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Carbohydrate Series: Starch

The buzz in the media around carbohydrates is very loud these days.  This has prompted me to tackle the topic. However, carbohydrates are complex (no pun intended), so I will break it down into a few posts.  This is the last post in the series and we will discuss starch. 

Carbohydrates are in everything, except meats, eggs and some cheeses. The most common forms of carbohydrates are sugars, fiber and starches.  Starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, are in plant-based foods and can provide important energy, vitamins and minerals for the body.  Vegetables high in starch include corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Lima beans, dried beans and lentils.  Fruits mostly contain sugar, but bananas and plantains are two high-starch fruits. 
 
Grains, such as oats, wheat and rice, are also high in starch.  There are two groups of grains, whole and refined. Grains have three parts, bran, germ and endosperm.  Whole grains include all three parts.  We often hear it is important to eat whole grains as much as possible, but why?  Let’s break these parts down:
  1. Bran is the outer skin of the grain.  It has the most fiber, B-vitamins, antioxidants and minerals of the grain.
  2. Germ is small but packed with nutrients including essential fatty acids, some protein, healthy fats and vitamin E.
  3. Endosperm is the soft center of the grain.  This part contains the most starchy carbohydrates, some protein and a small amount of vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains include all three parts, therefore, they are the most nutritious.  Whole grains also have more fiber so they are digested slower, keeping you feeling full longer.  This can help with not overeating and weight loss. Great sources of whole grains include oats, quinoa, and whole wheat products like bread and pasta.
 
Refined grains only contain the endosperm.  Refined grains are less nutritious and digested more quickly because they do not contain as much fiber.  If you remember from the previous post about fiber, it helps slow down digestion and stabilizes blood sugar.  Fiber also helps lower cholesterol. 
 
Although carbohydrates are often considered the enemy to weight loss, they can provide important nutrients and fiber.
 
Since starchy foods are digested slower than foods high in sugar, they absolutely can be included even if your goal is to lose weight.  Which starchy foods you choose and how much you eat are the biggest deciding factors in weight loss success.  The best choices of starchy foods are those that haven’t been processed, such as beans, lentils, quinoa, oats, sweet potato, boiled potato with skin and whole wheat pasta.  In small quantities (1/4 of your plate is ideal), these carbohydrate foods can be part of a healthy, balanced diet that won’t sabotage your weight loss efforts.
 
 
 
Try this quick and delicious side dish.  Be sure to eat the potato skin, it’s full of fiber.  Serve with grilled chicken and a green salad for a low calorie, balanced meal.
 
Black Bean Salsa Sweet Potato
Serves 4
 
Ingredients
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large tomato, diced
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
 
Directions
  1. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places.  Microwave on high until tender, 5-6 minutes  (alternatively, place in a baking dish and bake at 425F until tender, about 1 hour).
  2. Combine beans, tomato, oil, cumin, pepper and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high until heated through, 2-3 minutes. 
  3. When just cool enough to handle, cut sweet potatoes lengthwise, in half.  Spoon bean mixture into middle.  Top each with a dollop of Greek yogurt and sprinkle of cilantro.
Nutrition Information
206 Calories     9g Protein
35g Carbohydrates     10g Fiber
 
Enjoy!
 

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Success Story: Erika

Before I started the Figure Weight Loss program I weighed 315 pounds and was at my heaviest. I was depressed, in and out of hospitals with medical problems, and on insulin for diabetes that was out of control.

I made up my mind that I needed to do something about my weight to get my life on track. I started the Figure Weight Loss program and in under a year I was down 70 pounds. My diabetes is now better controlled, I no longer have to be on insulin, and am no longer in and out of hospitals. I gained education around portion control and no longer drink pop.

I feel so much better about the person I am today and am determined to continue this new, healthy lifestyle. I am a happier person today. I did it with Figure Weight Loss and you can too.

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Carbohydrate Series: Fiber

The buzz in the media around carbohydrates is very loud these days.  This has prompted me to tackle the topic. However, carbohydrates are complex (no pun intended), so I will break it down into a few posts.  This week we will discuss fiber.

