Let me start this debatable subject off by saying that carbohydrates are essential for a healthy body and should not be removed from the diet completely. It is also important to understand that not all foods are created equally.
If we think about what carbohydrate actually is and where it is found, it is pretty hard to avoid it completely like many diets suggest. Carbohydrate is an important source of energy for the body which helps you recover from workouts and is what gives you the energy too. It is a type of sugar and most foods we eat contain them. The rate at which we digest this type of sugar varies greatly and this is where the saying ‘not all foods are created equally’ comes into play.
I have read so much research on what the ‘daily’ intake of carbohydrates should be and at the end of the day it is so individualised. What I can tell you is, it would most likely sit somewhere between 50-100g (very low) and 100-180g (moderate). I can also safely say that a qualified nutritionist or dietitian would be able to work this out for you.
My goal for this blog post is to educate you on the difference between the carbohydrate content per 100 grams so when you are choosing foods you understand what is in it.
Let’s not get too hung up about vegetables as we should all be consuming plenty of them given the vitamin & mineral content plus fibre. When you are planning your meals shift your thinking to….
Veggies grown above ground are of the low-carb type and eat them freely when hungry.
Below ground veggies have a higher content so be choosy when you eat them. For example if you have done a high intensity workout or your daily activity has been high then go for sweet potato! Please do not disregard them from your diet completely!
Above ground (Low carb) examples are:
Spinach, Avocado, Lettuce, Asparagus, Cucumber, Olives, Tomato, Zucchini, Cabbage, Green & Red Pepper, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts - all have 5 grams or less of carbohydrate per 100 grams of weight.
Below ground examples are:
Carrot, Onion, Beetroot, Celeriac and Pumpkin contain 7g or less whereas Potato (15g), Sweet Potato (17g) and Parsnip (13g) all contain much higher.
Keep this simple... All berries are a great choice, so go for it. Just remember that they are nature's candy and we have no ‘off’ button. In other words we won’t feel full on berries alone. I don’t know about you but I have never been success at growing strawberries and when I did I would only get a few from the season. This naturally limited our intake. In our modern era we can just pop down and buy some more!
In terms of other fruits Grapes (16g) and Bananas (20g) are on the high side so don’t go crazy on them but all other are also great.
Nuts are so good for you as they not only contain carbohydrate but they are full of good fat which will satisfy you for longer. I recommend consuming Pecan, Brazil and Macadamia nuts closely followed by Walnuts, Hazelnuts and Peanuts as they all have under 10 grams. Pistachio and Cashews unfortunately both contain over 18 grams so avoid over eating these varieties.
What snacks to eat
Good choices for snacking are:
Eggs, Cheese, Avocado, Olives and protein like Tuna or Ham. If you have a good balance between fats, proteins and carbs you will find you won’t need snacks all the time. It will depend on what your body needs so listen to it. Don’t just snack because you think you should!
Finally I want to touch on ‘alcohol’. Anyone who knows me well would know I do enjoy a bubbles or two. Life is for enjoyment, whatever that is to you, and although I am sure I have my critics out there about a personal trainer drinking, I am a mum and business owner too. I enjoy feeling ‘normal’ and enjoying a wine with friends. Everything in moderation and here is why I can make good choices.
AVOID beer!!! There is a reason we have a term called a ‘beer belly’. Not only does beer contain carbs in its own right but our will power to make healthy food choices when drinking diminish. Thus increasing the likelihood of consuming more carbs than we need.
The good news is wine is OK. Red and dry white are the best choices. Go for a Sauvignon Blanc and stay away from the sweeter varieties. Obviously spirits are carb free in most cases but it is the mixers you need to be aware of. Choose none or soda water with fresh lemon or lime.
There are many good sites for carbohydrate content of food. I found this one which have great visual references if you are keen to know more.
In closing, I want to reiterate that cutting carbs from your nutrition is not the smartest decision. What is though is understanding when and how much of them to eat. If you are really keen the seek a qualified nutritionist advice as they will give you an individualised plan as opposed to my generalised view.
Written by Kirsty Robbie - Founder of StudioForty6 and CHEK exercise coach.