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Michael's Before and After Diet
On The Biggest Loser website, "before" and "after" photos testify to the contestants' dramatic physical changes. But beyond appearances, the hardworking contestants have completely transformed their lifestyles, too - starting with their eating habits.
Eight months ago I met finalist Michael Ventrella for the first time. Our meeting was a part of the screening process for Biggest Loser applicants, which includes comprehensive medical testing and a discussion of their dietary history and eating habits. In our first meeting, three habits caught my attention:
Here's Michael's typical daily menu before he arrived at the ranch:
Four or five cups of sugary oat cereal with 1% milk. That's about 1,000 calories, mostly from carbs and sugar - not a good balance of nutrients.
A 12-inch sub sandwich - either chicken and veggie or Italian sausage - with a regular soft drink or lemonade mixed with iced tea.
A couple of tacos or double cheeseburgers with a large regular cola.
"Pasta panna" - white pasta, turkey bacon, mushrooms, green pepper, onion, butter, cream and Italian seasonings, served with chicken breasts.
Sides: Salad, hard salami and cheese and plenty of Italian (white) bread. Beverage: Regular lemon-lime soft drink.
Dessert: Sugar-free ice cream bars, ice cream or ice cream cake.
Another big bowl of breakfast cereal.
As the lineup shows, Michael's diet was heavy on starchy carbohydrates and plenty of added sugar. When he arrived at the ranch, Michael learned to re-balance his diet. He aimed to get 45% of his 1,900 daily calories from complex carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables and fruit); 30% from lean protein such as poultry, fish, dairy, beans and legumes; and 25% from good fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds and olive and canola oil.
Here's a sample menu from one of Michael's days at the ranch, showing just how dramatically Michael altered his habits:
1 cup fat-free milk
1 cup whole grain cereal
6 pieces brown rice California sushi roll
4 ounces chicken breast
4 cups stir-fry vegetables with sauce
Low-sodium soy sauce and wasabi
2-1/2 spicy chicken sausages with jalapeño
1/2 ounce unsalted baked yellow corn tortilla chips
2 cups of salad - mixed baby greens with arugula, butterhead lettuce, endive and radicchio
1 sliced red tomato
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 Tablespoons miso ginger and wasabi dressing
2 ounces unsweetened vanilla almond milk
8 ounces coffee
8 ounces fat-free milk
Total calories: 1,739
Overall, on this day Michael did a great job of choosing high-quality calories. But I'd recommend a couple of improvements to help him meet his 1,900 calories goal to reap even more good nutrition.
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