
In my baseline, my lowest weight was 172.8 on Friday, and highest was 177.2 on Sunday. [NOTE: Research has shown that people are, on average, their lightest on Friday morning, and their heaviest on Monday morning. We tend to indulge on the weekends…]
That’s a 4.4 pound change in just 2 days! Did I gain 4.4 pounds of fat in 2 days?
Well I wasn’t in any hot dog eating contests that weekend, so…no.
It was changes in water weight!
Here’s a look at my salt-free week weights:
THURSDAY – 171.4
FRIDAY – 174
SATURDAY – 174
SUNDAY – 171.6
MONDAY – 172.8
TUESDAY – 170.6
WEDNESDAY – 171.6
The red line on the graph is my salt-free week. Notice how on average I am below the baseline week.
On the weekend my weight is still the highest, but after that the line trends downward.
[A note about that — on Thursday of that week I hung out with a friend and we went to Chipotle, where it is physically impossible to order anything without salt, so this day was not salt-free. More on that in a second.]
My average weight for my baseline week was 174.4 and my average weight for my salt-free week was 172.4.
That’s 2 pounds lighter! Of course that is changes in water weight, not fat, but it is still less weight that I am carrying around, and a tighter look to my physique.
How Did I Feel?
Besides being down 2 pounds on average, did I notice any change in how I felt? Was I noticing less fatigue, feeling less bloated, noticing a clearer mental state?
Overall I’d say… sort of. I don’t think there was any profound changes in mood or energy level, but I will say that I definitely felt lighter. Not just because I was carrying around 2 lbs less water, but just in general I felt maybe a lightness of mood and mental clarity. I won’t call this definitive, but definitely plausible that going salt-free lead to this outcome.
How Did It Taste?
This was my biggest concern — taste.
Salt is just delicious, plain and simple. There’s a reason we add it to our food. And to be fair to salt, it is absolutely necessary for bodily function. The problem is we simply eat too much of it, and too much salt leads to higher blood pressures and greater risk for heart disease.
In fact the American Heart Association recommends we stick to less than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. Your average American gets 3400 milligrams per day — or more than double the AHA recommendation!
But how did my food taste?
Probably the most interesting result of this entire experiment was that my hunger was reduced by eating salt-free. One of my go-to lunches is brown rice, chickpeas, carrots, kale, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce. The soy sauce-nutritional yeast combo gives it a nice cheesy taste and it’s pretty irresistible. I usually polish of a giant bowl of it and still feel like I could eat more.
All week I made this same lunch minus the soy sauce, and even though the quantity I served myself was the exact same, my desire to finish it diminished drastically.
With the salt, I craved the next bite. The salt fueled my appetite.
Without the salt, I lost interest, and my appetite faded quicker. I still finished my meal, but it took me longer, and I was less satisfied. It still tasted alright, but it was far less “craveable.”
Now for someone hoping to lose weight, that is a very great thing! Eating more slowly no doubt leads to more of a feeling of fullness. And reduced appetite is obviously helpful for losing weight!
For someone hoping to simply enjoy their food, it may not be so welcomed. The one major caveat is this — when reducing salt it is highly recommended that you go down incrementally over the course of a few weeks. Your taste buds will adjust if you decrease incrementally. If you go from full salt to no salt overnight like I did, you may find your food tasting a little on the bland side.
What Did I Give Up?
One thing I noticed was how salt lurks in so many things you don’t realize!
I knew I wouldn’t have any potato chips this week, or use any salt in my cooking. But I roasted up some potatoes and realized I couldn’t have ketchup with them — plenty of salt in there.
I had some beans but couldn’t add salsa, no way!
I even grabbed a box of Kashi cereal that had no salt, but couldn’t add my almond milk because lo and behold — added salt!
I finally found a Westsoy Soy Milk product that had no added salt — just soybeans and water — so I used that.
Salt is in everything.
Another thing I had to give up was eating out. Except for that trip to Chipotle.
This was another profound realization of this experiment.
I have a hard enough time eating out as a vegan. Well really it’s not that hard — I’m used to it and know how to do it (reading menus ahead of time, having a plan, etc).
