Food Detectives

April 18, 2012

Ok, it totally seems like I’m crushing on Ted Allen lately. Last week I was talking about how my life was like an episode of Chopped.IMG_5008 This week, I’ve got a post title that is another Food Network show he hosts. For those of you who don’t know, Food Detectives is a show where Ted and his team go around putting common food myths, tricks and remedies to the test. Example: on one episode, Ted put common stomach-calming remedies to the test (like ginger ale and soda crackers) by having some of his “detectives” spin insanely on a teacup ride and then having them consume the various remedies and compare the results.

So, nice little bunny trail, you may be thinking, but what does this have to do with me? I’m not becoming one of Ted’s detectives any time soon (I wish). I just feel that, with all the label reading that I have to do because of my new naturopath recommendations, I am becoming somewhat of a food detective myself. Grocery shopping seems to take FOREVER since I have to go over every label with a fine-toothed comb. Sherlock’s got nothing on me! Winking smile

Just to review (I know it’s hard to keep up with my saga, even for me), I am no longer on the SUPER-STRICT diet that my naturopath put me on nearly 3 weeks ago. Last week, she emailed me some new dietary recommendations, based on the blood test she did to determine which foods I was genetically pre-disposed to have trouble breaking down (or something like that). These include:

  • Avoiding potato and all foods which contain it (trickier than you might think, more on that in a minute).
  • Not eating fruit (and all by-products, also tricky) and sugar together, or within 4 hours of each other.
  • Still avoiding wheat (not on my test, so I’m going to ask her about that one tomorrow).

It’s hard for me to tell you exactly why I’m doing this, I’m hoping it will be explained tomorrow at my appointment. I do know that after 2 weeks of avoiding the potato, I’m to have some and then watch my symptoms in the next 24-48 hours. I’m planning a French Fry fest – who’s with me? Winking smile

So, at first glance, that doesn’t seem TOO tricky, right? And, really, compared to what I was doing, this is awesome. If I can have fruit and dairy, I’m good to go. But, potato and fruit are sneaky. They’ve got a LOT of aliases. They’re good at hiding out where you least expect them.IMG_5009

Let’s start with the potato. Upon being told to avoid potato, you might think, “Well, no fries or mashed potatoes at dinner, that kinda sucks, but it won’t be that bad,” right? I actually don’t eat that many potatoes on a day-to-day basis, so, save for those times when I want to treat myself to fries or when I’m dining out/at someone else’s house, it’s not something that I will actually miss a whole lot (side bar: this is one thing that annoys me about how my naturopath went about things: She put me on this super-strict diet without having done any tests, and since potatoes were allowed on that, I decided to go out and buy a whole bunch, way more than I normally would. Not only were they probably harming me, now I have potatoes that I can’t eat).

But, let’s do some more detective work. Potatoes are in a LOT of soups, stews etc. Apparently potato has been added to a lot of flour and yeast (not huge right now since I can’t have wheat anyway), as well as baking powder, even though it’s not on the ingredient list. The food additives dextrose, vitamin A palmitate and ascorbyl palmitate are also made from potato. Iodized salt contains dextrose, so sea salt it is around here now. And you know how milk also tells you it’s fortified with vitamins A and D? Guess what gives it the vitamin A? You guessed it, our friend vitamin A palmitate – AKA potatoes!

That is why I can only have whole milk and full-fat dairy right now. No vitamin A palmitate in Homo milk. It sounds really weird, but a few days in, I had lost some weight, so we could be onto something. My mom’s assistant also received the exact same recommendations form another naturopath (she’s been a big help), and says “I know it’s weird, but I lost 15 pounds drinking whole milk!”

It is hard to be gluten-free without potato though. Potato flour or starch is in sooo many gluten-free flour blends, breads, and crackers, so I have to be extra-careful about reading labels. There were only 1 or 2 kinds of bread that were safe for me. And I already checked out the gluten-free crusts at Boston Pizza online – yeah, they contain dextrose. Sad smile And the rice crackers I bought when I started following the first round of recommendations? Yeah, potato starch (grrr…but thankfully it’s only the one flavour. Most of the other ones I checked out are all good).

Onto the fruit and sugar thing. If you are into healthy living/food awareness, you’ve probably heard that sugar is in everything, we eat waaaay more of it today than we did 100 years ago, yada yada yada. And that is definitely true. Read labels, you’ll be surprsed to find how many things contain sugar (even spice mixes/BBQ seasonings, for crying out loud). Generally, I’m finding that just skipping the sugar for the day is easier than trying to avoid/space things out. And since I can eat fruit, and Stevia and maple syrup and a couple of other things are acceptable substitutes, I can make sweet things that totally satisfy my cravings.

