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The Food Issue

Watch What You Eat

We got renowned dietitian and nutritionist Keecha Harris to take a look at Thomas and Melissa’s (both are 22 years of age) diets for two days and tell us just how gross their insides must be.
VICE Staff
Κείμενο VICE Staff

We got renowned dietitian and nutritionist Keecha Harris to take a look at Thomas and Melissa’s (both are 22 years of age) diets for two days and tell us just how gross their insides must be.

Both Melissa and Thomas have high-caffeine, high-fat, high-sodium diets that don’t include much fiber. Those are all risk factors for heart disease, various cancers, and a number of other problems. They need to be a little bit more conscientious about eating fruits and vegetables during lunch breaks. I know what it means to work in a busy office, but if they could just take ten minutes each day to bring in things they could just keep at their desks like carrot sticks or grapes to snack on, that would help them significantly with their fiber intake. Neither of them was even close to having an average of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and that’s very concerning.


In two days, Thomas ate:


10:00 AM two 200 mg Ibuprofen tablets;

1:00 PM one scrambled egg with American cheese on a roll; one small coffee, black no sugar;

2:00 PM one glass of water;

3:00 PM one small bag of tart candies (unlabeled);

3:30 PM one glass of water;

4:30 PM one glass of water;

6:00 PM one small coffee;

7:00 PM one 8 oz can of Red Bull;

7:30 PM one glass of water;

9:00 PM one-quarter rotisserie chicken with skin (both white and dark meat), one serving of boiled spinach, four bites Lundberg “Garlic Primavera” risotto, two pieces of baklava with walnuts, about six pieces of sliced pineapple


11:30 AM one scrambled egg with American cheese on a roll, one small coffee, one glass of water;

1:30 PM one glass of water;

2:00 PM one glass of water;

2:30 PM one small coffee;

3:00 PM one glass of water;

4:00 PM one glass of water;

5:00 PM sandwich with sliced deli turkey, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on a roll; one 12 oz can of root beer;

7:30 PM one 16 oz bottle of Brahma beer;

9:00 PM one bowl of vegetarian chili (beans, chili powder, tomatoes, onions, potatoes) with two spoonfuls of sour cream, one 12 oz can of Budweiser;

10:00 PM one 16 oz bottle of Budweiser;

11:00 PM one 16 oz bottle of Budweiser;

12:00 AM one 16 oz bottle of Budweiser, one small slice of cheesecake with walnuts

In two days, Melissa ate:


9:30 AM cigarette;

10:30 AM one pint-size carton of orange juice without pulp;


11:30 AM one small coffee with milk and one sugar, cigarette;

2:00 PM cigarette;

2:30 PM Buffalo-style chicken sandwich on roll with pickle and blue cheese dressing, one 12 oz can of Coke;

4:00 PM Bubblicious fruit bubble gum;

4:30 PM cigarette;

6:30 PM cigarette;

7:30 PM several pieces of homemade beef jerky;

8:00 PM two Taco Bell Baja steak gorditas (grilled steak, flour tortillas, brown beans, lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream), one order of nachos with cheese, jalapenos, and grilled chicken, 12 oz cup of Pepsi;

10:00 PM FUZE cranberry-raspberry juice with a shot and a half of vodka;

11:30 PM cigarette


9:30 AM cigarette, one small coffee with milk and sugar;

10:30 AM two Metamucil fiber supplement wafers, glass of water;

12:45 PM BLT sandwich on toasted wheat bread with mayonnaise, one cup of split-pea soup, one 12 oz can of Coke, cigarette;

3:00 PM cigarette;

4:00 PM one tray of carrot and celery sticks with ranch dressing (about 12 of each), one 16 oz bottle of Glaceau Vitamin Water Vital-T flavor;

6:30 PM 24 oz can of Budweiser;

9:45 PM 16 oz bottle of Budweiser;

10:15 PM one small bag of salt & vinegar chips;

11:30 PM two scrambled eggs, American cheese, and sausage on a roll

They also had long breaks between their meals, which gave me the impression that once they got in they were just working, working, working. In your early 20s, you really don’t think a whole lot about what your health and disease risks are going to be when you get older, but all of these things are setting the stage for later on in life. Both of them are gearing up to go to the doctor at 30 and see that their blood pressure is a little higher than it used to be, or that their weight has crept up over the years, and suddenly they’re looking back down the road going “Whoa, how did I gain 50 pounds?” They could be gaining something like two or three pounds a year, which doesn’t seem like a lot initially, but over time it becomes a problem.


And then when they’re 40, and they’ve been doing the same thing over a period of time, they start to develop things like high blood pressure and diabetes. Because they’re not getting a high intake of fruits and vegetables as well as eating a lot of high-fat meats and spreads and things like that, they’re both steadily increasing their risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes… and all those chronic disease conditions are really expensive to pay for later on in life. From the dietary-risk-factor perspective, they’re each gearing up to encounter some really big struggles five to ten years from now trying to turn around their eating habits.

