A Closer Look at Low-Carb Diets

First, I just want to get something off my chest. I LOVE carbs. I honestly can’t imagine my life without them. What do you mean no English muffin and banana at breakfast every day? No protein pancakes for dinner? No brown rice alongside my veggie stir fry or big bowl of whole wheat pasta with broccoli & cauliflower?! Without all of these foods, my loved ones would hate me real quick due to the cranky, witch-like person that would inevitably emerge. Therefore, I will never be on a carb-restricted diet. You’re welcome.

Last week we talked about fat – and how great and important it is. This week, if you haven’t already figured it out, I want to take a closer look at carbohydrates and discuss the super low-carb diets that many people are following nowadays. I also want to show you why this may not be the healthiest or most effective method for long-term weight loss.

I hear it all the time; many people are now restricting certain fruits and vegetables because they are watching their carb intake and certain ones are “too high in sugar”. As a dietitian and a carb-lover, this genuinely upsets me. There is really no such thing as a “bad” fruit or vegetable – yes, EVEN BANANAS AND CARROTS! The natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables is not harmful like the added sugars that may be hidden in the protein bars and other items you might be eating on any specific carb-restricted diet. Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, along with tons of other vitamins and minerals that nourish your body. So please, don’t restrict these foods. Instead, try to eat a wide variety of them so you’re not getting too much of one color, and not enough of the others. Share the love by eating all different kinds so you can reap as many of the nutritional benefits as possible.

*Check out my post, “Taste The Rainbow” to learn more about the health benefits and nutrients provided by each color!* 

While there is no such thing as a bad fruit or vegetable, there are some less healthy carbohydrates. When I tell you to eat plenty of carbs, I am referring to specific kinds. I’m talkin’ complex carbohydrates, people – as opposed to refined carbohydrates – the kind that you will find in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The kind that won’t spike your blood sugars. The kind with an intricate molecular structure designed to keep you full longer and prevent you from rummaging through the pantry for unhealthy goodies shortly after your meal.

According to the Dietary Guidelines, whole grain intake may reduce risk of heart disease and is associated with lower body weight; reread previous paragraphs if you need a reminder on how great fruits and veggies are for you.

Riddle me this. How do people lose weight so dang quickly on low-carb diets? Well, when we ingest carbohydrate, our body either uses it for energy or stores it in our liver and muscles as something called glycogen. This is why carbs are such a great energy source for us to utilize during times like exercise. When you go on a super low-carb diet, your body starts ridding itself of the carb reservoirs stored in the muscle and instead starts using fat stores for energy, which forces your body to go into something called ketosis. This process has been shown to decrease hunger and make you feel full longer, but unfortunately, there are some negative consequences that can follow, such as elevated LDL cholesterol levels, or “bad” cholesterol.

According to a fellow registered dietitian, Lauren Harris-Pincus, in this article in SELF magazine, “There’s about a three to one ratio of grams of water to grams of carbs, so when you cut back on carbohydrates, you can lose a lot of water weight”. So while this type of diet may be a quick fix and help you achieve your spring break goal weight, you’re not really doing your body any favors. Once you return to your previous eating habits and start incorporating carbohydrates again, all the weight you lost will most likely creep right back on.

In that same article, Lauren talks about some specific carbs that can actually help you lose weight if you include them in your diet on a regular basis. Eating these filling, beautiful, fiber-rich, nutrient-packed foods can help you feel satisfied, fuel your body the right way, and provide essential nutrients that you need to live and thrive! Some of the carbs she mentions include fruit, oats, quinoa, air-popped popcorn, spaghetti squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I recommend heading to the article for more info on all of those foods as well as bitchin’ recipes to go along with each one.

So once again, I want to emphasize the importance of every single macronutrient; carbs, fats, and protein all have a special place in our diets (& in my heart) and play a very important role in helping our bodies function. Different individuals may need different amounts at different times of the day and go about getting them in a million different ways, and that is A-okay. Just remember that it may not be realistic to try eliminating something as hugely important (and delicious) as carbs from your diet, and the weight loss isn’t very sustainable. Instead, work on consuming the right kinds of carbohydrates and learning to live a balanced lifestyle, whatever that means for you. For me that means treating myself occasionally, but making a conscious effort to make healthy choices on a daily basis. That, my friends, is the key to healthy, sustainable weight loss.

