It’s February, and you know what that means? It’s the month of love. When you think about the things that you love, what comes to mind nutritionally? Carbs – of course! Most of us have a love-hate relationship with carbs. Oh, we love them all right, but then we hate them when we cave in and eat them because we have this idea that they are bad for us. But here’s the good news: Carbs are not the enemy!
Carbs tend to have a really bad rep. We hear all the time that we should limit, or even eliminate completely, our intake of carbs. But the thing is that carbs are a healthy part of a nutritious eating plan. They can be incorporated into our daily routine. Cutting carbs out of our diets entirely should not be an option.
The Fad Diets
A lot of diets promote low carb and no carb eating. And it’s true, you can lose a lot of weight doing this, but it’s only going to be for a short time. If you are one of those people that can stay strong and cut back carbs for long term (not eliminate them completely – that’s a different story), studies have proven that it will give you good results, but then by the end of a six month period, your results aren’t going to be better or worse than someone who incorporated healthy carbs into their diet. So, knowing that, why wouldn’t we include healthy carbs into our diets instead of struggling (often torturing ourselves) not to eat them?
I’ll be honest. When I first started losing weight, I totally jumped on the low carb bandwagon. Eventually, I got stuck. That’s when my health coach looked at my diet and told me that I needed to add one serving of starchy carbs per day. Guess what happened? My body fat started decreasing and my muscle mass started increasing, rapidly! Why? Because our body needs carbs for a gazillion reasons. In my case, the main thing I can identify is carbohydrates are the transporter of protein to the muscles and I was missing out on that piece.
Carbs and Protein – Our Bodies Need Both
Protein needs carbs to be carried to our muscles and our bodies feel better when we eat carbs. Carbs are used by the body as our main source of energy. When carbs are digested, they become glucose which is then used as fuel for our bodies. This is also why we need to be mindful of the carbs that we eat. Not all carbs are created equally.
For example, let’s compare a whole grain slice of bread to a donut and other known not-so-great choices. When we eat the slice of whole-grain bread, the fiber in the bread makes the body take longer to digest. This means that glucose is released much slower. The same thing happens when we eat other carbs that have fiber including fruits, vegetables, and other whole grains. These are also full of nutrients that our bodies need.
It’s when we eat junk carbs, like donuts, candy, soda, and many hidden sugars in seemingly healthy foods, that our blood sugar skyrockets and then crashes. We have all these cravings. We don’t think we have any willpower. And we don’t think we have control. It’s time to stop that rollercoaster ride of sugar highs and lows.
Enjoy the Carbs
Yes, you can still enjoy carbs. We just need to be mindful of the carbs that we are eating. Refined carbs can be tricky. Some of them are obvious, like donuts. But others, like rice, bread, and pasta – the white stuff, can seem healthy, but they really aren’t. We have all probably heard that when it comes to carbs, we should be eating whole grains, but do we know why?
Tip for the day – “If It’s White Don’t Bite.”
This is because refined carbs are those that have been stripped of the nutrients that are beneficial to us. Not only that, but many of them have sugar added to them.
So, it’s not that we can’t eat carbs, but we need to know how to eat them. Then, if we are eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables most of the time, but we slip up once in a while, it’s OKAY. As you eat healthy carbs, you’ll likely notice that you are craving and eating refined carbs less and less. It’s a fantastic phenomenon! BUT, if you do eat some chocolate, a piece of cake, a slice of pizza, drink a beer, or whatever –one, it won’t affect you as much and two, don’t beat yourself up. Enjoy it and move on. No shame allowed here.
Now to answer the question of how we can incorporate healthy carbs into our diets. One of the best ways is to add in what I call starchy carbs. These are your potatoes, rice, whole grains, whole grain bread, legumes. Don’t count fruits and vegetables in this starchy carb category. That’s a different kind of carb. Here are a few tips:
- Start the day with a starchy carb. Have some oatmeal, and maybe eat an egg too so you are getting both protein and carbs. Try eating sweet potatoes with your eggs or add them to an omelet.
- If you’re a shake person, that’s okay, but not all shakes are meal replacements. If you are drinking a protein shake and it doesn’t have carbs or fiber, it is not a meal replacement. Ask me for suggestions for a complete meal replacement shake if you are a morning shake person.
- Add just one serving of starchy carbs to your lunch and dinner. If you are starting at zero, add one serving. If you are starting at one, add one.
- If you are a person who craves sweets in the evening, have some fruit, and maybe even add some whipped cream to the top. Woot!
Here’s the thing. If you are including carbs in your diet (you really should be) and you are choosing the right ones, your cravings for the refined carbs will quickly diminish. So, I didn’t suggest that you should go eat a Snickers, a pan of brownies, or gobble down a pizza and that it would be super healthy. I’m sorry if I just busted your bubble with this news. However, what I do hope is that you can still enjoy those things along the way while you are creating a new, healthy relationship with carbs. Knowing that your body NEEDS carbs, I hope, will take away a little of the stress and anxiety of eating something that so many of us enjoy.