The Scoop on Carbs

quinoa bowlThere’s a growing misconception that consumption of carbohydrates leads to weight gain. Sure attacking the bread basket as soon as it hits the table is probably not the best approach, but is it really carbs that we should be afraid of? Or is there a more important lesson to be learned here? Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients (along with protein and fat) that are the basic and essential components of every diet. The reality is that ANYTHING you eat in excess, can contribute to weight gain. So for those of you who are consuming excessive amounts of protein and/or fat, you can still gain weight if you are consuming more than you’re expending. Below are some interesting facts about carbohydrates:

  • Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram (versus fat, which is 9 calories per gram)

  • Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy for many vital organs including the brain, central nervous system and kidneys

  • We need a minimum of 120g of carbohydrates per day for our brain to work optimally

  • If the body does not have enough carbs, it breaks down muscle and other tissues (which isn't healthy)

What's important is the type of carbohydrates we consume.

  • Choose complex carbs including whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, farro, etc), legumes (beans) and fibrous foods (bran and oats)

  • Complex carbs will keep you fuller longer

  • Complex carbs can help combat various diseases such as heart disease

  • Limit refined carbs (sugar and flour) which can make you hungrier and can lead to overeating

  • Be mindful...refined carbs often hide in some common condiments, sauces and dressings!

Here are some common mistakes that my clients make and my recommendation for a healthier alternative (note that each of my recommendations contains a carb):

Misleading Menu Option... A Healthier Alternative...
AT BRUNCH: Dipping your egg white omelet in ketchup Skip the ketchup and replace it with a piece of whole wheat toast (keep the omelet, of course!) Why? Ketchup has loads of sugar
AT THE DELI: Having a turkey burger with no bun You are better off with a chicken breast and a small sweet potato. Why? Turkey burgers are notorious for containing lots of unhealthy/starchy fillers
AT THE SALAD BAR: a salad with corn, peas, chickpeas and dressing I recommend you pick up a turkey sandwich on whole wheat and call it a day Why? The mix-ins on the left are very starchy.

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN


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