But sometimes a girl just wants her sugar (mini eggs that I couldn’t eat at Easter were whispering my name from the snack drawer, I’m sure of it). It takes some serious planning to be fruit-free for 4 hours. Why? More aliases. Citric acid and acetic acid are two VERY COMMON preservatives made from fruit (in almost all canned veggies, salsa, and any number of other foods). Cream of tartar counts as food too (that’s the stuff that keeps egg whites stiff in meringues)…weird, eh? I googled it, and ehow told me:

“Cream of tartar is made when tartaric acid partially neutralizes with potassium hydroxide, which transforms it into a salt. Grapes are the only natural source of tartaric acid. Cream of tartar is developed from sediment produced in the process of making wine.” source

And if I’m skipping fruit to allow myself some sugar, forget salad. Vinegar and olive oil = fruit. So I really have to watch what I’m doing if I’m going to have sugar. So, like I said, for the most part right now, I think I’ll skip the sugar for the most part unless it’s a special occasion or I’m saving up for an indulgence.

I find though, that the not mixing fruit and sugar thing sort of sets me up to over-indulge and get into the binge/deprive mindset that I’ve been trying to break since reading Intuitive Eating. Let me explain, giving an example from the weekend.


Instead of going out, I planned to stay in on Saturday and make a burger and a shake from Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes. I made sure to pick a burger with no vinegar involved (you’d be surprised how many that ruled out) and chose an insanely delicious 4 cheese burger, served with a side of kale chips since fries are off the table right now. The shake was toasted almond.

So, after lunch, I opted out of fruit (except for some melon – apparently it and rhubarb don’t count as fruit for this thing). We had our burgers, and then later on our shakes. And then I start thinking, “I can have sugar. I normally can’t. What sugary things are in our house that I can eat right now?” Chocolate, butterscotch chips, extra ice cream, those mini eggs, and a caramel came to mind (and mouth). I didn’t go absolutely crazy, but I definitely ate more than I should have after having a deliciously decadent shake.

Optimally, and I would add that conventional “diet wisdom” would add, I would have a few mini eggs each day so that I wouldn’t feel like I was depriving myself, and like it says in Intuitive Eating, I could have them any time. But that’s the thing, I can’t have them any time. I can have them, but only if I’ve thought and planned things out first. So I’m not quite sure where that leaves me, it’s just something I’ll have to think about, and figure out how to balance the whole fruit/sugar/indulgence thing. Any ideas?

I’ve long been a label reader. But in a different way. Before, my eyes went straight to calories, or fat/fibre/carbohydrates/protein so I could figure out the WW points in the food. These days, those numbers are secondary. I’m going right to the ingredients? Citric acid? Sugar (aka glucose-fructose, cane sugar, etc, etc)? Vitamin A palmitate? Dextrose? No? Go-ahead. Yes? Sigh, guess I have to find something else.

I think  it’s kind of ironic. One of the main reasons I went to see a naturopath was the fact that I was putting on weight. And now, for the first time in a long time, eating to lose weight is not a top priority. Calories and fat are no longer the bottom line. Instead, I have to take a hard look at the ingredients and quality of food I’m putting into my body. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

So, Ted Allen, are you ready for your newest food detective?


  • Shana says:

    This made my head hurt! I hope that you don’t always have to follow so many food rules. I can see how hard it would be to reconcile this with intuitive eating. Either way, I hope this gets easier for you and everything works itself out. At minimum, you will learn a lot about yourself and what works for your body. Keep on keepin’ on!

    • Hilary says:

      Oh wow…I just replied to your last comment and used your exact wording – reconcile intuitive eating vs. naturopath. Oh dear! Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Sarah says:

    I had to do this when I was a vegan, there are animal by products in almost all processed food!

    I’m glad that you no longer have to eat the super strict diet and can enjoy fruit. Do you know why you can’t eat sugar and fruit within four hours of each other?

    • Hilary says:

      I was at the naturopath again yesterday, and asked her that very question, and found it hard to understand her answer. She did say there’s no specific science behind it, it’s just what’s best for me…or something like that.

  • You had me at french fry fest.

    Just kidding ;)

    I think it’s GREAT that you are delving into food labels on a whole new level…It really is AMAZING what’s in foods that we don’t actually know about…

    It sounds like you have some figuring out to do with the sugar/fruit thing…But this is all a process…One that changes on a monthly basis from what I’ve heard!

    • Hilary says:

      Yes, should be interesting. Was back at the naturopath yesterday, and basically am supposed to stay the course for 6 weeks…we’ll see how it goes.

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