Habit #4: Eat Those Carbs

Carbohydrates are a much misunderstood macronutrient.

Depending on which diet advice you’ve heard, you might be lead to believe that carbs are evil and will cause you get fat.  Paleo, Atkins, Primal Blueprint folks all have pretty strong ideas about carbs and how you shouldn’t be eating them because our caveman relatives didn’t.

But carbs are important!  The specific amount of carbs that you should eat depends more on your body size, type and your physical needs.   By eating a reasonable amount of carbs at most meals and enjoying a good chunk of them after a session of exercise, you can meet your specific needs without counting a single gram or calorie.

You don’t need to worry about having carbs at one meal but not another, just work to have most of your carbs come from whole food sources.  In other words, not all carbs are created equal.  French fries and oven roasted potatoes are two difference sources of carbs and obviously both delicious but the fresh roasted potatoes will get you closer to your goals than will a large McDonald’s fries.  Plus the whole food carbs will provide fibre, vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients that you won’t get from highly processed carbs.

For this habit, portion sizes are important.

It’s easy to eat much larger portions of carbs, especially when it comes to things like pasta or rice.  So follow these visual cues to make sure you aren’t overindulging.

  • a cupped handful represents 1 portion of carbohydrates
  • women should aim for 1 cupped handful of carbohydrate dense foods with most meals
  • men should aim for 1 cupped handful

By focusing on the quality of the food itself and keeping within a reasonable portion at meals you’ll get the carbs your body needs without getting too many or too few.  Think of it as a controlled-carbohydrate diet.

If you’re unsure where to get these healthy, carb dense foods, try some from this list.

  • bread and cereals – whole grain, sprouted grain, fermented like sourdough
  • pastas – whole or sprouted grain
  • rice
  • oats – whole, steel-cut (my fav!) or old-fashioned
  • quinoa
  • potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • corn
  • legumes, beans and lentils
  • all varieties of fruits

Without a doubt you’ll find something healthy and tasty on this list and by sticking to portion sizes you don’t have to count calories.

As you build this habit, play around with trying new types of carbs, cookies methods or choosing preferred mealtimes to eat them.  Whatever you do, forget about moralizing carbs as good or bad.  Stick to healthy versions and concentrate on portion sizes with this habit.

Stay fresh

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