It is impossible to eat out if you are trying to eat salt-free.
As my friend and I were hanging out and contemplating grabbing food, I realized there wasn’t a single restaurant I could choose that would serve me salt-free food, unless I ordered a salad with no dressing, and that didn’t sound particularly appealing.
The other thing I learned is that while my friends are used to me being vegan and give ample consideration for my need (thanks guys), suggesting we eat salt-free was just too much…
I offered to cook up a salt-free meal and my friend looked at me like I was from Mars.
So I caved and I had Chipotle, where it’s easy to be vegan but impossible to be salt-free.
That’s ok. It was part of the experiment. I learned a lot. If you want to cut salt, you cannot eat out.
My post Chipotle weigh-ins confirmed there was a spike in my weight for about 2 days, then back down.
Where Am I Now?
I learned a lot from going salt-free for a week. I learned how it is in everything, how eating out is impossible, how it contributes to holding onto water weight, how much my weight fluctuates in general, and how my friends are able to cope with my weird vegan diet but are simply not on board with me going salt-free completely!
That’s why I love dietary experiments!
You learn so much.
So, with what I’ve learned, how will my behavior change?
Well, I’m not sure I can quite answer this yet… What I do know is that today I am far more aware of the impact salt has on my weight and how I feel than I was a few weeks ago. I think I’ll still use store bought condiments — I currently don’t feel super motivated to make my own ketchup or almond milk on a regular basis. But I could go easy on the salt in the foods I prepare…
The next step may be to track the actual number of milligrams I consume everyday. I would wager that I average below the AHA recommendation of 1500 milligrams even with my soy sauce and store bought salsa and occasional trip to Chipotle. But regardless, going salt-free lead to a feeling of lightness and 2 pounds lost, so I can’t say that salt has no impact on me!
Armed with that knowledge, I think I’ll be much more aware of how heavy my hand is with the salt-shaker! And the lighter feeling is motivating…!
Do you know how much salt you eat everyday? I didn’t. I also didn’t know how it was affecting my body. So I gave it up for one week. Here are the results.
Check out the American Heart Association recommendation on salt: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/About-Sodium-Salt_UCM_463416_Article.jsp#.Vry361MrJhE
Now let’s be clear — the title of this post is not “how to NOT die.” That would be a whole different blog post.. I have no current theories on how to obtain immortality.
The title of this post is how NOT to die. Because, let’s face it — we’re all going to die at some point. But there are better ways to die and worse ways.
Getting eaten by a tiger might be considered a way NOT to die.
If you ask me, dying early from a completely preventable disease (like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, etc) seems like one way NOT to die.
But why all this talk of dying?
Well, it’s because one of my personal heroes, and a true Plant-Based All-Star, Dr. Michael Greger, has written a book called (you guessed it) How NOT To Die!
In the nearly 600 pages he goes through all the exhaustive research showing how a plant-based diet can prevent, treat, and reverse the leading 15 causes of premature death in America.
Another way to access this life-saving information is to check out his non-profit website nutritionfacts.org. I often link directly to his amazing videos in my citations. Dr. Greger’s ability to synthesize complex nutritional research into a compelling, easy to understand narrative is an incredible resource. I highly recommend spending some time on his site.
There’s an app for that.
But perhaps the most exciting development of late from Dr. Greger is the release of his app, called “Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen.” (available on iPhone and Android)
This app serves as a daily food tracker, and it’s like a game. You score points by getting the recommended daily servings of each of the dozen foods.
The foods Dr. Greger recommends we eat daily to prevent our nation’s leading killers are beans, berries (and other fruits), greens (and other vegetables), flaxseed and nuts, whole grains, spices, water, and exercise.
The research on food tracking is pretty good — people who track their food daily tend to weigh less and be healthier. Yet paradoxically, the research on calorie counting is pretty abysmal. Studies have even shown that nutrition professionals are inaccurate when trying to count calories.
Make your life simple, and just track your daily dozen. If you get these 12 foods (and behaviors) in every single day, your health will improve dramatically and you will improve your chances of avoiding one of the ways NOT to die!