Just FYI: Individuals with certain health conditions, such as diabetes, may need to follow a special diet and consume smaller amounts of carbohydrates, but for the general healthy population, about 50-60% of calories from carbs is recommended. Here’s how to calculate that: again, let’s pretend we are calculating based on a person with a 2,000 calorie allowance. 50% of total caloric intake from carbohydrates would obviously be 1,000 calories, but in grams, that would equal ~250 grams of carbs a day, because carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram (vs. 9 calories/gram in fat). Amounts may vary depending on the individual, activity level, etc. 

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This recipe may seem like a no-brainer, but if I hadn’t already thought of it myself, I would want someone to let me in on this deliciousness. My Instagram followers already know I eat this meal once a week (at least), but you may not know everything that’s going on in here. There are like 3 recipes hidden inside of this recipe just waiting to come out, & they are all so versatile! I’ll show you how to enjoy them in multiple ways.

Totally Stuffed Chicken Tostada

Step 1 – Crockpot Chicken Tacos: 

  • ~1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 pkg. or 2-3 breasts)
  • 1 packet Mrs. Dash taco seasoning
  • 1 pack Mrs. Dash ranch seasoning
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

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Instructions: 

  1. Pour both dry mixes into crockpot. Add chicken broth and whisk until combined.
  2. Add chicken breasts.

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3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Chicken is ready when it starts to fall apart with a fork. Use two forks and pull from both sides to shred chicken.

4. Once chicken is fully cooked and shredded, turn crockpot to “warm” setting and serve as desired (on top of tostada shell in this case!)

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Step 2 – Easy-Peasy Canned Mexi-Veggie Mix:

  • 1 can Mexicorn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes & sweet onions
  • 1 can no salt added black beans
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp chili powder (more or less depending how spicy you like it!)

 
Instructions: 

  1. Once crockpot chicken is ready, gather Mexi-Veggie Mix ingredients.
  2. Drain and rinse all canned vegetables.
  3. Combine canned beans and veggies in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add chili powder and ground cumin, and use a spatula to stir and evenly distribute ingredients and spices. Stir veggies in skillet until hot, about 5-8 minutes.


Step 3: Complete to make tostadas – additional ingredients needed:

  • 1 box tostada shells
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Reduced-fat shredded cheese
  • Salsa of choice


Instructions: 

  1. Optional: preheat oven/toaster oven to 350 F and place tostada shells on baking sheet covered with foil for ~2 minutes to heat them up. Make sure to set a timer and watch closely so you don’t burn them – which can happen very fast! (Just ask my mother… Just kidding, momma. 😉 ) You just want the shells to get nice and crispy.
  2. Assemble tostadas: on top of toasted tostada shell, add crockpot chicken, easy-peasy canned Mexi-veggie mix, shredded lettuce, reduced-fat shredded cheese, and salsa. Voila!

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And here we have the beautiful, Totally Stuffed Chicken Tostada!

Other genius ways to use the leftover ingredients:

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Easy Peasy Mexi-Veggie Mix with brown rice and Morning Star spicy black bean burger
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Easy Peasy Mexi-Veggies on top of a sweet potato with a Morning Star spicy black bean burger
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Easy Peasy Mexi-Veggies scrambled with egg whites and topped with salsa
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Chicken tacos simply as chicken tacos.. Genius, I know.

So much yum! Have a great week and enjoy the oddly warm weather that’s coming – YAY! Only a few more months until spring!!!!! *hallelujah hands emoji* 😉

{eat well. live well. be happy.}

Shanna, RD

#wellnessforthewin

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2 thoughts on “A Closer Look at Low-Carb Diets

  1. Love Wellness For The Win!!! I look forward to getting this email! Such great information, reminders and recipes! Not to mention your humor! Keep up the great work! You are helping to keep us on track and not hating it!!!
    Allison 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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