Be Carb Smart

Americans love to hate carbohydrates. If cutting carbs means avoiding foods like white bread, big bagels, and sugary cereals, go for it. If it means you’re afraid to eat a banana or drink low-fat milk, we need to talk!

It’s our job to teach people two things about carbs. First, that carbs are the body’s main source of energy, so you can’t do without them. And second, that all carbs are not equal when it comes to calories, fiber, and important nutrients. Our Be Carb Smart PowerPoint, poster, and color handout can help you set the record straight.

Here are some teaching tips to help people Be Carb Smart:

  1. Fiber is key. A high fiber diet helps reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. Fiber also makes you feel full (so you’ll eat less), and helps control blood sugar and cholesterol. Guess which foods provide fiber? Carbs! Be smart – don’t cut out carbs that provide healthy fiber.
  2. Some carbs are high in calories, low in fiber, and low in nutrients. We call these calorie-dense carbs. Examples are French fries, cookies, crackers, and pretzels. These are the carbs you want to cut.
  3. Some carbs are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and high in nutrients. We call these calorie-light carbs. Examples are vegetables, fruits, hot cereals, brown rice, and beans. (Low-fat and skim milk count, too, although they don’t provide fiber.) These are the carbs you want to include in your diet.
  4. MyPlate makes it easy to be carb smart: If you fill your plate with half fruits and vegetables (especially non-starchy veggies), one quarter whole grains, and one quarter protein, you’ll automatically get more calorie-light carbs, plenty of fiber, and other important nutrients.
  5. Be smart about fruit. Fresh, whole fruit is your best bet. Frozen and canned fruit without added sugar is also a good choice. Look for fruit canned in water or fruit juice. Limit dried fruit and fruit juice – both are higher in calories than other forms of fruit.
  6. Be smart about veggies. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes are higher in calories than non-starchy veggies like broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach. But they are still calorie-light carbs — unless they’re fried. Fried potatoes (calorie-dense carbs) have 1400 calories per pound, while baked potatoes (calorie-light carbs) have about 500 calories per pound.
  7. Be smart about grains. Less processed is best — so choose more whole grains, like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, oats, and barley. Whole grain bread is fine, but don’t use it as your grain for every meal. Try to mix it up to get more variety.

Carbs get a bad rap. We can restore their reputation by helping folks learn to be carb smart!

 

 

Free pasta or gummy noodles – too good to be true?

Calorie free, carb free, fat free, cholesterol free noodles and pasta. Is this too good to be true?

Some of the popular daytime television doctors have been recommending shirataki noodles to help with everything from weight loss, to cholesterol reduction, diabetes control and intestinal regulation. They can be purchased on-line, at health and Asian food stores as well as some grocery stores.  My sister-in-law bought several bags of these noodles and recently shared them with me.  I’m not sure if she gave them to me because she knew I’d write about them…or she just wanted to get rid of them.IMGP9896

Described as the ultimate guilt-free, miracle noodle, this pasta-like product is made from the konjac plant (a relative of the yam). It’s mostly composed of a soluble fiber called glucomannan. The 8.8 ounce package (they consider this one serving) contained 9 grams of fiber. Her cost was about $3 + shipping.

OK. I was a little leery. The angel hair “noodles”  came in a bag surrounded by water, looking very much like white or almost translucent pasta. The instructions say to drain and rinse well. I read a newspaper article about this product and it said to drain the “funky, earthy, fishy” smelling water—I got thinking—why would I want to eat something that smelled “funky”. I’m told this is the natural smell of the plant and it goes away with rinsing or heating—and it did. They are ready-to-eat once rinsed or can be heated.

My family joked— calling them “gummy” noodles  (this was “gummy”  like gummi bears–not gummy like over-cooked oatmeal).  They had lots of texture and little flavor. The “pasta” tends to pick up the flavor of the sauces or other foods added to them.

The supplement glucomannan is promoted as an appetite suppressant. The supplement and the “noodle” product tends to absorb water as it hangs out in your intestinal track— thus making you feel full. While some promoters of the noodles say they don’t cause bloating or gas, other web sites warn people to eat a small amount initially—to see if you have intestinal distress.

So what did I think? They were OK. It is fiber and it gives you something to chew (and chew and chew). Not awful—but just OK. I do think this is another one of those fads or gimmicks. It’s always fun to try different foods. I’m back to the moderation thing, I certainly won’t want to eat lots of these on a regular basis. They may be good for a person on a gluten-free diet…but there are other pasta products available, too. I, personally, would rather have a smaller portion of regular pasta or a flavorful dish of spaghetti squash. Don’t know what to do with spaghetti squash?  Try our recipe for Spaghetti Squash Parmasan.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University