Should I Avoid Carbs? – Top 5 Questions Answered by an RD

There are common questions that I get asked on a regular basis. I thought I would share since I’m sure some of you have similar questions. One of my favorite questions is: Should I avoid carbs? Because I think everyone should be educated correctly without reading a bunch of junk on the internet, I’ve put together my top 5 nutrition-related questions answered by yours truly, an RD!

 


There are different schools of thought, lots of conflicting advice, and so many trendy fads promising to solve every problem. It’s tough coming up with definitive advice, but lucky for you I’m an expert and I’ve tried many “diets” in the past.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. A helpful response for a college linebacker could be detrimental for a 30-year-old mom. I tried to lay out my answers so you’ll know which strategies to apply, how to apply them and when (and with whom) to use them.

TOP 5 NUTRITION QUESTIONS DEBUNKED:

QUESTION #1:

“Should I be avoiding carbohydrates?”

The needs of each actual person may differ, based on activity level, genetics, goals and age. Most of my cleints will do best eating a moderate amount of carbohydrates (carbs). Moderate amount is the key word and you need to focus on quality carbs – whole grains, fruit, sweet potatoes, beans and legumes, etc. This means about 1-2 fist size for men and 1 fist size for women.

In my opinion, low carb diets have got it all wrong. Carbs are fuel and provide 100% energy to your brain and muscles. Getting adequate carbs is important for maintaining energy levels, excelling to the next fitness level and controlling your blood sugar (just to name a few). It’s all about portions.

Yep, this is a controversial position to take. Carbs are gasoline to the human body so don’t ever run on empty.

QUESTION #2:

“What’s the best diet to follow?”

While this may sound counter-intuitive, but I don’t have a direct answer for this. All dietary protocols have their pros and cons. I try to maintain a neutral position.

Some of my clients feel strongly about following a certain “diet” so I just guide them to make the healthiest decisions and make sure they know the pros and cons of what they are doing. My job is to help you find the best approach that will work for YOU, whether it be Paleo or vegan, high carb or low carb, tight budget or meal replacements.

Truth is, the human body can be impressively adaptable to whatever “diet” you choose to follow. The best dietary pattern to follow is the one that works for you and is something you enjoy enough to follow consistently.

QUESTION #3:

Is there an advantage to eating veggie or low glycemic pasta such as Dream fields over 100% wheat pasta?”

Whole wheat of any variety is wheat that contains all three parts of the wheat grain — germ, bran and endosperm. Whole wheat is more nutritious than its refined counterparts, because it contains the nutrient-rich germ and bran that are otherwise stripped away during the refining process.

Like any other type of wheat or other grain, wheat products likely are not made from the whole kernel unless the package says “100 percent whole-grain durum,” advises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also, “veggie pasta” is most likely processed and does not offer any nutrition advantage unless, again, it is labeled 100% whole wheat/grain.

With that said, at least half of all grains consumed should be whole grains. Although most refined wheat is enriched with iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid before being made into food, many of the vitamins removed are not returned and neither is any of the dietary fiber, which is essential for good health.

With regards to a low glycemic pasta, like Dream Fields, it has its pros and cons. First of all, glycemic index (GI) does not take into account a foods serving size. Lets assume an apple’s glycemic index is  34. If you are eating it with some nuts, the GI will be totally different. A baked potato has a very high GI, but eaten with a small piece of chicken, will actually have a medium GI. This is where the glycemic load (GL) comes into play and is better to focus on.

To summarize, my best advice would be to eat 100% whole wheat/grain pasta and make sure your portions are appropriate. One serving of pasta is 1/3 cup cooked = 15 grams carb or 1 serving carb. One cup of cooked pasta is 45 grams carb or 3 servings carb and would be an appropriate (maximum) portion of pasta. You could always mix 1/2 cup spaghetti squash or “zoodles” with 1/2 cup cooked pasta for a larger volume with moderate carbs and more nutrition. Make sure to always add some protein in with your pasta for a more controlled glycemic load.

QUESTION #4:

“I have been having a hard time trying to lose weight. Do I really need to count calories? And if so, how many calories are right for me?”

This is probably one of the most common questions I am asked. And, in some ways, it is the most difficult to answer.

Weight management seems pretty simple right? Eat more calories than you burn, and you gain weight. Eat fewer calories than you burn, and you lose weight. Except counting calories in not that simple and calories can be very imprecise. In addition, I believe that counting calories trains you to ignore your own internal signals.

Not all calories are the same. Real time example – a client of mine insisted on counting calories. So I did my calculations and put her on let’s say a 1600 calorie diet. She did not lose weight despite her efforts to go to the gym and burn extra calories. After some probing and reviewing her food diary she was eating 1600 calories but it was mostly processed foods, refined sugars and overall non-nutritional options.

I recommend beginning with hand-size portion estimating instead. Here’s how it works:

  • Your palm determines your protein portions.
  • Your whole hand determines your veggie portions.
  • Your fist hand determines your carb portions.
  • Your thumb determines your fat portions.

This system counts your calories for you, and gets your macronutrients lined up too, without having to do any fancy kitchen math. Plus, your hands are portable—they go wherever you go, making portion-sizing very convenient. In addition, your hands are generally scaled to your size—the bigger you are, the bigger your hands, the more food you need and the more food you get. And vice versa.

Finally, it’s much easier to practice tuning into hunger and appetite cues without OCD-like reliance on calorie math. Try to eat every 3-4 hours and aim for 3 meals plus 2-3 snacks every day.

QUESTION #5:

“Should I do a detox or juice cleanse to get rid of all the ‘toxins’ in my body?”

Detox diets and/or cleansing tends to bring out extreme options and promotes unsafe practices. Do you know that this is the MAIN job of our kidneys and liver?

The fact is, there can be many problems with detoxes and cleanses:

  • Protein deficient
  • Extremely low calorie
  • Blood sugar swings
  • GI tract dysfunction
  • Restrictive eating and deprivation

A juice cleanse or detox is cautioned and should be monitored closely by a Registered Dietitian or another qualified health care provider.

With all my clients, I prefer to help you build life-long skills and incorporate daily practices to improve your health, exercise performance and body composition without extreme things like detoxes or cleanses. I like to promote whole foods and nutrition that will help supercharge your liver and pancreas so that these organs can do all the work without you having to starve yourself.

 

If you’d like to fast-track your nutrition or are interested in learning more about how you can revamp your nutrition habits consider working with me. Email me at katie@healingdiabetesnaturally.com or leave a comment with any questions you have.

Author: Katie

Hi! I'm Katie, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. This website it dedicated to those looking to heal their bodies from the inside out - and it all starts with balancing out your blood sugar. Let's heal disease together one plate at a time.

2 Replies to “Should I Avoid Carbs? – Top 5 Questions Answered by an RD”

    1. Hi Stephanie! So happy you read my article. We need to spread to the word about what’s right and what’s completely inaccurate. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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