Diary of a bodacious dietitian, Uncategorized

Catastrophic Carb Confusion

I just got back from a 10 day, blow-your-mind fantastic trip to Israel. First, go. Please, go. It was magical. Second, they had the most delicious looking/smelling/tasting breads.


Among a gazillion other amazingly tasty food stuffs. But their carb game was on point.



Are we hungry yet?

Or are we avoiding carbs this week?

Let’s talk about this because Catastrophic Carb Confusion (CCC) is rampant. So many of my patients are ultra-confused- what should we eat? And what should we merely snap pictures of and admire from afar?

Despite their bad press, I want to reassure us that carbohydrates are actually O.K to eat!


Yes! And many carb-rich foods are way good for us to eat. In fact, they readily supply energy, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and even antioxidants in much-needed supply. So here is Part 1 of my carb discussion…

Main questions I hear about CCC are: “What types of carbs are there? ” and “How many carbs should I eat?” and “Is a low-carb diet the best way to go?”

Let’s begin our 3 Part Series…

Catastrophic Carb Confusion 101

Part 1: Fast vs Slow-acting Carbs

The first question to ask when we’re deciding what to get from the buffet is- what type of carbohydrate is predominant in this food? This will help us decide if we should fill our plates or eschew them for more nutrient dense options.

There are two basic types of carbohydrates: Fast-acting or simple carbs (not as good- eat less of) and slow-acting or complex carbs (nutrient dense- eat daily). Many foods can have both simple sugars and some fiber, but a basic rule is the more processed the food, the more likely it is to be quickly absorbed and therefore not as good for our metabolism or blood sugar.


Slow-acting carbs


For the most part, the lion’s share of our carbohydrate intake should come from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. Choosing grains or pseudo-grains in their natural form- such as quinoa, brown rice, farro, kamut, spelt, amaranth, and oats to name a few- is a better option than eating large amounts of whole grain breads and muffins.

Even though 100% whole grain bread is higher in fiber and a better choice than white bread, it is still made from flour.


According to the U.S 2010 Dietary Guideines, on a 2,000 kcal diet, we should have no more than 3 oz of refined (read: simple) processed carbs a day or at least half our grains should be whole grains. In processing, we lose most of the 17 vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, and we add back iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid in unnatural amounts. As a result, refined grains only include the soft, carb-rich, nutrient-poor endosperm of the grain, and no longer have the healthier germ and bran.

Here is an excellent chart to show us what we are missing out on if we choose simple, refined grains. Here is a similar chart for brown vs white rice- we essentially lose all the vitamin K, magnesium, most of the fiber, and the phytonutrients (phyto means plant) that have a certain synergy that can’t be replicated with enrichment. So what can we do?

Here’s a day’s intake of a typical patient of mine with simple carbs over-represented:

Breakfast: croissant or bagel with cream cheese or jam, 2 eggs, 8 oz juice

10 am snack: handful pretzels and Ranch dip

Lunch: Subway sandwich on white bread, Sunchips, soda

3 pm snack: fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt

Dinner: chicken alfredo pasta from restaurant, white roll, sweet tea

Dessert: cheesecake 


Now, let’s make our day have more slow-acting carbs. I’ll added a Best option that includes more carbs in their natural form- beans, grains, fruits, veggies- that would have been a great change overall. Remember, the more natural the carb, the more nutrition, fiber, and antioxidant capacity. This excludes most foods made from flour:


Better: croissant or bagel whole wheat English muffin with jam  natural peanut butter, 2 eggs, 8 oz 4 oz juice 

Best: Switch to whole grain cereal such as oatmeal or barley with peanut butter, diced pear, walnuts

10 am snack:

-Better: handful pretzels whole grain crackers and Ranch dip   hummus

Best: apple and 2 oz almonds


-Better: Subway veggie sandwich on white  whole wheat bread, Sunchips are ok because we skipped the soda and processed meats, soda water

-Best: Chipotle salad bowl with 1/2 cup added brown rice, sautéed veggies, lettuce, black beans, salsa, lite guac

3 pm snack:

Better: fruit-on-the-bottom plain yogurt

Best: Plain Icelandic or Greek yogurt with cinnamon and 1/4 cup blueberries


Better: Lean protein with white pasta whole wheat pasta with side salad, dressing on the side from restaurant, white roll, sweet unsweet tea

Best: Salad with lean protein  from restaurant and ask for extra roasted veggies and  side of quinoa, dressing on the side, unsweet tea

Dessert: cheesecake is ok because you  don’t typically eat dessert, decided to skip the dinner roll, went for a salad instead of pasta and are sharing with friends!


We included more fiber by: 

-eating a multi-grain or whole wheat English muffin or hot cereal instead of a bagel or croissant

-having an apple and nuts instead of pretzels and dip

-choosing whole grain bread at lunch or switching to brown rice and veggie bowl

-switching to plain yogurt and adding our own spice

-adding blueberries to our  yogurt

-choosing more veggies at dinner

We included less refined grains and sugar by: 

-cutting portion of juice to a serving size of 4 oz and eliminated soda and sweet tea

-removed the Ranch dip and processed pretzels

-removed the white carbs in the pasta, rolls, and breads

-choosing lower carb dinner and skipping rolls to accommodate decision to have dessert (see the planning here?:)


So easy!

More fiber= greater weight loss and better digestion

Less simple sugars= less risk of being overweight, having blood sugar or triglyceride issues, or chronic inflammation

More whole grains, fruits, veggies= more vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants

And with a little planning- we can have these bad boys on occasion and still be our most bodacious selves- just not every day (I’m talking to you, Mike!). As always, balance… crossaint




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