Many readers write to me with questions about carbs in connection with weight. Here are five easy ways to cut back on carbs if you find most of your meals center around bread, pasta, and rice.
1. Watch Sugar Intake.
Yes, sorry to say that sugar is a carb, this includes alcohol! Sugar is the white lightening of the carb world, and should always be eaten in moderation. I don’t consider myself an anti-sugar fanatic, but I do call dessert my “special occasion” food. Watch out for unwanted sugar that might be “hidden” in many food products. If you are really concerned about sugar intake, read the label. Keep an eye out for culprits you might be eating loads of, like many popular condiments, pre-packaged foods, and drinks including: ketchup, sweet pickles and relish, barbeque sauce, protein bars, breakfast cereals, white bread, vitamin waters, dessert wines, champagne, and many more. Check out the label and look for these names that are just different forms for sugar: honey, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, lactose, polydextrose, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, maltodextrin and turbinado sugar.
2. Skip the Breadbasket.
This one is my weakness!! When we go out to eat and they plunk down that basket with its chilled little dish of golden butter, I go nuts. Better to order a low-calorie appetizer instead if you can’t wait for your main course. Hitting the breadbasket could mean up to 500 extra calories in butter and bread alone. Salads with low-fat or non-fat dressing on the side are a great substitution. Instead of overdoing it on the carbs, you’ll be certain to get an extra serving of veggies.
3. Have a Side of Protein with Those Carbs!
Almost everyone I know eats double or triple the portion of bread they should be having to maintain a healthy weight. For me, it’s 6 ounces a day (that’s about 3 slices of bread and/or 1 1/2 cups dry pasta, sniff sniff!) and for my hubby it’s about 9 ounces (hate him, grrrr). Watch your portions, even better find out on My Pyramid how much bread you should limit yourself to each day. Avoid the bagel trap by combining half a bagel with low-fat protein. Some bagels are so big that just one can be your whole daily allowance for grains! Good high-protein choices include a low-fat yogurt, 1 cup of kefir, or 1/2 cup 1 % cottage cheese with berries or a banana, or a 1 cup of skim milk.
4. Don’t Go Cold Turkey.
Carbs, especially those of the whole grain variety are necessary for a healthy body and focused mind. Cutting out all carbs from your diet is not a good idea as we’ve learned from recent reports on unhealthy fad diets. Studies show that people who do not consume enough carbohydrates have problems concentrating. If you want to cut back, mix your carbs with low-fat protein or better yet, vegetables. Start by cutting back on that huge bowl of pasta and mix in some steamed veggies. Broccoli goes great with tomato sauce! Try cutting out bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes at dinner time 1-2 nights a week. There are plenty of simple, healthy recipes that don’t rely on starch like my noodle free lasagna.
5. Change the Grain.
Change all your breads, pastas, and grains to whole grain choices. Why? When you eat a lot of processed or “white” breads and grain, your blood sugar rises quickly because these foods have a high glycemic index, causing a spike in blood sugar. Also, the white stuff is stripped of all the fiber that helps you to stay thin. Whole grains digest more slowing, maintaining a steadier level for blood sugar, which can lower your overall risk for diabetes and heart disease.
- Surprise! It’s sugar. Read more about hidden sugars in foods from local grocery stores.
- Read about good carb, bad carb on WebMD.com.
- Learn more about the health benefits of delicious whole grains from the Whole Grains Council. Read studies that show how whole grains may reduce colorectal cancer, lower risk of inflammatory diseases, lead to healthier carotid arteries, reduce the risk of gum disease, and cut triglyceride count.
Article was first published in July 2007.