Anyone focused on fitness in the 90’s remembers the craze: Snackwells, fro-yo, dry baked potatoes (no butter! no sour cream!), “low fat” granola? Anything sugary-GOOD; anything fatty-BAD. Carbohydrates were diet darlings, with fat-free products promising to keep your heart healthy and your weight down. Eat an entire box of pretzels? No biggie! They’re fat-free!
Virginia Tech scientist Ann F. La Berge stated in her journal article How the Ideology of Low Fat Conquered America that “By the 1960s, the low-fat diet began to be touted not just for high-risk heart patients, but as good for the whole nation. After 1980, the low-fat approach became an overarching ideology, promoted by physicians, the federal government, the food industry, and the popular health media. Many Americans subscribed to the ideology of low fat, even though there was no clear evidence that it prevented heart disease or promoted weight loss.”
And then came the 2000’s. After over a decade of bingeing on processed foods and “carbo-loading”, it turns out, Americans were actually getting FATTER! According to Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat (as reported by NPR.org): ”Right around this time [when people started eating more refined grains and sugar] is when Americans starts getting fatter and fatter, and more diabetic.”
CUT THE CARBS!
And then the inevitable ricochet: An article in Time Magazine circa 1999 captures the shift perfectly: “Carb paranoia struck when people discovered that all the fat-free food they loaded up on during the last diet craze was making them fat. Diet plans like the Pritikin Program of the early ’80s and Susan Powter’s Stop the Insanity! in 1993 caused a run on processed low-fat food like SnackWell’s and frozen yogurt. But those treats, it turned out, were chock-full of sugar and a whole mess of calories. Result: you gained weight. The reaction in recent years has been to eliminate sugar by dropping carbohydrates from the menu altogether. So instead of the 1994 book Butter Busters, we now have Sugar Busters! and a series of the most guy-embraced diets ever, regimens with Henry VIII as a role model and beef jerky as a food group.”
So what to do? We live in an all-or-nothing society where we are always looking for an easy “fix” and the best way to eat and exercise. It turns out that both of these approaches are right and both of them are WRONG…which leads us to… Guideline #3: Keep Meals meals under 20grams of Carbohydrates.
CARBS ARE KEY
Experts are calling for a happy middle ground when it comes to eating carbs. Self Magazine explains (in an awesome article we recommend you read by clicking HERE), “Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy. “Glucose is the form of sugar that our brain uses,” explains Keri Glassman, R.D. We need a certain amount of it to fuel all of our metabolic processes “so we can have energy to do things from breathe, digest, run, do work, think.” Literally, everything. Fat and protein have their jobs too, but when it comes to getting that basic energy, carbs are key.”
NOT ALL CARBS ARE THE SAME
But the TYPE of carbs you eat makes a difference. Self continues: “The problem is that simple carbs and sugars won’t keep you full, so they’re really easy to overeat. If you eat healthy carbs [whole grain breads, grains like quinoa and farro, and yes, fruits, veggies, and dairy] as part of a balanced diet that also includes protein and fat, your body will function the way it should.”
And of course, the AMOUNT of carbs you consume makes a difference. We recommend that you limit your carb intake to under 20 grams per each meal. According to Authority Nutrition, “This is more of a ‘moderate’ carbohydrate intake. It is very appropriate for people who are lean, active and simply trying to stay healthy and maintain their weight. It is very possible to lose weight at this (and any) carb intake, but it may require you to count calories and/or control portions.” That means that while you can incorporate things like fruits, veggies and healthy starches, you need to watch your portions. Rather than going extreme and cutting out carbs all together, we feel this is far easier to maintain than an all-or-nothing approach.
Now we know, living in Charleston and Mount Pleasant, you will be faced with lots of delicious restaurant temptations ranging from oven-baked pizzas to shrimp and grits. What are some tasty healthy carb alternatives?
Eatingwell.com recommends choosing earthy favorites like quinoa, barley, bulgur and wheatberries. Click HERE for some great recipe ideas from Health.com.