To carb or not to carb, that is the question



There is no bigger issue for gluten free and gluten eating dieters alike; whether or not to stop eating carbs.  The answer is not a simple one.  It all comes down to portion control.

Low carb diets such as Atkins, and the South Beach diet focus on eating high protein and fat,  and low to no carbs.  But is this the healthy way to go?  Not necessarily.  At first, a diet low in starchy carbs will get rid of water retention in the muscles – which isn’t actually a sign of fat loss. A long-term diet free of starchy carbs might cause a drop on the scale, but keeping it up is the hard part.

What does low carb mean exactly:

lowcarb diet limits carbohydrates — such as those found in grains, starchy vegetables and fruit — and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. Many types of lowcarb diets exist. Each diet has varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates you can eat.

You might think this is the key to long-term weight loss.  But you might be wrong.

This article gives some guidelines on how to keep eating carbs as part of a healthy weight loss plan.

Here are some highlights:

the truth about carbs is a lot more complicated than simply labelling them as “bad” and binning them forever, according to dietitians. First off, carbs are often used as a by-word for foods such as potatoes, bread and pasta. In actuality, carbohydrates are broken into three subcategories: sugar, starch and fibre. Fruit, vegetables and milk fall into the ‘sugar’ category; starch includes rice, bread and potatoes; while fibre is found in whole grain breads and pasta, and pulses. It’s refined carbs, from white bread, pastries, confectionary, cakes and sweets that we need to be careful about eating too often to avoid weight gain, diabetes and other chronic diseases. 

Refined carbs are what most of us overeat, not the good carbs, like fruit and potatoes. But being gluten free can lead us to eating too many refined carbs, such as gluten free pasta and bread.

My admitted downfall is the cakes and sweets, as I have stated before.  I continue to battle with them.

We should all be paying more attention to appropriate amounts of carbohydrate in our diet, not because they are ‘bad’, but because we need to eat the right amount for our body. No food type, whether it be fat, protein, carbohydrate or even vegetables is wholly good, nor wholly bad. It is part of our nature to sensationalize things, and we struggle with this concept of moderation

Portion sizes also need to correlate with the amount of energy we use. Obviously someone who runs 5km a day needs to eat more starchy carbs than someone who does no exercise and sits at a desk all day. Replacing starchy foods with spiralized courgettes or cauliflower rice is another common mistake which can cause a person to struggle to concentrate and binge-eating. 

A rough guide that dietitian Nichola Whotehead suggests following is eating half a plate vegetables or salad, a quarter or a clenched fist of starchy carbohydrates, and a quarter protein, as well as a thumb-size of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado or cheese. “For weight maintenance it would be one third of each,” she says.

“A healthy diet is one that is balanced and colorful, based around plenty of wholesome foods such as vegetable and fruit, whole grains, fish, white meat, nuts and seeds and healthy fats such as olive oil,” she adds. “I promote the 80/20 rule which means as long as you are eating nutrient dense whole foods 80 per cent of the time, a little bit of indulgence doesn’t matter.” It will, in all likelihood, stop you from bingeing and losing the will to live.

In other words, giving up those “refined” carbs that we all love might result in depression and losing the will to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  It’s ok to replace rice and potatoes with cauliflower rice and zucchini, but not all of the time.

Portion size is key.  A brownie should be the size of a pack of post it notes, not the size of a bagel.  Check recommended portion sizes, and use a scale or measuring cup if necessary.  You don’t need to give up those starchy foods you love.  Just love them a little bit less for weight loss success!


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