I was a very literal child. When I was hospitalized at age 4 for a routine tonsillectomy, the evening before the surgery my Mother said she and my Dad were going to get a bite to eat, and that they’d be right back. “Are you sure it’s just a bite?” I asked. That seemed unlikely to me, since I would have had a very hard time eating just one bite. I must have furrowed my brows in that way I do when something seems odd. “Oh yes, she said. “Just a bite.” When they didn’t come back as quickly as I thought they would, I asked the nurse where they were. She explained that it took a while to eat dinner, and then they would be back. “Oh no,” I said. “I asked her how many bites and she said just one.” I couldn’t yet understand what “it’s just an expression,” means. I can still feel my puzzlement at why in the world someone would say “just one bite” if they were going to have more than one bite, and how these grown-ups didn’t seem to notice the inaccuracy in what they were saying.
Sometimes I’m still a little like that four year old I once was. That’s why, when I first started eating this way, and had taken Dr. Swank’s The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book out of the library, I was overjoyed to discover literal “translations” of grams of fat into usable amounts like teaspoons or tablespoons, and how many teaspoons of nuts or seeds is equivalent to a teaspoon of oil. But even in that list, Dr. Swank resorted to the mysterious nomenclature of ounces. One third of an ounce of walnuts equaled 5 grams of fat. And once I got introduced to the low fat plant-based community of doctors and dietitians, they tend to talk –or argue–about fat in ounces. Or that vague doctor-speak, “acceptable in small amounts.” In my reading of The Pleasure Trap, I got the impression the doctors at True North might favor avocado over nuts. Dr. McDougall refers to nuts as a delicacy and discusses them by the ounce in this newsletter article. While he recommends no nuts for patients with heart disease, even Dr. Esselstyn recommends 1-2 tablespoons of flax meal a day. And even Jeff Novick has a tahini dressing in one of the simple meals on his facebook page.
So I got curious. And got myself a food scale, which can be had for around 5 bucks at the likes of Bed, Bath and Beyond. And I measured two generously filled tablespoons of ground golden flax into my food scale and guess what—they weigh just under an ounce on my scale. 3 tablespoons is just over an ounce.
I still want to stay well within Dr. Swank’s most conservative lower-end recommendation of 20 grams of fat a day, with 5 or less of those being saturated fat. Since I don’t have heart disease, and can vary my ration of fat a bit if I choose to beyond the flax meal, I wanted to see just how much avocado, nuts, nut butter and flax seed make one ounce. Here is the combination I literally came up with:
Part of the driving force behind my curiosity is that when I finally got around to reading Eat to Live a few months ago, I noticed that Dr. Fuhrman recommends an ounce of nuts and seeds a day, to be eaten with meals. Since there has been so much contention among these plant-based doctors over whether or not to eat nuts and seeds, and if so, how many, and since he is the one who champions eating them most openly, I wanted to see what that added up to in literal terms like slices, actual nuts, and measured out teaspoons of nut butter or ground seed.
It isn’t much, is it? And it’s sad to me to think of all the fuss there’s been over it. But it’s good to know for a literal woman like me what an ounce looks like, so I can be very careful about staying within it if I choose to eat some, especially if the chosen nut or seed is especially high in saturated fat.
I chose to weigh almonds because they are easiest for me to digest, and make me feel best. Here’s a shot of how many whole almonds measured one ounce on my scale:
Dr. Barnard says in his book Power Foods for the Brain, if you’re going to eat nuts, eat almonds because their fat composition is best for the brain. And with my particular health challenges, I’m all about helping my brain along. On a less scientific note, the famous clairvoyant Edgar Cayce is said to have said, “Two almonds a day keeps cancer away.” Two. That’s not much either, is it?
Now that you have an idea what an ounce looks like, if you choose to imbibe, how will you spend your ounce?
If you ever want to use about half of it up on a modest slice of avocado, here’s the easiest salad dressing in the world:
The Easiest Avocado Salad Dressing in the World
(approx. half an ounce of fat, or 5 grams of fat)
Chop or tear up your favorite greens in a salad bowl.
Cut one modest slice of avocado—no more than an eighth of the whole fruit.
Chop the slice and distribute on top of the greens.
Splash with lemon or lime juice.
Sprinkle with garlic granules.
Now this is where it gets fun. Become the incarnation of my grandmother’s friend Jo Micelli or any of my other Italian relatives, and squish and mash the avocado, citrus, and garlic into the greens with both hands. Enjoy yourself. Wash your hands before, and lick them after, then wash them again. Your greens are dressed, and ready for anything else you might want to add for color and texture. Just an additional splash or citrus or vinegar or extra herbs and spices over the top of those and you’ve got yourself a salad.