Carbohydrate is a naturally widely available nutrient and must therefore be of some significance to nutrition. Ditching all carbs to lose those excess kilograms is not a sustainable weight management solution as carbohydrates are required by the body for optimum functioning and adequate nutrient supply and cannot be avoided forever.
That said, the intake of carbohydrates must be managed for healthy weight maintenance. If the need or use of carbohydrates as energy is exceeded by intake, storage of energy will result in fat gain.
With the guidance below you will discover that managing your carbohydrates will be far easier than eliminating carbohydrates completely.
There are 3 keys to managing your carbohydrate intake.
- Confine Carbohydrates
- Identify Carbohydrates
- Be Selective
- Portion Caution
I am starting with this piece of advice because I feel it is both hugely significant and very basic at the same time. And if you take only one thing from this article, I want it to be this… Your total daily carbohydrate intake should be confined to 3 meals and 2 snacks. Never graze on carbohydrate containing foods between meals and snacks. Leaving a 3-4 hour window between meals and snacks promotes optimal blood glucose control and reduces the storage of energy. Good blood glucose control has great benefits in health, weight, stress and sleep management, so read on for implementation of this advice.
The most important fact about carbohydrate that I can share with you is that it is not a food group but rather a nutrient found in many foods available for consumption. The following list of carbohydrate containing foods might well scare you but please do not stop at the list.
Starches: bread, rice, potato, sweet potato, pasta, maize, samp, oats, cereals, grains & all foods made using starches
Fruit: all fruit & fruit juices
Dairy: milk & yoghurt
Starchy Vegetables*: butternut, corn, peas, carrots, beetroot
Legumes*: Lentils, dried peas, chickpeas and dried beans
Sugar: white/brown sugar, glucose, sucrose, honey, syrup, jam, sweets
Sugar containing beverages: juice concentrates fizzy cold drinks, iced tea, flavoured water, energy drinks
Other: flour, corn flour, fructose, popcorn, crisps, chocolate
* lower carbohydrate content per 100 g
The good news is that not all carbs are created equal and there is definitely room for those carbohydrates that offer nutrient benefit in addition to energy. Choosing appropriate carbohydrates for health and weight management can be done using 4 simple questions.
Is it HIGH in fibre?
Is it LOW in fat?
Is it LOW in sugar?
Is it LOW in salt?
A healthy diet is one that is high in fibre, low in fat, low in sugar and low in salt most of the time. Making healthy carbohydrate choices will make achieving a healthy diet possible. Making an assessment of everything you eat might seem tedious at first but once the habit is formed, making healthy food choices will become easy.
Examples of healthy carbohydrate choices include whole-wheat cereals and grains, potatoes with their skin, oats porridge, high fibre breads and crackers, vegetables and legumes.
If a food does not comply with the requirements for a healthy diet, it should be viewed as a treat food to be eaten in small quantities on occasion only. Treat foods should not regularly replace healthy meals or snacks.
Examples of carbohydrate containing treat foods include foods baked with white flour such as biscuits, pastry or cakes. These foods not only lack fibre but are often accompanied by fat and sugar or salt. Low fibre commercial ‘snack’ foods such as crisps, salty crackers, pretzels, sweets and chocolates are also treat foods. Fried carbohydrate containing foods should also be limited.
Practicing Portion Caution
Healthy eating starts with healthy shopping and healthy food preparation methods and ends with portion size. Use the following guide to prevent an excessive intake of carbohydrate.
- Use your fist as a serving size guide for high fibre starches
- Limit starches to main meals
- Snack on fruit, yoghurt, popcorn & legumes (hummus with raw vegetables)
- Limit fruit to 3 tennis ball sized servings per day, avoiding fruit juices
Healthy eating need not be bland, boring or difficult. Enjoying a variety of foods is the best way to meet your nutritional needs. Have a look at my recipes while you are here…