May 12, 2010 posted by

Nutrition 911: The Emergency Course On What To Eat

Here’s a Straight Dope for your reference files. I wrote this series of articles a few years back and have been tinkering with it since. Next year I’d like to turn it into a book, so any and all thoughts and ideas you have are appreciated.

The gist of this series came about as we were helping people on the Message Boards and realized that worrying about glycemic index or ketosis was a waste of time if you didn’t know the difference between proteins and fats. As it turns out, most people over think their diets and need to revert to square one. This, of course, is because most of us learn about nutrition through the media instead of school. That’s why we think “no fat” is good and only vitamins we need are the “8 essential” ones in Pop Tarts. Then we get even crazier notions; like we’re fat because we didn’t realize that carrots were high in the GI scale, or because cortisol’s been attacking our belly, or that our macronutrient ranges is off 5%, and not because we sit on our asses all day and eat fast food. And since schools have mostly 86’d their nutrition programs (probably to keep kids from rioting when they learned what the school was feeding them) we needed to begin our education from a much more remedial place.

The basic concept is this: it doesn’t do you any good to listen to some doctor yammer on about the differences between docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid if we don’t know the difference between salmon and flaxseed. So that’s where this series starts, with the basics of nutrition that you’re faced with every day. It’s not nutrition for dummies; it’s nutrition for the uninformed and the misinformed. No math, not a lot of science, just the facts to the best of my understanding.

This is not the complete series that will be in the book, nor the order, but I’d like to get your thoughts and critiques on layout nonetheless.

Note: it’s important to understand that nutrition, like all science, changes over time by definition. As studies shed light on new hypothesis’ the field changes. Science, however, generally changes very slowly. Laws change faster and informing people how to eat requires helping them sift through marketing BS. So by the time you read this some information could be out of date, but it should still be relevant to how you think about eating.

Nutrition 911: Here’s the straight 411, so you can avoid a dietary 911

Part II: What to Eat

Part III: Deciphering Marketing Jargon

Part IV: What “Fat Free” and “Low Carb” Really Mean

Part V: 5 Quick Steps to Mastering Food Labels

Part VI: Sweeteners

Part VII: Sugar vs. Fat: Which Is Worse?

Part VIII: The Worst Food in the World

IX: 10 Reasons to Drink Water

X: What’s in Your Water?

XI: Coffee, Tea, and Caffeine

XII: Jumbo Juices and Crappuccinos

XIII: Juice, Juicing, and Fruit – The Differences

XIV: Energy Drinks – Do They Really Give You Wings?

XV The Best & Worst Cocktails

XVI To Fast Or Not To Fast?

XVII The Best Food On The Planet

XVIII Nutrient Timing: What and When You Should Eat

XIX: Supps, Drugs, and Rock and Roll


  • Great articles. Any recommendations on healthy smoothie recipes? From the articles I would say it would be one with protein powder, vegetables, some fruit for taste and a smaller than the normal 16 oz size unless you have it right after or before strenuous exercise.

  • Thanks, Jack. You nailed it. Smoothies should stick to a simple base, add natural foods for taste and nutrients, and skip added sugar or processed juice. You'll find hundreds of recipes scattered around our web site, the Message Boards, or diet guides, newsletters, etc. But given your definition it's pretty easy to make stuff up. I find that I never go to wrong mixing fruits together and veggies aren't as bad as they sound in juice. Experiment. I don't think I've ever throw out a smoothie I made (though some were a bit of a challenge to finish).

  • rad articles. Read them before, should definitely be turned into a book. Would appreciate if you can do a similar post on training as well, some of your training articles are so old on this blog, its very hard to find.

  • I've read all of those before and found them informative and entertaining. A lot of the information I knew already, but there was definitely some stuff in them that I didn't. The general public would do good to read these.

  • I look forward to reading these, and to commenting.I am heading into medical school, hopefully next fall. One of the most heinous problems with health care is the abysmal nutritional training given to doctors, imo. Nutrition and fitness as prescription is my passion and philosophy, and as such, I intend to keep you as a ready reference.Thanks for the articles!

