Don’t Focus on the Numbers

When my family first started eating low-carb, we—admittedly—did not have a full understanding of the concept. The one thing we knew for sure was, having just started, that we should keep our carbs under twenty grams a day, the recommendation for the first two weeks on the Atkin’s program. What we didn’t know was that we were on our way to replacing our gaggle of old bad habits with a few new ones.

I had heard that cheeseburgers without the bun were great for low-carb and McDonald’s would always have their Quarter Pounders two for two dollars. That it was easy to hit the drive-thru and that it was so darn cheap was a dangerous combination. I “drove thru” constantly — I had replaced my fast food habit with a new low-carb fast food habit!

The fact that a hamburger without the bun has no carbs meant it was a free food to me. That I could eat three, four or five of the things! I didn’t stop to think that five bun-less fast food burgers may be low-carb, but they certainly aren’t a balanced meal!

I soon learned that I was too focused on the numbers. Instead of obsessing about carb-counting, what we should truly care about is the quality of the food that we are putting into our bodies. If you get into the habit of only stocking your house with healthy, naturally low-carb fresh foods, you’ll find that you won’t need to count carbs!

Because all carbs are not created equal, counting carbs is not an exact science. Back then, I knew I could eat tons of great veggies and still lose weight, but I didn’t know why… it hadn’t come out then that fiber (and only fiber) can be subtracted from the total carb counts.

The truth is, thirty carbs from ice cream isn’t comparable to thirty carbs from green beans, because your body processes the food differently. Some carbs – the processed, refined, simple carbs — are turned straight into glucose, while others, like fiber, are not. Carbs like fiber are not digested, and move through your body without being absorbed. When fiber is part of your meal, it keeps your body from metabolizing the food too quickly. The food takes longer to digest, and your body can use the energy before it is stored as fat.

In the beginning, I couldn’t understand how a green vegetable like broccoli could have any carbs at all. I’d flip a frozen bag over to check the carb counts, to see if I was eating too much. (This is reason enough to purchase your veggies from the fresh produce section. You don’t have to see that carb count.) I wondered, how could eating something so healthy ever be a bad thing? The fact is, it’s not. Broccoli is one of the most perfect foods on this planet! It’s full of vitamins and essential fiber and best of all, it only has one ingredient… broccoli.

Eventually I stopped counting each and every carb, learning instead which foods would keep me on track, and which would slow me down. The foods that had the most beneficial bang for their buck became staples on Rachel’s grocery list. And that’s a great habit to have!

Keep On Low Carbin’!

Chef George Stella

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