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Healthiest way to follow a low carb diet?

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Posts: 12,387
8/3/13 5:33 P

That article has an typo or error, but it gives a chance to make a point. It really should say 6-11 servings of whole grains, FOR EXAMPLE whole grain bread.... etc. And it leaves out most of the grains that healthy carb fans eat.

I'm what most people here would consider a crazy high-carb/ low-fat eater. I lose weight on about 75% carbs, and when I'm maintaining I'm at about 65% calories from carbs. But I DO NOT eat 6 servings of bread a day! In fact, I've been known to go a month without any bread at all.

But let's look at just how much 6 servings would be. A serving is an ounce of cereal or bread. The average amount of cereal that a person actually eats at a time is a cup. Depending on the cereal, that can weigh up to 3 ounces. Two ounces per cup is pretty common. Most commercial bread is sliced into 1.5 oz slices. So if you have a bowl of cereal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch, you're already at 5 servings. What most of us consider a small serving of pasta is 2 ounces, so that would make 7, in what most people would consider a perfectly moderate diet. Cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a small dish of spaghetti for dinner probably wouldn't make you feel bloated. Six to 11 dinner rolls might, but that would actually be 12-33 bread/grain servings.

If bread and pasta are the issues for you, why not see how you do on a low-bread-and-pasta and no-sugar diet, rather than low carb? We all have "trigger foods," but you can avoid those without having to avoid the macronutrients in them. For example, I can't have peanut butter in the house unless it's frozen solid because I'll eat half a jar a day. But that doesn't mean I have to have a low-fat diet. I can still eat avocados, olive oil, and even other kinds of nuts.

If you feel like you have to cut out fruit because some book says so, ditch the book. The book doesn't know YOU. I've been working on controlling my weight and watching others do the same daily for almost ten years now, and I've come to the conclusion that there's no specific way to do it. No "diet" works. Each individual basically has to figure out what works for him or her, and that might change over the years. You know that, at least right now, bread and pasta make you overeat.So don't eat bread and pasta. But it doesn't sound like fruit does that to you, so there's no reason to stop eating fruit. And I don't know of ANYONE who finds lentils or black beans to be a trigger, so consider adding them.

At the beginning, don't even worry much about your ratios, as long as they're somewhere close to the SparkPeople ranges. If I remember, Spark will let you eat anywhere from 40-60% of your calories from carbs without setting off any alarm bells, and if you eat a diet that you feel is pretty healthy but doesn't have bread, pasta, or sweets, you're almost certain to end up somewhere in that range. Eventually, you'll find a more specific amount that makes you feel good, and you can aim for that as you go along.

What I'm really saying is start with what you know. You know you want to get rid of bread and pasta, so do that. You know sugary deserts aren't good for anyone, so stop eating those. You know green veggies are good for you, so eat more of those. Control your total number of calories. Chances are, that's all you're going to need to do to get you 80-90% of the way to your goal. Worry about details later, when and if you have to.

SparkPoints: (56,434)
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Posts: 9,588
8/3/13 5:30 P

It's not specifically breads... it's whole grains. Included in that list are:

Breads, muffins, bagels, rolls, pasta, noodles, crackers, cereal, and brown rice.

6 whole grains are indeed within USDA recommendations. :) Also consider that what we think of as a "serving" is usually much, much smaller than we think! A serving of bread is about the size of an index card. A serving of rice is just half a cup... about the size of a billiard ball!

So a sandwich with two slices of bread is actually anywhere from 2-3 servings of whole grains!

Going by this guide, a cup of shredded wheat for breakfast, a sandwich on whole grain bread for lunch, and a cup of brown rice for dinner, there's your 6 servings. :)

Edited by: DRAGONCHILDE at: 8/3/2013 (17:30)

SparkPoints: (55,339)
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Posts: 8,909
8/3/13 4:53 P

Get the Atkins books. I just went to the local library and they are in the 613.25 section of the library. I was waveing between going back to Atkins or using South Beach-did both over a decade ago. South Beach has too many low-fat and no-fat products for me and I just think it's better to use the more natural as opposed to the chemical substitues although I do use lots of the recipes from South Beach. And South Beach-which is in the same section of the library-613.25-has the glycemic index charts and a better explanation of it than Atkins. I love the idea I can have a bacon and egg breakfast at the very beginning! and the bacon cheeseburger sans bun for lunch?? I've never been a big bread or pasta eater so that wasn't tough for me. And I get plenty of salads and veggies. I'm no expert and don't claim to be. I think the advice to check it out for yourself and listen to your own body is the very best. I just started the first of June and have lost 15 lbs. Not as much as I wanted but I started out on South Beach and then stalled so went back to do the Induction part of Atkins and it started coming off again. I can hold off on fruit for a couple more weeks since the local stuff won't be ripe and available at the farmer's market until then anyway. Good luck in whatever style you decide. And I DO get a lot of support and advice just reading the low-carb team posts...there are several of them!

