Being a parent isn’t easy, especially once the school year rolls around.
As a dietitian, I appreciate that the kids come first and your own wellbeing tends to take a back seat.
That often ends up meaning that your food choices suffer and the calories and extra weight may start to rack up.
If you have found yourself in this boat, know that you aren’t alone.
Most Canadian adults consume more calories than they need and find themselves in a concerning position when it comes to body weight and overall health.
Unfortunately, the first step that people in this situation usually do is look for a scape goat in their diet.
And that scape goat usually ends up coming in the form of CARBOHYDRATES.
Low-carbohydrate diets have an almost cult like following on the web and there are a lot of “influencers” out there that promotes their use.
Why might low carbs work?
Weight loss generally occurs when you start eating less calories than you were before.
This is an oversimplification, but it works for our purposes.
There are two ways you can achieve this goal:
- Eating less food then you were before
- Making healthier food choices
Low carb diets may help you lose weight because they act on both of those objectives.
They help you eat less than before by heavily restricting your intake of multiple types of food ( more on this below) and they may also force you to make healthier food choices by abandoning certain less healthy foods like baked goods.
Why I don’t think they are a great idea
There is one big problem, however.
Many of the healthiest foods available for human consumption, including fruits, veggies and whole grains, are naturally rich in carbohydrates.
As a dietitian, I simply cannot support your long-term adherence to any diet that would heavily restrict these foods, and it really is as simple as that.
Balanced moderate eating is a better choice
Weight loss is a complex issue and trying to solve it by cutting out a group of healthy foods is in some ways akin to playing a video game with cheat codes. `
You may be able to get to the goal quickly, but when you try and play the game again without the codes, you will not be in a position to succeed.
It is quite similar with low carbohydrate diets. They are not very sustainable and although they may help you lose weight in the short term, the time will come when you realize you don’t want to live out your life avoiding so many of the foods you enjoy.
When this happens, you won’t have truly developed the skills required to cope and may struggle with your weight management.
My best piece of weight management advice?
Worry less about cutting out specific foods, and worry more about understanding what a balanced, healthy meal looks like.
This is your first step towards health for both yourself and your family.
In my opinion, rethinking your meal planning and preparation is the best place to start.
In a perfect world, the majority of your meals (especially lunch in dinner) would look like:
½ plate Vegetables (especially leafy greens)
¼ plate Whole Grains or Starchy Veggies ( such as brown rice, potatoes etc)
¼ plate Protein ( such as fish, chicken, lentils, tofu etc)
With a piece of fruit, or ½ cup of fruit (such as berries) representing the ideal dessert.
The more often you can get your meals to represent these proportions, the better off you will be.
Also keep in mind to use minimal vegetable oil in food preparation and to drink water as often as possible instead of soft drinks/fruit drinks.
At the end of the day, the main sources of carbohydrates that are truly worth you limiting your intake of include soft drinks, fruit drinks, chips, candy, chocolate bars and jams/syrups.
These foods don’t really do much for you from a health perspective and tend to make up excess calories in people’s diets.
No matter how busy your life may be, it is important to understand that weight loss and healthy eating is a marathon and never a sprint.
The low carb diet approach is very much a sprint and provides a short cut, of sorts, that MAY help you reach your goal in the short term but may end up hampering you down the line.
Yes, some people do have long-term success on these types of diets, but that does not change the fact that there are healthier, more balanced ways to go about managing your weight.
I urge you not to be tempted by fad diets, but rather take a reasoned, patient and balanced approach towards weight management and healthy eating.
Andy De Santis RD MPH
Andy is a Toronto-based registered dietitian and nutrition writer who holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition. You can learn more about Andy and his services at AndyTheRD.com.