How To Eat Lower-Carb Smart and Safe

Count calories — Just because you’re counting carbs doesn’t mean you can eat as many calories as you want! One of the main reasons that you lose weight on lower-carb diets is because you are limiting a major nutrient, which means fewer calories are consumed. In fact, calories are the most basic and important determinant of our weight. Eating too many calories from any nutrient (not just carbs) will cause weight gain. Therefore, it’s important not to get so focused on carbs that you forget about balancing your calorie intake with the amount of energy you burn during physical activity. Be smart about the types of low carbohydrate foods you choose—for instance, both a fried and a baked chicken breast are low in carbs, but the fried chicken breast has about 200 more calories than the baked chicken breast (and 15 more grams of fat!)

Limit “refined” carbs — they provide little to no nutrients, fiber, and cause you to feel hungrier more quickly.

Get your whole grains — Not only do they provide nutrients and fiber, they will keep you full for longer periods of time.

Focus on saturated fat — Even though some foods are low in carbs, they can still be extremely high in saturated fat. Some low-carb diets allow unlimited amounts of high fat and saturated fat foods like fatty meats, butter, cream cheese, creamy dressings and oil. Saturated fat clogs the arteries, narrowing the blood flow through the vessels. In addition, saturated fat increases LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of developing heart disease.

Practice portion control — Restricting carbs in your diet can be very limiting, therefore, you may feel like eating larger portions to fill up. A diet that has a more moderate amount of carbs will allow you more variety, so you can avoid eating too much of any certain food.

Get your vitamins — Many very restrictive low-carb diets severely lack vital vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C, D and E, potassium, thiamin, and magnesium to name a few. If you are severely limiting an entire nutrient, like carbohydrates, it is essential that you talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin. If you include whole grain carbohydrates into your diet, you should get enough vitamins and minerals.

Getting Back To Basics
Just ten years ago, dieters were told that eating low-fat was the answer to all of their weighty issues. Now, carb-free is the new magic bullet. It is no wonder that there is confusion surrounding what works in order to lose weight. However, what we should have learned from the fat-free era is that it is not as simple as excluding one nutrient-it really does have to do with calories in versus calories out, and the quality of those calories.

Whatever your diet consists of, it should be healthful, safe, tasty, effective and one that you can live with. If you’ve decided to go low carb, do so in moderation. Any diet that is too restrictive will set you up for failure in the future. The goal of any healthy eating and weight maintenance plan should be one that you can incorporate into your lifestyle for the long term.

faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.