Posts: 3,063
8/3/13 3:36 P


*Please* visit us on the low-carb forums! You will find a wealth of good info and personal experiences there. We're a friendly group and love to help new folks like yourself get oriented.

If you haven't read it, get the Atkins book. I'm not advocating any particular dietary plan; but that book will give you good background for the whats and whys, and good examples of how to accomplish its goals. The best thing you can do for yourself is to research it thoroughly! Be sure to discuss any changes with your healthcare team in reference to how it may affect any treatment plans you're on.

So, from a personal perspective:
I was set on a restricted-carb and semi-Primal diet by our endocrinologist. My husband is T2D, but I am not - I'm just on the same diet he prescribes all his patients (most of whom are diabetic). This has resulted in a great amount of weight loss for me (although it's slowed down a lot since the initial drop). My husband is steadily reducing his meds and his blood glucose is improving to the point he doesn't take insulin on a schedule now - only when a check indicates he needs it. Some days it's not at all.

The basic premise of low-carb is that you're reducing your caloric intake by reducing carbs. You need to replace them with SOMEthing. The general person erroneously believes this means increasing protein. This is incorrect. Protein on low-carb is moderate, or "normal." The place we derive our eliminated carb calories is from healthy fats. Animal-based, whole food fats. Butter. Bacon (and its renderings). Coconut and coconut oil. Avocado, whole milk and dairy (not processed). Nuts (in moderation). Good whole foods, preferably home-prepared and not full of unpronounceable who-knows-what. Nothing that says "low fat" or "no fat" or "reduced fat." And cut that out with the skinless chicken! Next it will be "boneless, skinless, CHICKENless chicken." sheesh

Initially, yes, fruit is off the roster. I was allowed one piece of fruit a day, the size of a *small* apple. The sweet fruits (the ones I really love!) will drive up the carbs - bananas, apples, pears, grapes... I find that fruit stalls me, or even causes me to regain. So I stick to the guideline and try to limit my indulgences there. But this doesn't last forever. Once you're adapted to the diet, you can begin to reintroduce carbs in small amounts until you stall in your weight loss. For some, that's only a few weeks. For some, it's longer. For others, they simply decide to remain as low-carb as they can accomplish forever - or at least until they reach their goal.
Some will advocate that you need carbs. Well, there are carbs in veggies - and you're encouraged to eat all the green leafies you can stand! the more the merrier. Avoid the starchy ones - things which grow below the ground (taters, carrots, et al). There is *no such thing* as an "essential carb." The carbs you will get from your healthy veggie, protein, and fats diet are perfectly sufficient for your nutritional needs.

You've already experienced part of the advantage of cutting carbs. You aren't continually fighting that crave... and, more importantly, you've also discovered by experience that eating even a little fires it right up again!
I'm a horrible carb addict; giving up rice and bread has been very difficult for me. But once I just stopped, I find it's much easier to continue. In fact, now, if I eat those things (except in tiny, tablespoon-sized "portions"), it actually makes me "carb-sick." NOTHING I could put in my mouth is worth going through that. I don't care *how* good it tastes going down.

This is just my own perspective, from my own experience, and from the voluminous data-mining I've done (and continue to do) on the lifestyle. You'll find plenty of other valid and useful perspectives and support on the low-carb forums here on SP. Please come visit us!

Edited by: EXOTEC at: 8/3/2013 (15:37)

SparkPoints: (6,395)
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Posts: 1,859
8/3/13 3:22 P

I believe whole-foods, grain-free nutrition with adequate amounts of vegetables, wild or organic protein, healthy fats, and fruits (in amount according to your body's current physical state and needs) is the best for the body.
I encourage for most active people:
-a minimum of 8 servings veggies/day
-wild or organic meats/seafood/eggs as desired
-a bare minimum 1g omega 3 fats EPA+DHA daily
-minimum 3 servings fish per week
-healthy fats as desired

Edited by: MICHELLEXXXX at: 8/3/2013 (15:35)

Posts: 560
8/3/13 2:51 P

Onlineasllou, I do need more info and I'm unlikely to ever go for the low carb high fat style of eating. I love my fruit and veg far too much!

But I think the suppression of appetite is very interesting. First time in my life I haven't craved a binge. I will read up as much as I can.

Posts: 560
8/3/13 2:42 P

Dragonchilde, I liked the article but was very surprised to see it recommending 6-11 portions of bread. If I ate that much bread I would feel continuously bloated!

Posts: 26,543
8/3/13 2:35 P

Use your SP carb range as your guide. Stay at the lowest level of the range; and only use carbs coming from foods in a more natural, whole state: fruits, skim milk, lowfat/low added sugar yogurt, beans, lentils, legumes, lima beans, baked potatoes, whole grains (oatmeal, quinoa, etc).

