As the new year approaches, we're all thinking about getting our summer bodies ready, making the move to healthier foods, and working off all that weight we gained. But don't surrender yourself to a lifetime of lettuce leaves and carrot sticks just yet; there is still hope. For years, we've been under the impression that in order to drop the extra pounds, we have to cut out our favorite delicious carbs — but it's simply not true! We spoke to dietitian and nutritionist Lyndi Cohen to get the low-down on carbs and what they really mean for weight loss.
Where did the myth that carbs make you gain weight come from?
From the Atkins diet that skyrocketed to fame in the 2000s to today's ketogenic and paleo obsessions, low-carb ways of life have been popular for years. And yes, you may lose weight from cutting out carbs, but there are many other ways to lose weight.
"Eating fewer calories from fat or protein will also result in weight loss," Cohen says. "The idea that carbs are intrinsically fattening is wrong, and the idea that you need to avoid carbs to lose weight is completely not true."
So what's the drama with cutting out carbs? It's just not realistic, according to Cohen. "The challenge with low-carb diets is that many people struggle to stick to the diet and still eat out with friends, so it's often not a highly sustainable and long-term approach."
So which carbs are best to eat when trying to lose weight?
Before you order a family-sized pizza for yourself, remember not all carbs are the same. Like fats, there are good and bad ones. "The best carbs to eat to lose weight contain fiber, protein, and are low-GI, to help give you more sustained energy," Cohen explains.
"Whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa are pantry staples for me, because they keep me feeling full and satisfied. Research suggests that the type of carbohydrate you choose is more important for your weight than simply eating fewer carbs."
Whole grains; fruits; starchy vegetables, like corn and sweet potato; plus dairy foods like yogurt with gut-loving probiotics are excellent healthy carb choices for weight loss. So ditch the refined options like cakes and candy, and swap them for a simple but cost-effective nutritious food.
Cohen also shares her favorite carbs to eat for long-lasting energy: "I often have rolled oats with some seeds, nuts, and chopped dates for breakfast... When I eat healthy carbs with all my meals, I notice my sweet cravings are reduced, I'm more productive at work, and my workouts are better."
Why are whole grains so good for you?
Whole-grain foods are a great way to up your healthy carb intake as they tend to contain more fiber, protein, and have a lower GI than processed foods. Refined carbs such a bread, cakes, pastries, and pasta often contain additives like salt, sugar, fat, or preservatives," Cohen says.
"Whenever possible, swapping refined, white carbs, like pasta and white bread, for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and barley is an easy way to boost the nutrition of your diet."
Do I need to stop eating carbs at night to lose weight?
The short answer is no, it's a myth! In fact, eating healthy carbs at night can help with your weight loss. When we exercise, our body mainly burns carbohydrates and glycogen for energy, so by eating those clean carbohydrates at night, you will restore glycogen for the next day. Not only that, but these carbs give your body the glucose it needs to regulate your blood sugar levels during sleep. Your body can then use this stored fuel to burn more body fat for energy the next day.
"As carbohydrates are our bodies' preferred energy source, often eating enough healthy carbohydrates like brown rice and oats can help give you energy," Cohen says. "This may mean you have better quality workouts and actually find it easier to stick to your weight-loss goals in the long term."
What are some top tips to stay on track and avoid those unhealthy carbs?
Whether it's Christmas party season or just a get-together with friends and family, we often find ourselves surrounded by unhealthy treats. And even though we want to enjoy and indulge, it's important to keep a healthy balance.
"I think that the best strategy is to have a healthy daily routine that keeps you grounded and balanced — which frees you up to relax at gatherings," Cohen advises. "Start your day with a healthy breakfast, pack a lunch rich in whole grains for work, snack on fruit or yogurt, and keep on exercising. So even if you go out for a lovely dinner and have a few drinks or some dessert, your normal routine will keep you feeling balanced."
This article was originally written by Alex Lilly. For more, check out our sister site, Now to Love.