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Thursday
Feb252016

How to Cut Your Carb Intake

Are too many carbs getting in the way of your fat loss?

Although most people know eating too many carbohydrates can negatively impact our health and waistlines, this simple recommendation is one of the hardest behaviors for many to implement on their weight loss journeys.

Perhaps you’re intimidated by this kind of fundamental dietary change. Maybe you’ve tried breaking up with carbs before with minimal to no success?

Whatever the current role of carbs in your diet or your past experience in trying to reduce them, the following tips can help you re-envision a lower carbohydrate lifestyle. Read on to learn simple and effective ways to reduce your carb intake for the long haul!

Redefine carbs.

I’ve had so many clients feel guilty about following a lower carbohydrate diet and seeing weight loss success - generally because people in their lives (maybe even nutrition professionals) chastise them for supposedly excluding a complete macronutrient or food group. They’re led to believe they aren’t losing weight “the healthy way.”

When we talk about choosing a lower carbohydrate diet, we can clarify what this really entails. Most of us think of carbs as the processed starches found abundantly in the American diet. Remember that carbohydrates in their most natural forms, however, are found in all vegetables, fruits, dairy foods and your traditional whole grains (e.g. oats, spelt, quinoa, etc).

So, if you commit to decreasing the highly processed carbohydrate foods and opt to eat many non-starchy vegetables and selective fruit in place of them, you won’t negatively impact your diet. In fact, you’ll increase the nutritional value of each meal.   

Follow food rules.

You may have heard various “food rules” or routines that people use to “organize” their eating. Food rules my clients have tried include saving high-carb foods for post-strength training workouts, eating one high carb meal per day, or limiting high carb foods to weekends, etc.

Each one of my clients is a little different when it comes to the amount of carbohydrate he/she can handle for effective weight loss, but many of them embrace the idea that carbs can have a time and place in their diets.

Logging or tracking your food for a full week can give you an idea of how many high-carb foods you consume and how often you eat them. This record can offer a starting point for exploring how you want to cut back.  

Use substitutions.

Using non-starchy vegetables as substitutes for highly-processed, high-carbohydrate foods can be an easy way to shed carbs while enjoying your favorite meals.

For the last two years, a spiral slicer has become one of my all time favorite kitchen devices. Growing up in an Italian household and learning to love pasta didn’t do me any favors when it came to body composition or adult-onset gluten intolerance. A spiral slicer can turn non-starchy vegetables (e.g. zucchini, summer squash, etc) into noodles that can be used in place of the high-carbohydrate, starchy pastas found in the store. Cauliflower is another non-starchy vegetable that can be grated into “rice” or used as a substitute for pizza crust.  

Bump up the fat.

If you’ve ever tried to shed carbohydrates and found yourself hungry, chances are you probably didn’t bump up your fat.

Of the three macronutrients, fats are the most satiating and keep us full the longest. When nixing carbs (and potentially decreasing the volume of food you’re eating), it’s important to make sure your fat content is optimal.

Adding coconut oil, organic butter and nut butters are great ways to bump up food flavor along with overall fullness to help keep you on the path. Nuts and seeds can be great snack choices in between meals in place of the typical American crackers, chips or pretzels.

Re-plate.

Instead of having only pizza or pasta on your dinner plate, make these high carb foods a “part” of your meal versus the entire meal.

If pizza night is a weekly event, serve up a nice Caesar or house salad prior to the pizza course. Instead of a full plate of spaghetti, serve the noodles alongside the meat sauce with a cooked veggie. If you’re a portion-oriented person, keep the high-carb/starchy food to less than ¼ of your plate. That way you’ll allot plenty of room for ample protein and vegetables.  

Stretch your goal.

Although it’s important to embark on habits that can become life-long behaviors, it’s also good to challenge yourself every once in a while. If you’ve struggled with cutting your carbohydrates before, consider that you only had your toe in the water versus being fully committed.

If this description at all fits you, a challenge might be in order to fully experience something different. I’ve had clients create “stretch goals” of no high-carbohydrate/starch foods for at least ten days in order to see and feel a difference from the way they were eating before. Usually after completing a stretch goal, they feel so good they aren’t tempted to go carb-heavy when it’s over but appreciate firsthand the positive impact of a lower carbohydrate diet.

Take the carb out of the question.

For many of us, the word “no” can get in the way of success. In this case, it’s better to substitute a positive or “yes” goal instead.

As I mentioned earlier, the word “carbs” can take on a negative connotation, which means they can loom even larger in our imagination. When we attach extra significance or negative “power” to a food, it can actually feel harder to reduce it in our diets.

Instead of telling yourself to eat less or reduce your carbs, switch your thinking to something more positive. Perhaps you plan to eat as many whole foods as possible each day or commit to filling your plate half full of non-starchy vegetables at each meal or even “pass” on the bread delivered prior to your restaurant meal. Making very specific choices or setting goals that “crowd out” what we’re trying to reduce can be a more attainable and workable goal for many of us on our journeys.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Would you like more ideas or support for reducing carbs in your diet? Talk with one of our registered dietitians today.

Written by Anika Christ, Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

 

 

 

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