Twinkie Diet Vs. Vegetarian: Which Is Better for You?


twinkie dietProfessor Mark Haub has just finished his convenience store diet, and he has some great news for all of the unhealthy eaters out there. Haub lost 27 pounds in two months! His good cholesterol went up, and his bad cholesterol went down. He reduced his level of triglycerides and lowered his BMI from an unhealthy 28.8 to the much healthier 24.9.

In other words, Haub did much better on his junk food diet than I did on my vegetarian diet.

I'm pretty sure I gained weight in my last week without meat; furthermore a mid-month blood test showed that I had high cholesterol -- for the first time in my life.

So here's what I did wrong, and Haub did right.

What happens on the Twinkie diet:

Even while two thirds of Haub's meals came from packaged, sugary foods, Haub cut out meat, whole grains, and fruit. He also snacked on Doritos, but tried to counteract the damage by taking a multivitamin and having a protein shake daily.

While Haub isn't ready to call his experiment "healthy," he's intrigued by the results that surprised even him. By restricting his caloric intake to 1,800 per day, and adding in one serving of vegetables (but from a can, so he could stick to what most people have available to them), Haub wound up in a much healthier place after his two-month experiment that seemed destined for disaster.

What happened on my vegetarian diet:

I focused on whole grains, veggies, and fruit for my first three weeks of going veg, which I'm thinking led me to a place of deprivation by the final week. However, my husband had to go on a restrictive diet a week into our veg experiment, so there were suddenly fewer options available to us. Those multi-cultural dishes often had too much fat for his diet, so we quinoa'd ourselves to death.

Additionally, I thought eating out would be helpful in maintaining my meat-free diet, but quickly discovered that mac and cheese is the go-to vegetarian dish at many a restaurant. After getting sick of salads and grains, I found myself grabbing a slice of pizza or cheesy pasta for lunch instead of a turkey sandwich, which would have been much healthier. It also didn't help that our busy schedules only allowed us to cook once or twice a week so we did have to rely on take-out, and in our neighborhood, take-out without meat means cheese. And after burning out on grains and veggies, I found myself with melted cheese options -- only. (Incidentally, when we were finishing up our month of veg, we discovered some amazing restaurants -- but not in our neighborhood.).

I'm not dismissing my vegetarian diet. In fact, when we do cook, we now have a load of recipes where we can substitute tofu or skip the meat altogether for incredibly satisfying dinners. We will keep doing that ... when we cook. But for busy people who work full-time and chase two small people, cooking every day isn't an option. Throwing a piece of lean meat on the grill, however, is a better choice than ordering the cheese enchiladas when you know if you eat one more salad you're going to lose it.

Giving up meat was refreshing, and we will definitely be cutting down our consumption, but until we have a private chef, or an extra 24 hours in a day, we won't be able to prepare three meals daily -- and restaurants, in the middle of an organic, farm-to-table renaissance (which I love, by the way) just don't have enough healthy options that are meat-free. Or at least restaurants or take-out we can reasonably depend on in our neighborhood. If I had the time, I would make more of the effort. But right now meat-free requires more effort and time than simply healthy.

Professor Haub isn't willing to give a "bottom line." But my bottom line is this: calorie restriction, lower fat, and high taste is the way to go. Which, for me, means as many options as possible.

For now. I'm sure I'll try this again, when I'm able to prepare food instead of eating and running. Unless, of course, we figure out Twinkies truly are the way to go when you want to lose weight, and stay healthy. They're meat-free, right?

Image via Like_the_Grand_Canyon/Flickr

eating out, healthy choices, vegetarian


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Bluel... Blueliner

I don't know if I'd call a twinkie meat free... at least not vegetarian, it does contain animal fat

nonmember avatar Stacie

Of course your vegetarian diet failed; for protein you were dependent on cheese, which is high in cholesterol. Next time try lentils, quinoa, mung beans, etc.

