Low carb eating is not new. Yes, it seems like a trend, a popular one, but you may be surprised that low carb eating was the normal approach to lose weight and avoid disease before then 1950s. By the 1970’s the government had adopted a calories in calories out approach to eating and recommended a high carbohydrate diet low fat approach to health.
If you look at our obesity and chronic disease rates, then you know that this approach doesn’t work. People are getting fatter and sicker and it’s all because we’ve been following the government’s idea of health. (I know you see this every day. As a nurse, our populations are getting sicker and sicker.)
But if you go back to your great grandparent’s era (and certainly before that too), they knew that a diet high in starchy carbs was bad for you.
So, while the low carb diet isn’t new, it is perhaps the single best way to lose weight and get healthier. So let’s take a look at what low carb means first and then we’ll talk about those common mistakes.
When it comes to carbohydrate consumption there are a few things to keep in mind.
- 1 Veggies and fruits are carbs
- 2 Low carb means less than 150 grams of carbs a day.
- 3 Total carbs is different from net carbs. Net carbs takes the amount of fiber and absorption into account. For ease, most people look at total carbs.
- 4 If you want to lose weight, consumer fewer than 100 grams of carbs a day.
- 5 High carb foods include bread and baked goods, potatoes, rice, sugar and foods with added sugar. Can you have these foods? Yes, nothing is off limits. You just want to make sure you stay under 100 grams of total carbs to lose weight and 150 grams to maintain weight.
Okay, so low carb for weight loss means consuming fewer than 100 grams of total carbs a day. Let’s start there and explore the most common mistakes.
Low Carb Mistake #1 Unknown Starting Point
How many carbs are you eating right now? Unless you’re tracking your intake you have no idea. You can jump to 100 grams of carbs tomorrow, but you’re more likely to stick to your new lifestyle if you gradually reduce your carbs from where you are right now to 100 grams. It gives you and your body time to adapt to a new way of eating and you have time to find delicious low carb foods to enjoy.
Low Carb Mistake #2 Not Tracking
You have to track your carb intake to know if you’re low carb. Now, tracking kinda sucks for a lot of people. Know that tracking your intake isn’t forever. Right now you need to track to create awareness and to get to that <100 grams a day level. Once you know what 100 grams of carbs looks and feels like, you can stop tracking or only track occasionally. For example, I had a client that hated to track so once random day a week I’d encourage her to track. Then she could see if she was on track or if she was eating too few or too many carbs.
Nurses are super busy and tracking can be tricky at work. Use a mobile app like Cronometer to track your intake while you’re at work and on the go. Trust me, tracking your intake at work holds you accountable for every snack and helps you stick to your goals.
Low Carb Mistake #3 Not Eating Your Veggies
It’s super easy to go low carb if you only eat meat. Bummer problem though, eating only meat isn’t really good for you. You need veggies. Some veggies have more carbs than others but you’ll be pressed to eat 100 grams of carbs from veggies. That’s a lot of veggies. Fruit is a different story and you can have fruit, just track the carbs. You need both veg and fruit for a healthy body and digestive system. Don’t neglect them.
One of the reasons why low carb is so easy to embrace for so many people is that there really aren’t any foods that are off limits. If you want your carbs from ice cream, go for it. If you want your carbs from a croissant, fine. Foods aren’t restricted so you can enjoy your favorites once in a while, in moderation.
A word on alcohol…
I know that many nurses go home from their shift and have a beer or a glass of wine. Technically speaking, carbs from alcohol burn differently than other carbs. They burn so differently that some nutritionists and dieticians put them in a separate macronutrient category. You’ll have to decide how you track carbs from alcohol and if you abstain. My recommendations depend on my specific client’s needs. Personally, I drink less than once a week and I include it in my carb count. It’s just easier for me that way and I like to keep things simple!
Can low carb living work for you?
If you approach it as a lifestyle change rather than a diet and you prepare yourself to gradually embrace those changes, then absolutely! The low carb approach is one of the easiest healthy lifestyles to embrace. It may be the ideal way for your body to thrive and to lose your weight and keep it off!
***Not sure if low carb is right for you? Take this QUIZ and find out.***