Do you feel sluggish after lunch? Or maybe you need to lose weight? If so, you may have been told to “watch your carbs.” While there is truth to this statement, I find that this oversimplification leaves most people confused about what they should & shouldn’t eat. Today I aim to clarify the misconceptions about carbohydrates.
Why the focus on “Carbs” you ask? Convenience foods like cereals, breads, crackers, chips, soda and juices have taken over our diets, replacing better quality foods like vegetables and other low sugar options. This overload of carbohydrates in our diet is likely one of the reasons for the epidemic of obesity & diabetes we are seeing. After hearing this, many people feel they need to go on a “low or no carb” diet. This is not the right approach. While diets like Atkins can work in the short term- they are notoriously hard to adhere to, and known for the “rebound” weight gain that follows the moment you give in to temptation. I am a fan of the more moderate approach: eating smaller portions of low Glycemic Index carbohydrates.
You need to eat carbohydrates. They provide our bodies with energy. The issue is the TYPE, the AMOUNT and the TIMING of when we eat them.
5 rules to guide your carbohydrate choices
- Avoid white, processed carbohydrates, including but not limited to: cookies, cereals, breads, pastas, chips. These foods usually offer little or no nutrition. The more of these foods that lurk in your pantry, the bigger your belly will be. 🙂 Throw them out & replace them with healthier options like vegetables, lean proteins and fruits.
- Read your labels to avoid added sugars like high fructose corn syrup, agave nector, sugar, maltose, fructose, dextrose, syrup, etc. Packaged foods are tricky and there are a few exceptions, but aiming to avoid added sugars is a good place to start.
- Eat carbohydrates early in the day. Even the “good” carbohydrates (particularly the starchy kind like potatoes, brown rice, oats, etc) serve to provide our bodies with energy. If we eat them in large quantities before bedtime, our bodies have no choice but to store them as body fat (the storage form of energy). Don’t do this! Instead, eat small amounts with breakfast and lunch only.
- Control the portion size. This is where most people struggle. Serve yourself a portion (general suggestion: 1/2 cup for ladies per meal, up to 1 cup per meal for gentleman) and put the rest of the food away. I strongly suggest reading the book Mindless Eating so you know how your brain really works. To summarize the book, we eat more when we have more in front of us. If you see it, you will eat it- so be proactive & set yourself up for success. Put the food away!
- Don’t drink your calories. Juices, sodas, milk, gatorade & sugary coffee drinks are a waste of calories. These beverages do not fill you up, they only fill you out. The only time I would suggest breaking this rule is if you are engaging in intense endurance exercise for more than 1 hour (ex: long distance running, cycling at 15+mph, soccer/basketball, etc.) Again- they are only needed if the activity goes beyond 1 hour.
I hope this helps clear up the confusion. Go here if you are interested in seeing an extensive list of the Glycemic index of foods.
Let’s create a better, healthier you!
Yeah, I know… the fitness world can be a confusing place, even when it comes to something as simple as understanding what to eat.
Let me help you make sense of it all with my FREE video series Healthy Eating 101. In it you’ll learn the what to eat, how much to eat, and strategies that make all of this simple & easy. As a special bonus you’ll also get my ebook 8 Daily Habits to a Healthier You so you can get started right away. Click here to get started!
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