Freela Freela

I've been a vegetarian for years... it takes planning to get a good variety of meals.  Vegetarian options are limited in many restaurants, as you found out!  We substitute in veggie substitutes like tofu and beans into a variety of recipes originally designed to contain meat... hence we have 'veggie meat' lasagna, tacos, and casseroles weekly.  I don't have time to cook a full meal every day but I do cook extra when I have time and freeze it for easy reheating. 

nonmember avatar Eric de Jesus

If you're going for weight loss, it doesn't matter which diet you're in. however if you're going for a weight loss with your health still in it, I'd choose vegetarian diet over Twinkie diet. I don't like veggies so much. But I don't want to die because of too much sugar in my body

DebaLa DebaLa

The way that Twinkie diet looked? Gross. I think he left out the part where he vomited from the sugar and chemical overload. After awhile all you'd have to do is see a Twinkie sweat inside its wrapper or smell a plastic cheese nacho after the third meal and BLAAAAHHH. Call it the self-wretching Bulemia Diet.

One summer many years ago, I came home to a carton of Haagen Daz *for dinner* several days a week. It was so hot, I couldn't stand the thought of heating or eating an actual meal. So I tented my top over the AC and polished a pint off in one sitting. I don't think I lost weight, but I can definitely say I didn't gain any either. So it really is just a calories thing. Too bad good nutrition doesn't count for calorie burning, I think people would make better choices.

nonmember avatar carolyn

"It also didn't help that our busy schedules only allowed us to cook once or twice a week so we did have to rely on take-out"

I find this statement astounding. Is this really the norm today??? No wonder people are having a hard time to pay off their credit cards! How hard is it to put on a pot of water for pasta or a pot of rice? As a vegetarian for almost 40 years, working full time and also having 2 little ones running around (a while back, they are now big...)there is always time to put something healthy on the table if you put your mind to it..... Back then vegetarianism was seen as quite deviant, and your only restaurant options were grilled cheese with tomato soup! Now there are millions of recipes on the internet!! Plan ahead, make double rice on that one day of cooking and prepare another meal from it, or make 4x rice and put half in the freezer.... In the United States we have so much variety in the supermarkets that not being able to prepare a meal more than once per week is a travesty!!

nonmember avatar Aaron

This is NOT a Twinkie diet. The "reporter" failed to really do any real reporting. The diet, as the writer said, is the convenience store diet, meaning Prof. Haub mainly ate snack foods, not just Twinkies.
Please do some research before ragging on a legitimate diet.
The link to the CNN article is here:

Please read actual news before reading all this biased, vegetarian stuff.

nonmember avatar Vanessa

It is healthier to eat a bad diet and have normal weight than eat a "healthy" and be overweight. Haub made some interesting remarks about "processed" foods sometimes being healthier than "healthy" foods in this interview:

Michelle Tanusri Morgan

Oh, great. Yet another sensationalist article saying, in essence, that 'vegetarianism isn't healthy,' written by a person literally too stupid to eat properly.

I'll repeat what's already been said in the comments: you can't use cheese as your main source of protein. And hey, guess what: you can't eat out 90% of the time, either. I don't care if you work full-time and have kids; so does everybody else. You just don't know how to cook, and clearly don't really want to. You chose to throw yourself on the mercies of businesses who cater to fat Americans and all you could get was macaroni and cheese and cheese enchiladas? Waah.

In the future, try Greek food, Indian food, African food, Egyptian food, and Japanese food, just for starters. All have non-cheese vegetarian proteins that are healthy and delicious. Tofu, falafel, fuul, rice and beans: low-fat, high fiber protein. It's not rocket science. Your cholesterol went up because you were acting like an idiot, not a vegetarian.

While lean meat on the grill is better than cheese enchiladas, it's a stupid comparison. Try comparing meat protein to, say, a combination of spiced rice and lentils. You failed because you don't know anything about vegetarianism, not because there's anything intrinsically unhealthy about vegetarianism.

And I should know, because I've been one for twenty years.

nonmember avatar amanda

This is an ignorant article, which I mean in the literal term: uneducated. Before you plan on offering advice on health then perhaps take the time to learn about the topic. Vegetarianism is considered healthful because those that commit to it eat more than salad and quinoa. I am not interested in getting advice from someone who thought that eating out was a better option than cooking at home. The time it took to type out this article would have been better used to educate herself on the vegetarian diet and the vegetarian food pyramid.

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