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Where are all the carbohydrates and which ones are best?

By Laura Stepp, MA RD LD CDE at LMC

We hear it all the time “I’m on a low carb diet” or “I don’t eat carbs”. We see it in the news and on social media. Are carbohydrates good or bad, do we choose them, avoid them or limit them?

bread_1What really is a carbohydrate? A Carbohydrate is a macronutrient and major energy source in our diet coming from plants. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are fast and easy for the body to digest. Although in some situations this is good, people with diabetes or those interested in losing or maintaining weight loss want to choose complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are intact and whole foods: Whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates are higher in FIBER.

If we all need carbohydrates to fuel our bodies, why do we hear about low carbohydrate diets? Highly processed foods (foods that are prepackaged, premade, fast foods) are generally low in fiber (and often high in sugar and calories) making it easier for us to over indulge which could result in too many total calories, weight gain and high blood sugar for someone with diabetes.

In general, all foods in moderation can fit into a healthy diet. For people with diabetes, moderating and portion controlling carbohydrates — especially starchy carbohydrates and fruit — and choosing higher fiber versions not only helps improve and balance blood sugar but may also help with weight loss.

Lower Fiber starches and fruits: White pasta, white bread, white rice, French fries, fruit juice, dried fruit and desserts

fruit_1High Fiber starches and fruits: Whole wheat breads and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, whole potato or beans/legumes, whole fruit

A standard serving of carbohydrates is equal to 15 grams if reading a food label and a higher fiber choice is equal to 4 grams of fiber or more per serving. If there is no label, then measuring ½ cup cooked or using the palm of your hand (no fingers) is a good general guide for a serving of carbohydrates. For most people, 60 grams or four servings of carbohydrates is a normal and reasonable meal plan. Here is an example I use with my clients to show how much food can equal 60 grams.

3-4 oz skinless turkey
1 cup cooked butternut squash (1 choice)
1-2 cups cooked vegetable (not corn, peas or beans) (0-1 choice)
1 large green salad (oil & vinegar dressing)
1 palm size whole fruit (1 choice)
1 cup of milk or yogurt (1 choice)

This meal plan comes from the Diabetes Care and Education dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association

By using the above example as a template for preparing our own plates this holiday season, we will all be eating a very colorful and filling plant based meal.

GMOs – What’s The Latest?

by Jennifer Benedetto MS, RD, LD, CNSC at LMC

The United States House of Representatives recently passed a bill that will block states from requiring GMO food labels. What are GMOs? Should we be concerned that these items are hidden in our food supply?

CornGMOs are genetically modified organisms.These plants, animals or microorganisms have had their genes changed in a way that is not possible in nature. These changes make the organisms thrive in their environment. For example, GM crops are produced by transferring a gene responsible for a beneficial characteristic into the DNA of a host plant’s cells. The cells within the seeds grow into a mature plant that displays the desired characteristics. Plants have been changed to be insect resistant, drought resistant, and virus resistant. GMOs are argued to be sustainable crops that will be available to feed a growing population.

SoybeansThe first GMO crops became commercially available in 1996. The major commercially available genetic engineered crops include alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, squash, sugar beet and sweet corn. GMO varieties became the majority of the US corn crop in 2005 and the majority of the soybean crop in 2000. It has been reported that “trillions of GM meals” have been consumed in the US. It is estimated that there is at least 1 GMO in a given processed food. High fructose corn syrup is a frequent GMO ingredient. But since these foods are not monitored or labeled, there is no way to study patterns of consumption and their impacts. Even though the vast majority of scientists say that eating GMO’s is safe, their inclusion in the food supply is controversial. In a January poll, 57% of Americans feared that GM foods are unsafe.

GMO SealUnfortunately it seems the jury is still out on the safety of GMOs. For the time being, the only way to know that you are avoiding GMOs is to either eat organic foods or find foods with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal. The USDA National Organic Program prohibits the use of GMOs in any product that carries the “certified organic” label. The “Non-GMO Project” is an independent verification system dedicated to identifying products made without GMOs. A list of tested and approved products can be found on their website:

PapayaSo for now, the government is not going to require GMO labeling, but with a little leg work, you can find non-GMO foods at your local supermarket.

Healthier Vacation Eating

By Laura Stepp, MA, RD, LD, CDE at LMC

Its summer, time to live care free and enjoy life! Wait, eat healthy on vacation? It’s summer, I’m traveling and eating out, not cooking!

sunscreenWe have all experienced the challenges eating out while on vacation and for some trying not to gain weight can be a greater challenge. It seems we are surrounded by high calorie, high fat and high sugary foods when we travel. As we drive down the road, every mile brings a dozen fast food options all trying to temp us to stop. As you walk through an airport not only are many of the food choices high in calories, they are also expensive! Although it is sometimes difficult to find a “healthy” choice or to decide what to make while on vacation there are a few options try.

Healthy Snacks to the Rescue! In many cases, eating a snack replaces a meal especially if you are driving longer distances, flying, or spending a day on the beach or in the mountains. Snacks are going to be necessary to keep you going. Below are some ideas to help you eat healthier and save your waistline:

veggie tray•1 oz (1/4 c) servings of raw or dry roasted nuts. Any nut is good
•½ c- 1 cup individual servings of a lower sugar, higher fiber cereal
•Personalized trail mix: combo of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Approx ¼-1/2 c serving
•1 oz individual cheese sticks or rounds
•1 -2 Tbsp Natural peanut butter or almond butter with 1 oz serving of whole wheat crackers, graham cracker or gluten free crackers
•½ – 1 oz sliced cheese with crackers or fruit slices
•PB & J sandwich on sandwich thins
water pouring•Raw veggies of your choice: cut carrots or baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, celery, yellow squash, zucchini or cherry tomatoes (all better dipped in hummus or a little of your favorite salad dressing)
•Fruit: banana, apple, pear, peach, berries, orange, melon
•Low sodium lunch meat and cheese roll ups with or without tortilla

Remember to drink water. Traveling, especially in airplanes is very dehydrating. Drinking water will help to keep you alert when driving and keep you from over heating if you are at the beach or hiking in the mountains. Water is the most important nutrient for our bodies and especially important when we are traveling and not in our regular routine.