You may have been advised to limit carbs, but are wondering what that means. I have a patient, Kristen who loves bread and shudders at the thought of not having any. Another, loves her afternoon snack of peanut butter filled mini-pretzels. I love pasta. What can we do when carbs are all around us, they taste great and yet we’ve been advised to limit them?
It’s tempting to think about completely eliminating carbs, however, that’s very difficult, hard to sustain beyond about 3 weeks and is part of a phenomenon known as “all or nothing thinking”. Instead, don’t feel like you have to completely say goodbye to your favorite carbs and never have them again.
Why not consider a more moderate approach and start limiting your carbs and begin to pause and think prior to eating so that you can make choices about which carbs to have and when.
I used to have a brownie a few times/week, now, I’ll enjoy a brownie every few months and eat it slowly, savoring each bite. With pasta, I used to power through about 1/3 pound at dinner, plus bread. Those were the days, right? Now, I have very little pasta, but I do have a homemade meatball with lots of thick homemade tomato sauce with a huge serving of broccoli and salad. I don’t miss the pasta.
What are carbs?
Bread, cereals, rice, pasta, are all carbs. So are beans, corn, tortillas, potatoes. And of course, cakes, cookies, pies, candy, honey, sugar and fruits, fruit juice. For a complete list visit What is a Carbohydrate?
Keep your carb intake to:
- Less than 100 grams/day
- Less than 9 servings/day
What Should You Do?
- Read labels – your favorite low-fat yogurt probably contains 20-30 grams of carbohydrates.
- Look for carbs with more fiber – go for whole grains and limit your intake of processed carbs.
- Think whole wheat and whole grain bread instead of a baguette. Brown rice instead of white rice.
- Enjoy your favorite carbs – I’m not a big fan of giving them up completely unless that’s easier for you. But if you love brownies, by all means, have them, but limit yourself to ½ and savor each bite.
- Eat smaller portions of carbs. Skip the tortilla chips or have 1 handful with salsa.
- Bring carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery, and cucumber to the beach to munch on instead of crackers or chips.
- Skip the rice and beans in the burrito – because the flour tortilla is equal to 2 servings of carbs already
- Have pasta as an appetizer, not as the main course.
- Ask for an extra portion of veggies instead of rice or potato with an entree.
- Skip the bread in the restaurant unless it’s spectacular and then have at it- remember, you can always have bread.
We all have an innate tendency to never pass up an opportunity to eat food when it’s presented to us. The ancient parts of our brain tell us that if there’s food available, eat it now! That’s because our ancestors never knew if there was another meal coming. Now, we know, we can actually pass up the opportunity to eat certain foods, because they will be available tomorrow and the next day and the next.
That kind of thinking means pausing and considering what to eat.
Pre-deciding what to eat and what to skip
Have you ever noticed that when you go to a restaurant, suddenly your will power goes out the window and you end up choosing yummy foods that may not be the healthiest or in your low carb plan? It’s normal and natural to do that, which is why I started “pre-deciding” what to eat and what to limit before I ever get to the restaurant. It works!
You tell yourself:
Ok, I’ll skip the bread, have a salad and skip desert.
Well, tonight, I’ll have a glass of wine and an appetizer as my meal, but they have the best cheesecake, so I’ll have dessert.
With fast food: I’ll skip the bun, no fries tonight and just water instead of a soda, but I know I’ll be hungry, so I’ll make it a double cheeseburger. That will fill me up.
You get the idea, right?
More Tips on Limiting Carbs
- If you’re drinking sweetened beverages, learn to enjoy them with 1/2 the sugar or sweetener. It will take a few weeks, and then you’ll get used to it and as a benefit, you’ll taste the tea or coffee more.
- Better yet, change to flavored water or plain water. Did you know that sodas have over 150 grams/carb per day? That’s enough sugar for the entire day. Not just as a small part of one meal.
- Look at the coffee drinks or blended smoothies you’re tempted to buy while you’re out. They may be loaded with carbs and fat. Skipping them and going for water or iced tea can save you 300-500 calories, mostly carbs.
- Remember all fruit contains carbohydrates that are converted to sugars. It’s better to eat the whole fruit instead of drinking the juice. The piece of fruit will have pectin and fiber in it, so there are less simple sugars available. Fruit juice and dried fruit are mostly sugar.
- Make it a lettuce wrap; Skip the bread, buns for sandwiches and wrap it up in a nice green leaf of lettuce.
- If you must have your burger or sandwich on bread, then cut it in half, enjoy every bite and then have the rest without bread.
- Fill up on soup! Have a cup of vegetable soup with your ½ of a sandwich.
- Steal fries from a friend. Let them order the fries and sample them instead of having your own super-sized order.
- Love salsa and chips? Try dipping carrots and cucumber slices into salsa instead
- Don’t go hungry. Substitute nuts, cheese, salamis and other high protein foods for the carbs.
I hope this has helped. If you’re over 50, you might be battling the “Meno-Pot Belly” and these tips will really help.
Read more about all things related to midlife and menopause in my award-winning book The Hot Guide to a Cool Sexy Menopause
P.S. I donate all of the proceeds from the sale of the book to FAME Hospital and Clinic in Tanzania, where I volunteer.