Rethinking Carbohydrates


This past weekend, I made yummy oatmeal pancakes for overnight guests. The recipe is from Laurel’s Kitchen, an old cookbook from hippie days. The pancakes not only contain a good dose of old-fashioned oats, the recipe also calls for whole wheat flour, making a pancake that’s definitely not the fluffy stuff of pancake houses. But they’re really good – in fact, the only pancakes we eat at my house anymore. Even though they’re chock full of fiber and other healthy ingredients, these pancakes are even occasionally allowed to grace the plate of my son (the epitome of a picky eater — one of which every nutritionist should have to parent).

The reason I’m making such a deal out of these pancakes, however, is that my female houseguest initially said she’d only have half a pancake. Being the eternal weight watcher that she is, her reason, of course, was that – eek! – pancakes are full of carbohydrates!!! Never mind the type of carbohydrate. With all the fuss in the past few years, carbohydrate-rich whole foods have been painted with the same black brush as their more refined cousins. Because of all the misinformation in high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet books about insulin resistance and carbohydrates, all carbohydrates have become forbidden fruit.

But the advice to avoid carbohydrates may actually rank up there as one of the most misguided pieces of advice we could follow. Look at it like this: If we want to keep struggling with our weight, we need to keep trying to cut out as many carbohydrate-rich foods as possible. If we want to have energy, feel well, enjoy eating and be able to follow a healthy eating plan that can help us achieve permanent healthy weights, we need to be sure to include a healthy amount of whole grain breads and cereals, beans, brown rice, and other whole grain foods in most of our meals. And an occasional refined carbohydrate choice can add a lot to healthy eating, too.

It sort of brings me back to another rant: Forget the diet books or boot camps for women.  Just eat sensibly, regularly move your body in a way that feels good, and enjoy your life.

3 responses to “Rethinking Carbohydrates”

  1. Cindy says:

    Hi Marsha! I couldn’t resist responding to your post about refusing carbs and another reference you made about Oprah refusing chocolate. Well, sure enough, this week she also refused to eat the bread on a sandwich one of her guest chef’s had made. Even with encouragement from her guest (‘carbs aren’t bad!’) she said, ‘Oh no, I’m just not eating any bread this week because I have a dress to fit into’. Yikes! I thought Oprah was suppose to be the opitomy of wisdom and common sense. It just goes to show no matter who you are, and not matter how much money you have – with all the resources in the world, women will still do anything, no matter how stupid, to be thin. Ugh!

  2. Keith says:

    I have not studied medical and I don’t know what amount of carbohydrate I should be taking in 🙁 Doc says I should take amount of carbohydrate based on imperical information. 🙁

  3. marsha says:

    Hi Keith,

    I’ve been on vacation so sorry for the delay in answering your post.

    You’ve outlined the problem with looking at the ‘numbers’ when we eat. We really don’t eat numbers, we eat food. When we get caught up in trying to eating a certain amount of carbs, or whatever else is the focus of the day, we get confused. And it really takes away from the enjoyment of our foods.

    A really good plan for eating balanced meals is the Healthy Eating Plate Model (on our site at /fitbriefings/plate_model.shtml).If you eat like this, without eating the extra bread that’s listed as optional, you’ll be getting about 40% of your calories from carbs, which is considered the basic minimum for people who struggle with insulin resistance. If you take the extra bread, you’ll be getting closer to 55% of your calories from carb, which is considered a good amount for active, healthy people.

    Hope that helps!


About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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