  • I would hope that someone going to med school would find these remedial indeed. However, I'm well aware of the lack of nutritional instruction required in the USA. In fact, my friend Marcus–who is about to get involved with our company–who is an MD from Harvard and only trains pro and college athletes at the moment–says the nutritional training given in med school is "embarassing". Two doctors recently have given me nutritional tips that were wrong. When they found out who I was they said they tried to give nutritional advice because everyone expected it of them, and they give it even though they, too, kind of only know what they read in the news.Weird world we live in, huh?

  • I guess the only way we can change this wierd world is one person at a time — I'll keep workin' on it if you do! 🙂

  • Steve, That would be awesome if you put out a book! You have a way of explaining what food does to and for your body better than anyone. I care about being healthy, feeling good and performing well in whatever I do… You always hit the nail on the head here! Thanks, Regi

  • Thank you so much for this! I grew up vegetarian, and my Mom was never big into cooking… so I feel kind of lost when it comes to food and nutrition. I've had all kinds of deficiencies and problems because of it. Every time I ask someone for help on what I should be eating, they either brush it off or give me a complex answer that is way over my head… I don't have my Masters in nutrition so keep it simple folks! Being vegetarian (or pescatarian), and being off wheat/gluten products makes it very hard to get a healthy diet with no background on what/how the food I eat is affecting my body. Anyhow, an easy to follow, comprehensive diet plan and information on what foods we actually NEED to be healthy is perfect. Thank you for writing this! I look forward to the book.

  • I have just discovered you and your blog through the P90x facebook entry. I really look forward to reading these articles. I am just a regular person, not in the fitness/health industry. My husband and I are both very active. We have eaten reasonable well in that we rarely eat out and cook most meals from scratch, not frozen. But really I've known very little about nutrition. I've stuggled to lose the last ten pounds from baby number 2 for 2 years now. I know it's all in my eating. I've found numerous blogs/books that I follow regarding health/nutrition/recipes. But it is all very confusing. It seems like there are so many variations out there. All protein/few carbs. Total focus on low sugar. GI diet. Just eating clean. Raw food. It's all a bit overwhelming. I seem to jump on one band wagon and then jump off and feel like there should just be a healthy balance of all things. Anyway, I appreciate your approach at agetting back to basics and I can't wait to read through all these.Also, as I've been going on my nutrition knowledge journey, I repeatedly think there should be WAY more education in schools about nutrition. Our country's current sate of obesity aside, it's just stuff we should all know. And I'm not just talking med school, I think it should start in elementary.

  • Seeing as how this is "nutrition for the uninformed and misinformed," I highly suggest adding to your Part Five food labels section. See Common Food Label Loopholes at and When Does Zero Not Equal Zero? at assume most people believe the zero calorie and zero trans fat claims, even though closer inspection shows this is not entirely true: 1 Splenda packet equals 3 calories per the Splenda website, 3.5 calories per 12-ounce can of Diet Cherry Coke per Europe's Coca Cola website (Europe has greater nutritional discloure laws than the U.S.), I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray has 904 calories and 90.5 grams of fat per bottle (buried in the FAQ's on their website) . . . don't even get me started on the zero grams of trans fats claims on products containing hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils. But, I really don't think the average person has any awareness about this at all; they take the label claims at face value, rather than investigating further or evaluating how much they use as compared to the "recommended serving size" (case in point, your client who consumed over 100 oz. of diet soda per day). This is beside the fact that these products contain a bunch of chemicals and crap, which is a whole different subject!Thanks for taking on this project.

  • Thanks for that link. Excellent! New shit keeps hitting for fan about deception in food labelling. Seems non-stop lately. I'll probably do an entire chapter on it.

  • You're welcome (for the link). Looking forward to reading your chapter. By the way, I'm michm from the BB forums. Feel free to float me a message if you'd like some proofreading assistance for this project. :)/michm

  • This looks awesome, I need more time to read them all, but for sure I may be interested in a copy of the book when it comes out :o)

  • Hi Steve, This is great. I've been wanting a collection of your 911 articles. Now I finally have them. I will definitely buy the book when it comes out. Thx!

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