 Carbohydrates are in everything, except meats, eggs and some cheeses. The most common forms of carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fiber.  Fiber is a very beneficial part of the diet.  It not only helps you stay regular, it promotes health and reduces the risk for some chronic diseases.  Fiber helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.  It decreases the risk of heart disease  and diabetes by lowering cholesterol and  helping to regulate blood sugar.  Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes (beans).

Fiber is not digested in the body, therefore it does not contribute to calories.  Since it is not absorbed into the bloodstream, it passes through the digestive system.  There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel as it passes through.    Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, passing through the body largely intact.  Most foods high in fiber have both types of fiber in them. Since it is important to have both types of fiber in the diet to reap the health benefits, don’t worry about choosing a specific type of fiber.

Sadly, most Americans don’t even come close the recommended amount of 20-30g of fiber each day.  The common refined and processed foods Americans eat, such as white bread, are not only low in nutrients, they are usually low in fiber too.  The best way to get your fiber requirement is through whole foods.  Eat whole fruits and vegetables, not just drink the juice.  The skin and pulp is where you will find the fiber. When reading food labels, look for foods with at least  5g of fiber per serving.  If you have at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables and 3 servings of whole grains per day, you are likely to meet your fiber goal.

Best sources of fiber:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Oat bran
  • Nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
 If you find it difficult to get enough fiber each day, you can take a fiber supplement.  Add fiber, especially supplements, in slowly.  Otherwise, it can cause gas, bloating and even make constipation worse if added too quickly.  Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water each day.
 
Try this recipe packed with fiber, protein and deliciousness!
 
Avocado Pesto Pasta with White Beans and Spinach
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup whole wheat spaghetti
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mash together the avocado and garlic using a fork or potato masher.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat up olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add spinach.  Cook until wilted, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and add avocado mixture, white beans and spaghetti and toss together.  Cook until warm through.  Remove from heat and add cheese.  Serve immediately. 

Nutrition Information:

479 Calories      23 g Protein

57g Carbohydrates     17g Fiber

 Enjoy!

Next post in this series we will discuss starches. 

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Carbohydrate Series: Sugar vs. Carbohydrate – Is There a Difference?

The buzz in the media around carbohydrates is very loud these days.  This has prompted me to tackle the topic. However, carbohydrates are complex (no pun intended), so I will break it down into a few posts.  This week will discuss sugar and carbohydrates.

Popular fad diets usually come with a list of “good” and “bad” foods they claim are the key to health and weight loss.  Sugar and carbohydrates (carbs) are often interchangeable words associated with being a “bad” food in many popular diets these days.  So are they good or bad and what is the difference between sugar and carbs?

I will come back to the good and bad of sugar and carbs.  Let’s first make sure we are clear on what is sugar and what is a carbohydrate. 

Carbohydrates are  nutrients that the body breaks down into a form of sugar, glucose, to be used as energy.   Carbohydrates are in everything, except meats, eggs and some cheeses.  The most common forms are sugars, starches and fiber.    Some foods are higher in carbs than others.  For example, bread is high in carbs, while many vegetables, like broccoli, are very low in carbs. 

As stated above, sugar is a type of carbohydrate.  It is found naturally in some foods, like fruit,  and milk.  Sugar is also added to numerous foods, including most yogurts, muffins, cookies, salad dressings, etc. 

So now let’s discuss the good and bad of carbs and sugar.

Carbohydrates are an important fuel source for the body.  The type of carbohydrate you choose does make a difference.  Less processed, natural sources of carbs, like whole grains and fruit, can and should be included in your healthy diet.  Processed, and sugar-added foods like cookies, however, should be limited. 

Too much sugar in the body is not good for many reasons.  High blood sugar leads to diabetes and causes inflammation in the body.  It is important to limit sugar, especially added sugar.

The main reason carbs have gotten a bad rap lately is because a low carb diet is an effective way to lose weight.  However,  I am not a fan of really low carb diets.    We all love our carbs and sticking to a really low carb diet usually doesn’t work for long and then the weight comes back.  Keeping total carbs in check and making healthier choices with carbs is a better choice for long term success.  Remember, there are carbs in both healthy and unhealthy foods.    Stick to healthier choices, but don’t go crazy with them!

