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Confused about carbohydrates? Print

By Andrea Holwegner, Calgary Herald April 20, 2011

Rita, a 47-year-old financial adviser, was trying to shed some unwanted pounds and drop her blood cholesterol.

Like many people, she vowed to give up carbohydrates such as pasta and bread, which had seemed to help her lose weight in the past.

Which led her to a grilled chicken salad with no dressing at a downtown lunch spot, when what she really wanted was the fettuccine with chorizo sausage and a caesar salad. But did she make the right choice?

Giving up carbs felt like living each day with a dull toothache that eventually ends up in a full-blown painful tooth abscess.

Rita found herself see-sawing between following the low-carb plan and loading up on big portions of comfort starchy foods.

Low-carb plans for weight loss have been around for decades. While they can work for weight loss, sustainability and nutritional adequacy are a big fat challenge.

Carbs are an essential nutrient

Your brain runs exclusively on carbs (you can think of all carbs as single, double and longer chains of sugar). The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in partnership with Health Canada suggests the brains of children and adults need an average minimum amount of carbohydrates of 130 grams per day. This is the equivalent of eating two slices of bread, one cup of rice and several pieces of fruit.

In addition, you need carbs to fuel your muscles for physical activity. Therefore, total daily carbs required for the brain and muscles of adult women and adult men are approximately 180 to 230 grams and 220 to 330 grams of carbohydrate or more respectively.

When carbohydrates are not consumed in sufficient amounts, you may feel tired, anxious or depressed, have difficulty concentrating, or experience muscle fatigue when exercising. If you eat more carbohydrates than your body needs (just as if you eat too much protein or fat), extra calories are stored as body fat.

Also keep in mind that carbohydrates store water on your body. It is not uncommon for low-carb dieters to lose five to 15 pounds of water weight when restricting carbohydrates.

You need a variety of carbs for health

Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, some dairy foods and sweets. Do not be fooled by popular claims that you can skip grains and just eat vegetables and fruit. Grains provide different types of fibre, B-vitamins and other nutrients that are not found in fruits and vegetables. For optimal health, choose a wide variety of foods. If you only eat blueberries and apples each day, you will miss out on the many nutrients found in other fruits.

Deprivation does not work

Carbohydrates are comfort foods that play a direct role in elevating the neurotransmitter serotonin, which boosts mood. Protein-rich foods are not comfort foods for your brain. When was the last time you actually craved eggs, meat or cottage cheese when you were tired, sad or mad?

Carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, sweets and potato chips are, in essence, happy foods the brain craves when you are tired, hungry, mad or sad. Since these foods are very enjoyable and readily available, it is important to manage portions sizes but certainly not eliminate them. If you try to deprive yourself of something enjoyable, chances are you will seek it out, obsess about it and eventually overeat.

Sustainability is critical

Anyone can lose weight, but can you sustain the loss? If your nutrition regime makes going on vacation or attending a dinner party impossible, chances are you won’t stick to it. Refuse to buy into a plan that provides you with a long list of foods that you can’t eat. Avoid plans that require you to eat the same shake or bar every day to be successful.

As Rita found out, in order for her weight loss to be sustainable, she needed to watch portion sizes of starchy foods. She also needed to build in enjoyable foods such as pasta rather than attempting to eliminate them. She discovered that having the grilled chicken salad, but adding a vinaigrette dressing and a bun with butter to her lunch added satisfaction to the meal and helped avoid overeating sweets later in the evening.

Andrea Holwegner, the chocoholic dietitian, owns Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com or phone 403-262-3466  for more information on personalized nutrition counselling, professional speaking and to subscribe to her blog or free monthly ezine.

Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/health/Confused+about+carbohydrates/4650199/story.html#ixzz1LK18fdJH

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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