SP Registered Dietitian

SparkPoints: (45,855)
Fitness Minutes: (32,813)
Posts: 3,657
8/3/13 2:24 P

Yes, it is very possible to do what you want to do. You seem to have discovered the essence of what healthy low carb diets are all about. I strongly suggest you explore some of the low carb teams here on SparkPeople. You will find people who have been successful eating the way you describe. If you only discuss low carb lifestyles here on general forums for everybody, you may get some responses from some of our members who are not experts on low carb lifestyles and who may give you mis-information and try to talk you out of it. Go to where the experts are.

I also suggest reading up on it. I'm sure some of the people on the low carb teams can recommend some good books for you -- and maybe some good websites that focus on low carb eating.

My story ... is that I went low carb 6 years ago when I developed Type II diabetes. At first, I went pretty low carb and got rid of my cravings (as you have described). Yes, that meant not eating fruit for a while -- but that didn't kill me. After about 6 months, I slowly added some of the carbs back into my diet. So now, I am not exactly "low" carb ... I am what some people call "lower" carb -- something of a compromise. I allow myself "some" of those high carb trigger foods, but limit them. When I feel those cravings returning, I lower my carbs for a few days until they go away again.

I aim for about 125 grams of carbs for day, but know that ideally I would do better closer to 100. Sometimes, I splurge and eat more than 150 -- and when I do, I usually regret it.

Don't worry about the fruit. You body can live without it for a little while. And it can be one of the first things you add back in moderation as you feel more confident in your ability to adjust your carb level as needed to control your cravings. Monitor your cravings in relation to what you are eating to help you decide how much and what types of fruit you can eat. (I also test my blood glucose twice per day, so I can see the effects of my food choices on my blood sugars.)

Get a good list of the glycemic index (and glycemic load per typical serving) of different fruits and choose the ones with the lowest glycemic load & index and with the most fiber and nutrition. You don't have to give it up entirely -- just cut back on the high-sugar, low fiber fruit. I find I can eat some apple, pear, melon, or berries with little problem -- almost any fruit,as long as I don't eat a whole lot. A single serving per day is OK for me. But a big fruit plate for lunch? That would be WAY too many carbs for me, shooting my blood glucose sky high very quickly and triggering the carb craving/crashing cycle. That's not healthy.

... And my diabetes? I have never needed meds for it. My lower carb diet has kept it under control for 6 years and officially, I no longer have the diagnosis. But I still limit my carbs to KEEP both my blood sugars and my carb cravings under control.

Edited by: ONLINEASLLOU at: 8/3/2013 (14:35)

SparkPoints: (9,755)
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Posts: 651
8/3/13 2:16 P

Why don't you try just cutting out the refined carbs (white pasta/bread/rice, sugar) and continue eating normally otherwise? It may take some extra effort to reach a balance with your macro nutrients, since you're used to relying on those foods, but it may be easier than you think. You can even experiment with small portions of brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole grain bread to see if you can eat them without going overboard.

I don't do low-carb, and I can't imagine not being able to eat fruit every day. But I also don't do well with letting someone else dictate what I can and can't eat, and when, which is why I don't follow this diet or that diet. I've just had to learn what works for my body and watch my macros. Good luck!

SparkPoints: (56,434)
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Posts: 9,588
8/3/13 2:08 P

This article may help you. It explains the differences between carbs (not ALL carbs are created alike!) and how the *right* carbs can help you.

Posts: 560
8/3/13 1:47 P

I have a real issue with pasta, rice, bread, and pretty much everything that contains sugar. I just can't seem to control my appetite when I'm eating it. So on a whim I began a low carb diet a friend swears by.

My dilemma, and I hope to find good advice here, is that my uncontrollable carb eating has immediately stopped the moment I cut out the sugar and bread, rice and pasta. But, I am not really comfortable with the prospect of not eating fruit, and relying on high saturated fats.

What I would like to know is whether it is possible to lose weight while following a low carb diet that includes good fats (eg, avocado, oils) and small amounts of fruit every day?

I love the way low carb seems to satisfy my appetite. For example, I have just eaten dinner, low carb. I had 2 skinless chicken thighs and a green salad with a handful of berries. I used oil in the dressing and ate what I feel is a satisfying portion without going overboard. I also cooked the chicken in shallow oil.

It feels so LIBERATING not to count calories or worry about portions. And if I had added pasta etc to my meal I would have probably eaten far more. Maybe twice as much. And an hour later I would be hunting out ice-cream or something! The fact that I didn't add any carbs means I was satisfied with much less.

But... I want the best balance possible for my body. And my mind, because as soon as I start recording what I eat, or measuring portions, etc., I seem to get frustrated and then self sabotage.

I want to find a way of eating what feels right. Good natural food. Without worrying about exact portions. And I am hoping there is a way to incorporate the low carb appetite-curbing aspects without losing the ability to eat fruit and a reasonably wide range of veggies.

Is there someone out there who has experience with eating this way who can explain the best, most healthiest long term low carb way?

And of course, it has to result in weight loss.


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