Feb 2021
Jacqui Lewis - BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine

Carbs for Supporting Healthy Weight Management

Carbohydrates-rich food like pasta

There’s a lot of talk about carbohydrates or “carbs”.

Each week the jury takes another twist on what we should do with them.

Eat them, don’t eat them, just eat some of them

Carbs essentially enter the body from our food, and get turned in to glucose for energy - our brain LOVES to run on glucose - and so do our muscles. But do our waistlines? Can you include carbs as part of a weight-loss/management plan?

And if you can - how do we do it?

1. How do I choose foods with Carbohydrates? 

Healthy” or Helpful carbs are those which tick the boxes as follows:

- Nutrient-dense
- High fibre content
- Low in added sugar
- Low in added fats and sugars

There are plenty of options to meet these criteria and they can be found in fruit, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains

2. When I am managing my weight, how much can I have? 

The nutrition panel on any food you buy will guide you.

This panel has to provide an indication of the carb content of the food per serve, and per 100g of the food inside. Look for Carb content - and then look for “added” carbs - this is the added sugar - if this number is high, you know you’re just eating sugar not “food” and it's a good idea to step away!   

Complex carbs are your best option - and you generally won’t find them in anything outside of the fruit and veg department or from whole grain bread, crackers, rice and flours.

3. Your needs for carbs will vary depending on your activity level on any given day. 

The more you move, the more carbs you can afford to have.

Ask your practitioner for a guide on how many grams of carbs you can have on a “Gym day” as opposed to a day you don't plan to exercise of demand much from your body. 

4. How many carbs should I eat at each meal? 

There is no general number that applies to everyone on how many carbs should you take each meal because we are all different, deal with carbs differently and have different levels of demand. This can be calculated based on your weight, activity and your age etc.

However, when looking at weight loss or management sticking to a low GI eating pattern will help to keep blood sugars regulated, and will avoid sudden spikes that require the release of insulin to stabilise your blood sugars. Insulin is the enemy of using fat for energy!

So - this is why we avoid simple carbs from drinks, cakes, biscuits, white pasta and bread and rice when we have our heart set on weight loss.

These refined carbs drive insulin levels up - making us HUNGRY - and increase cravings, as well as lock our fat stores away and throw away the key! 

The overall effect of making poor food choices generally leads to a diet higher in simple/ refined carbs. The effect? slow weight loss, if any, increased appetite and an overall increase in caloric consumption of up to 80% each day!

It's been found that people who consume a protein-rich breakfast (Bacon, eggs and fruit for example) compared to those who ate grain-based carb-loaded breakfast (cereal and skim milk for example) consumed 80% fewer calories over the course of the day.

Here are 3 simple rules to live by:

1. Start the day with protein
2. Start every meal with a few bites of protein
3. Eliminate refined carbs and added sugars.

Jacqui Lewis
BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine

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