Sugar, on the other hand, should not be a big part of any diet.  Splurge once a while on your favorite dessert, but  dessert every day is not a good idea.  Be aware of added sugar in other  foods too.  Read labels!  Sugar comes in many forms, such as honey, syrup, brown sugar, and agave nectar.  If you see these on the ingredient list of a food, it is added sugar.  Don’t be fooled in thinking some of these are “healthy”; the body sees them all as sugar, so they should be limited.

Try this easy hummus recipe for a healthy-carb snack full of fiber. Serve with your favorite crunchy veggies for dipping. The addition of ricotta adds protein and lightness to traditional hummus.

Hummus and Ricotta Dip (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 can garbanzo beans (or favorite white bean), drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic (raw or roasted), minced
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper
  • Vegetables, for dipping (carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, sugar snap peas, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)

Instructions

  •  Put beans in food processor and process until smooth.  Add rest of ingredients (except vegetables) and process again until smooth.  Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Can be served immediately or chill.  Serve with vegetables for dipping.

Nutrition Information

184 Calories    24 g Carbs   9g Fiber   8g Protein

Enjoy!

 Next blog: Carbohydrates and Fiber… stay tuned!

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Spring has Sprung! Motivation to Make Healthy Changes

Now that the New Year’s Resolutions have faded, it’s time to find new motivation to get healthy.  Since it’s getting warmer out and we are all coming out of hibernation, let’s make some diet changes for the better.

One of the healthiest changes you can make is to add more vegetables to your diet.  If you have read a few of my posts, you know that I’m a big fan of vegetables.  It’s not because I’m a dietitian and I’m supposed to tell you to eat them.  It’s because they are delicious, full of vitamins and minerals, low in calories and high in fiber.  The fiber will help you feel full, which can help with weight loss and weight maintenance (as well as keep you regular).

If you don’t share my love and enthusiasm for veggies, you are not alone.  Sadly, many people do not eat the recommended 6-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  Here are some ways to get more veggies in you and your family:

  1. Keep trying!  It can take 10-15 tastes of something to like it.  So don’t give up on those veggies!
  2. Cook vegetables in different ways.  Often the texture, not the flavor, is what you may not like about a vegetable.  You may prefer your veggies raw, a little cooked or really cooked.  Also, instead of steaming or boiling your vegetables, try roasting them in the oven with a little olive oil and your favorite seasonings, the texture and flavor is great!
  3. Sip on soup.  You can throw a bunch of vegetables into your favorite soup (like peas and carrots in chicken noodle soup) or make a pureed soup (like butternut squash or tomato soup).  If you buy canned soups, look for low sodium options.
  4.  Plan your vegetables.  Often vegetables are thought of last and then you run out of time to add them to your meal.  For quick vegetable side dishes you can microwave fresh, frozen or canned vegetables quickly.  Cut up raw vegetables, like carrots, celery and bell peppers, in advance so you can just grab and go with them.
  5. Hide them!  It works for kids, it can work for adults too.  Chop vegetables and cook well in a pasta sauce.  Add spinach to scrambled eggs or peas to mac n cheese.  Cook and chop cauliflower and mash with potatoes.

Try this recipe to get lots of veggies in a classic spring pasta dish:

Garden Pasta Salad  (Serves 6)

A colorful mix of bell pepper, carrot, cucumber and grape tomatoes with flavorful kalamata olives and basil. Serve on a bed of spinach or spring mix.  Add canned tuna or cooked chicken for a complete meal in one dish!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole-wheat rotini
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 Tablespoons low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon red-wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced seeded and peeled cucumber
  • 10 chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or parsley)

Directions:

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 8-10 minutes or according to package directions.  Drain and rinse under cold running water.
  • Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), garlic, salt and pepper until smooth.  Add pasta and toss to coat.  Add rest of ingredients; toss to coat well.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 30-45 minutes.
  • Serve cold on a bed of spinach or spring mix.  May add tuna or chicken for complete meal.

Nutrition Information per serving:

151 calories, 13g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 3g protein

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. The videos, techniques, ideas, and exercise suggestions presented on this website are not intended to be professional training advice. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. All exercises you perform at your own responsibility and at your own risk.