Healthy Weight, Healthy Mind: Low Carb Eating

Dr. Creel answers readers’ questions on keto diets and weight loss strategies for carb lovers.

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We are pleased to bring you this regular column by Dr. David Creel, a licensed psychologist, certified clinical exercise physiologist and registered dietitian. He is also credentialed as a certified diabetes educator and the author of A Size That Fits: Lose Weight and Keep it off, One Thought at a Time (NorLightsPress, 2017). See all of Dr. Creel’s columns here

This week’s column is based on a questions from readers. Do you have a weight loss question for Dr. Creel? Email him at [email protected]. He may answer your question in a future column.

This week I’ve decided to address two questions related to low carbohydrate eating.

  1. High-protein “keto” diets seem to be extremely effective for many people. What’s your opinion of them as a weight-loss expert?
  2. I just love starchy food – bread, rice, potatoes – and I am not interested in going “paleo” and cutting them out of my diet entirely. What are some healthy weight loss tips?

Thanks for your questions!

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of truly ketogenic diets for weight loss. Restricting carbohydrates to 20 grams per day — about what you’ll find in an apple — is not a long-term solution for most people with excess weight. These diets lack balance, eliminate important nutrients, and are generally not sustainable. But, in my experience, most people who say they are following a ketogenic diet are actually following a reduced carbohydrate diet that is not putting them into ketosis. These lower carbohydrate diets are more realistic and can be an effective approach to weight loss. In fact, several large studies show that low carbohydrate diets and low fat diets show similar long-term weight loss.

What matters most is finding a way to consume fewer calories through nutritious, filling foods. If you tend to do better on a lower carbohydrate diet, make sure your protein choices are healthy ones like fish, chicken, turkey, and eggs. At the same time, choose healthy fats that come from avocados, nuts, and vegetable oils. If your low carb eating consists of bacon, sausage, buttered coffee, pork rinds, and ribeye steaks, you may want to rethink what you’re doing.

Personally, I love healthy carbohydrates. Foods like oats, quinoa, brown rice, and fruits provide energy, fiber, and a multitude of nutrients. It is important to limit our processed grains and foods with added sugars (biscuits, sweet cereals, sugar-sweetened drinks, etc.). For my bread, rice, and potato-loving questioner, try balancing your meals with a lean source of protein and vegetables.

  • Instead of a large plate of pasta with garlic bread, experiment with making a pasta dish that has diced vegetables and chicken along with a side salad. You’ll still get your pasta, but you won’t overdo it.
  • Use rice to accompany a vegetable/meat stir-fry. You’ll enjoy the rice, but it won’t be the star of the show.
  • Try hearty whole grain bread on a sandwich loaded with vegetables, avocado and a lean protein.
  • And potatoes — they are packed with potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. If you love them, eat them. Just remember that preparation matters. Load a baked potato with ingredients like diced tomatoes, chives, spicy black beans, roasted chickpeas, mushrooms, or lightly sautéed spinach.

Lastly, don’t forget that food is fuel. The timing of our meals and snacks as well as what we’re eating should provide us with energy to move our bodies. In short, our diet fuels physical activity, a key to long term weight loss.

 

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