Melissa in particular really needs to add fiber to her diet. Instead of taking fiber supplements it would be better for her to just increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables she’s eating. The best way to get fiber is not from supplements, pills, or treats, but through natural foods. As a woman, she’s at risk for osteoporosis, and I don’t know what her family history is, but she has a very, very limited dairy intake. She should try to increase this intake by snacking on things like yogurt or having a glass of milk or a bowl of cereal in the morning. This is a quick and easy thing to do. On day one, she started out with just orange juice and coffee and didn’t have a real meal until 2:30; that can make your metabolism sluggish, whether you’re a man or a woman. If she can take the time to get coffee, it would be really helpful if instead of coffee or orange juice she could just grab a small container of yogurt. If she’s avoiding dairy because of lactose intolerance, she needs to know that products like yogurt and cheese are not high in lactose; it’s the things like milk products and ice cream that she needs to be concerned about. She could even have soy milk and soy yogurt, it doesn’t matter, but she does need to get some calcium in.


All that she’s eating is high-sodium, high-fat, low-fiber types of food, and she’s drinking a lot of caffeinated soft drinks and coffee. There are things like pretzels she should be snacking on instead of potato chips. Or whole wheat bread, or even a little packet of oatmeal she could do for breakfast—all these things are preferable to chips, which are high-fat empty calories.

She does have a good amount of fluid in her diet, but a lot of it is coming from caffeine- and sodium-rich drinks like coffee, Coke, and beer—not much water. Instead of these things, she should try to switch to water or low-fat milk, which in her case could be soy milk or Lactaid (either of these would also be helpful in getting her more calcium), fruit juices, or diet colas. If she’s going to be having soft drinks, unless there’s some health reason why she couldn’t, they should at least be diet to cut down on the sugar.

For Thomas, the thing that concerned me most was the long periods of time between meals. The first day he ate at 1:00 and then didn’t eat again until 9:00 at night, except for the tart candy and Red Bull, which are just empty calories. Energy drinks do have carbohydrates (that’s the energy), but none of the other nutrients that the body needs. He did better the second day, eating at 11:30 and then at 5:00, but he still shouldn’t be leaving more than four hours between his meals, because after that period of time a person will be starving, which will cause him to eat more and more quickly. A lot of his meals were also pretty late at night. It would be better if he were to cut off meals at 7:00 or 8:00, and if he needs to eat after that, to make it some kind of small snack like pretzels and milk that will give his body more of the nutrients it needs.


One of the positives for his record was that he had a high intake of water, which is really great, and a high intake of fluid overall. It would be good to cut back the intake from beer and coffee—of course, cutting back the coffee gradually so he doesn’t start developing headaches from caffeine withdrawal.

On that subject, I also noticed that on the first day, he started off with two Ibuprofen tablets in the morning and then didn’t eat until 1:00. Taking any medication on an empty stomach can be problematic, but taking Ibuprofen in particular without food can cause some serious gastrointestinal problems. It’s also likely that the reason he’s even taking it is due to hunger headaches. He’d find that if he got up in the morning and, instead of waiting until late in the day to eat, started the day out with some food and got his body into that rhythm, he might not even need that Ibuprofen.

Beer is a great thing, but it’s also a whole lot of empty calories. If he likes beer that much and is drinking more than two or three bottles a day, he should try to switch to a light beer, or cut back and just have regular beer every once in a while as a treat. A single serving size of alcohol is one 12-ounce can of beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of liquor, and the maximum healthy intake for men is two servings a day—one for women. Regularly exceeding this limit puts him at a greater risk for heart disease, and where with red wine there are at least high levels of antioxidants which can help prevent certain cancers, drinking liquor or beer can actually increase the risk of these cancers.

He did really great the first day with the spinach and pineapples and baklava with walnuts (even though the baklava itself is high-fat, the walnuts are really rich in nutrients), but he could also stand to increase his fiber. He had the vegetarian chili the second day, so there are some great fiber dishes in his diet, it’s just that when he’d have these dishes it would just be one meal and always at the end of the day. If he could just spread that out through the day and add a little more fruit and vegetables to it, that would be extremely helpful.

Thomas has pretty much the same risk profile as Melissa, but one thing she has working to her advantage is that until she hits menopause, he’s at much higher risk for heart disease than she is. They both have very similar risk factors from their dietary intake, but as a man he doesn’t have the protective benefits of estrogen. So Melissa may not necessarily see the high cholesterol and things like that until her 40s or 50s, but of course changing all your eating habits once you’re 40 is much harder than changing them when you’re in your 20s or 30s. A couple simple things they could do to cut down these risks right now would be just to increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diets, and don’t go eight hours between meals. You have to get some food in you when you’re working, and it ought to be healthy.