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          “Carbohydrate” seems to be a very bad word . . . at least according to most of the current best-selling diet books.  Some suggest almost eliminating carbohydrates totally, while others restrict their consumption to once or twice a day.  Others advocate combining  certain foods with carbs to lessen their “negative” effects.   There are those who suggest timing the consumption of carbs to a specific period before or after the consumption of other foods.  At the other extreme, some diets encourage the over-consumption of  “dense” carbs that require more calories to digest.

          If all this seems like a logistical nightmare requiring data books, timers and complex meal schedules; there is a much easier way, according to Jill Callejas, R.D., clinical nutritional manager at Marian Community Hospital.  “The key word to remember is calories . . . the more we consume, the more we gain”, she stressed.  “Americans are just consuming more calories than ever before and as a result weigh more than ever.” 

          Some of the low carbohydrate diets do encourage weight loss because fewer total calories are usually consumed.   For example two scrambled eggs and 2 slices of bacon can  have less calories than a typical bakery bagel.   However, eating eggs and bacon every day is certainly not healthy and deprives the body of other essential nutrients.  “When we consume fats, we do feel full,” relates Mrs. Callejas.  “Carbohydrates are often less filling and leave the stomach faster.  They are also nutritious, especially those containing fiber.   However, there are many ways to eat more beneficial carbohydrates with high fiber.  Healthier breakfast items can include whole wheat cereal and breads, or egg white or egg substitutes with vegetables for a healthier alternative to empty calorie carbohydrates.”

          All popular diets are based on at least one premise or philosophy to gain attention and set it apart from the many other diet books on the market. “What the authors of these various fad diets have managed to do is to take a shred of truth and developed a theory or are proposing theories that are untested or worse have been proven false,” outlined the registered dietitian.  “The bio-chemical theories, or the theories of how the body processes  foods, are part of the course work for registered dietitians, yet I am sometimes amazed at the theories forming the basis of some diets.  While many people are consuming too many carbohydrates in the form of processed sweets and snack foods, there are very many valuable carbohydrates providing valuable nutrients like fruits, grains and many dairy products.”

          Another premise of many current diets is that those following the program are less tired, have more energy . . . something we are all craving.  Carbohydrates provide the body with energy, so a very reduced level would actually be tiring.  What people are often finding is that with weight loss comes new enthusiasm, a healthier outlook and more positive self -image.  All of these factors contribute to a feeling of more energy.

          An important dietary consideration is not to eliminate one particular food group but rather focus on natural unprocessed foods.  Do the majority of your food shopping from the sides of the grocery store.  There you will find the fresh products; fruits and vegetables, lean meats and chicken as well as dairy products.  The processed foods are usually found up and down the isles.  It is not necessary to pick up a diet book to understand that white flour and white sugar have very little nutritional value.  However, it is possible to make smarter selections among products that usually contain these items by choosing more nutritional varieties like those including whole grains and reduced amounts of sugar. 

          “Any diet you find initially successful should be one you can follow for life, not just for a few days or weeks” stressed the dietitian.  “Restriction only leads to over-indulgence.  It is not uncommon for those on low carb diets to crave fruit, certainly a healthy food selection.   A healthy diet should focus on a balanced selection of food, with an emphasis on fresh and natural foods.  The more processed a food item is, the more fillers and empty calories it usually contains.  A total weight management plan is much easier to manage in combination with regular exercise.

          “A healthy weight management program should be based on the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid (to run with story)”, concluded Mrs. Callejas.  “Successful weight loss and life-time control comes with positive changes in diet and exercise habits.”  

Jill Callejas is no longer employed by Marian Community Hospital, however, the information contained in this article is current.



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