The "No Carbs After Lunchtime" Suggestion BUSTED!
Hi guys! Hale (@eatfuelnourish) here. After studying nutrition for 4+ years, it takes A LOT of willpower to not say anything when people tell me non-evidenced based nutrition "facts" or "rules" that they follow. Don't you think if any of these "facts/rules" were true, everyone would be doing it? Anyway, I don't say anything at those moments, but today, I'm going to say something. Ok, if you're interested in hearing about one of those statements that I hear allll the time, read on!
P.S. if you guys have any specific topics you'd like to learn more about, please let me know!
Why do some people have this thought process that we cannot eat carbohydrates after lunch? Who made up this rule because I DON'T like it. And if we can't eat carbs after lunch, then what can we eat? If we are going to realistically make healthy diets a part of our lifestyles, we need to start evaluating these "rules" made up by ... the unknown person on the internet.
Ok, let's bust this suggestion. Right here. Right now.
It’s funny, when someone finds out that they are talking to an RD or someone studying nutrition, one of the most common phrases is “Oh I don’t eat carbs after lunch time”. When you don’t even ask! But anyway, my automatic response is then “What types of foods do you eat after that specific time?” and I always hear “usually vegetables and a protein”. Great dinner! But, are we actually following the “no carbs after lunch ‘theory’”? Well, the quick answer is no, as it should be.
But before we even talk veggies specifically, we should talk food in general. Food is made up of a combination of macronutrients. The quickest macronutrients 101: The three macronutrients, which the body needs in large amounts to obtain energy, are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Some foods contain all three macronutrients and some foods contain only one or two macros, all in varying amounts.
Ok we’re moving on! Vegetables are not considered a protein source, which is why they are so commonly eaten with other foods, *enter the (lean) protein source here*. And veggies do not contain fat (there’s a reason we are told to “fill up on vegetables”); if they did contain fat (which IS part of a healthy diet and needed for so many vital processes, but a topic for another blog post) we would certainly watch our intakes. So… are you picking up what I’m putting down?
If not, vegetables contain carbohydrates! I hope this is not detrimental news because, well, we NEED carbs in our diets! The quickest carbohydrates 101: carbs break down into glucose during digestion. Glucose is the body’s main source of fuel; when we eat something containing carbohydrates, some is used relatively quickly, while extra glucose is stored for later use. This stored glucose, called glycogen, is tapped into when we begin to go about our daily activities, especially during exercise. If you take anything away from this Carbs 101 lesson, it should be that carbohydrates are necessary to help our bodies function at their maximum capacities.
Can we just take a moment to admire this bowl of beauty?
Green beans, red + golden beets, carrots, onions, butternut squash, zucchini & summer squash.
But do all vegetables have the same amount of carbohydrates? Not quite. Vegetables can be broken into two groups: non-starchy vegetables or starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables contain more carbohydrates and therefore, raise blood glucose more than non-starchy vegetables. Examples of starchy veggies include potatoes🍠, corn🌽, peas, butternut squash, pumpkin, etc. There are definitely more vegetables considered "non-starchy" and examples include asparagus, beets, brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumber, eggplant🍆, mushrooms🍄, onions, peppers, salad greens, zucchini, tomatoes, etc. While starchy vegetables should be incorporated into a healthy diet, that “eat more” suggestion really should be focused on those non-starchy vegetables because they are lower in carbohydrates and are considered “free-foods”.
Other sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, grains, and dairy products. Thinking in terms of a meal, if we have a whole grain as a part of that meal, then we really want to focus on incorporating non-starchy vegetables (and LOTS of them), because the whole grain serves as the main source of carbohydrate. [Side note: grains have much more carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables.] OR we could incorporate a starchy vegetable into our meal and that can be considered our main source of carbohydrate. For example, roughly ½ cup of pasta has the same amount of carbohydrate as ½ cup of green peas, 1/3 cup of sweet potato or ½ cup of mashed potato. Whereas ½ cup of corn provides 15 grams of carbohydrate, ½ cup of cooked carrots only provides 5 grams of carbohydrates. As we can see now, non-starchy vegetables have a lower carbohydrate content than both starchy vegetables and grain products. Either way, vegetables should be incorporated into every meal; it just takes a little planning to keep our meals balanced!
So it’s time to start changing our mindsets that we cannot eat carbohydrates after lunchtime. If that was the case, we would have to eat only meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs at dinner, and that just does not sound tasteful to me. A balanced meal should contain all three macronutrients; no restrictions needed (within reason, of course). If you are eating vegetables at dinner, just know you are eating carbohydrates after lunchtime, and that is a GOOD thing! Balance is key to making food enjoyable! Time to eat to fuel and nourish!
Now that we've talked the good stuff and realize we can and should eat carbohydrates after lunch, let us know your favorite ways to incorporate healthy carbs into meals and snacks after midday! Xx