Carbohydrates have a bad rap – we associate them with unhealthy weight gain and think we must banish them from our lives in order to lose weight.
But carbs provide an important use for our body – they give us energy to move, think and even affect our emotions. There’s a reason why we call carby meals “comfort foods”, they make us feel good and when we take them out of our diet, we feel crabby!
So why are carbs considered the bane of most diets? Because we either eat too much of them or eating over-processed forms which contain little nutritional value but very high amounts of sugar, sodium, or fat.
Let’s examine the heavy hitters..
Bread - particularly white bread. White bread is low in nutritional value while being high in carbs so all you get is a lot of calories. Stick to whole grain breads which contain the entire kernel - not only do you get much needed fiber, but it’s packed with nutrients including protein, fiber, B vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Increasing whole grains in your diet also lowers your risk of heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
My favorite whole grain bread? Dave’s Killer Bread, hands down. It’s soft and delicious!
Pasta – Pasta is usually at the top of everyone's list for ditching. One cup of spaghetti provides 42 grams of carbs, which is 1/6 of your daily allotment. Anyone will tell you, if you’re having a pasta meal at a restaurant, you are going to eat waaaaay more than one cup! Many brands also use highly refined flour to make their pasta, and like white bread, there is little to no nutritional value to go along with the calorie count. You can enjoy pasta by limiting your serving size to 1 cup (think, fist-sized) and enjoying it once or twice a week. Try different varieties such as whole grain, whole wheat, or chickpea. I’m going to keep it real though, I do NOT like the taste of whole grain pasta! I’d rather go with a small portion of white pasta and load up on the veggies.
Rice – Again, think of the portion size you typically get and it's highly refined. Rice is a main staple in many cultures. I grew up on rice with butter, rice & peas with gravy, fried rice…you name it, rice was on my plate. White rice like white bread – has the most nutritious parts taken out leaving you to eat a bowl of starch that is high-glycemic and leaves you feeling hungry soon after. Try having brown rice or quinoa instead and stick to small serving sizes so it’s not the main star on your plate.
White Potatoes – the white potato is also considered a healthy diet nemesis. What is it about the unassuming potato that gets such a bad rap? Let me count the ways……
1) They are usually prepared in unhealthy dishes. Think, French fries and potato chips which are loaded with trans fats and sodium; potato salad - laden with cholesterol building mayo; baked potatoes smothered in butter or sour cream!!
2) No one eats just one fry or chip. It’s incredibly easy to exceed the portion size especially since they taste so good! Half a cup of fries packs in almost 200 calories AND 13 grams of fat and those are the homemade ones. Order them at a fast-food joint and expect to double the calorie and fat count. Think of how many people eat fries on a regular basis and you can see why they are so deadly to your fit goals.
3) The potato isn’t a super-veggie but they are the most consumed vegetable in the U.S. Potatoes are high on the glycemic value – your body digests them really quickly which can cause your sugar and insulin levels to surge then dip. How they are prepared also diminishes their nutritional value. Potatoes are a rich source of potassium, Vitamins C & B6 and provide some protein and fiber (with the skin on). But boiling your potatoes allows the nutrients to leach into the cooking water, which usually gets dumped out in the sink.
There are ways to have your carbs and eat them too.
Home-prepared is better than restaurant where you can control the amount of salt, condiments and oil you are adding to your dish. Choose healthier methods to cook your food – air-frying, grilling, roasting, pressure cooking are better options than pan frying.
Limit your portion sizes. Complex carbs shouldn’t be the most prominent thing on your plate. Pack on the greens and include lean protein. Enjoy a few potato chips, have a spoonful of macaroni salad and cut a skinny slice of cake instead of a hunk.
Pick your carbs wisely! As I mentioned, whole grain is best for bread, rice and pasta. Consider other alternatives to starchier choices. Think variety in your meals.
Bottom line – you don’t need to eliminate any one nutrient to eat healthy. Instead, try eating more mindfully and practice portion control without sacrificing enjoying your meals.
In need of nutritional support or guidance? Feel free to schedule a nutrition consultation!!