You don’t have to skip the pasta if you’re trying to lose weight.
Low-carb dieting has been having a moment, and then some. For years now, women have flocked to diets like Whole30, Paleo, and even a resurgence of Atkins. It’s not without good reason: In the short term, these diets can be effective for those looking to slim down. In the long run, though, they do come with some drawbacks.
Heather Caplan, R.D., a Washington, D.C., sports nutritionist, says the low-carb approach will amount to relatively fast results. “The majority of what we eat is carbohydrate based, so there’s plenty of room to reduce them by cutting out desserts, snacks, and processed foods,” she says. “This will lead to weight loss and feeling good.”
But the approach has its limits, both in terms of weight loss and longer-term health impacts. “Eventually, if you omit all carbohydrates, there are metabolic implications, especially if you omit fat at the same time,” says Ellie Kempton, R.D., owner of Denver-based Simply Nourished. “Even if you choose to emphasize fat and limit carbohydrates, you still need enough carbohydrates to fuel the brain, adrenal glands, and thyroid, all three of which are crucial for energy, sleep, and weight.”
Both nutritionists are fans of nixing the highly-processed carbs that are common in the American diet. “I teach each and every one of my clients to decrease processed sugar/carb intake,” says Kempton. “My qualm stems from cutting out all carb intake because extreme low-carb weight-loss strategies only work for so long.”
The low-carb approach can do the trick in the short term, but if you’re looking for lasting results—or if you’d like to eat that bowl of whole-wheat pasta—follow the advice of Caplan and Kempton.
Kempton says that by spending at least 20 minutes eating your meal, you’ll ignite your metabolism. “You’ll also turn on digestive enzyme production and this will allow you to know when you’re actually full,” she says. “That’s huge.”
Caplan points out that many women snack mindlessly, not paying attention to what and how much they are eating, which can lead to unwanted pounds. Instead, she says, “Notice what makes you feel full and satisfied. It’s a good bet that a 100-calorie pack of cookies won’t hold you. You’re more likely to eat better and take in fewer calories when you tune in.”
“For all refined sugars and carbohydrates out there, try your best to replace them with a higher-quality substitute instead of falling prey to massive amounts of restriction or withdrawal,” says Kempton. “For instance, instead of sugar try dates or raw honey. Instead of processed flour products, try zoodles or cauliflower ‘breads.’”
Kempton points out that snacks can be a slippery slope. “In general, snacks are the most addictive food in beautiful packages,” she explains. “My favorite go-to snacks are nuts and seeds, jerky, Greek yogurt with cinnamon, or crispy roasted chickpeas—all of which can be packed for on-the-go snacking.”
This is one you might not think about, but Caplan says that high stress and low rest can contribute to weight gain. “We often don’t account for the roles stress and lack of sleep can play in weight gain, but they do,” she says. “Find ways to manage your stress and ensure that you get enough sleep, and they will help you manage your weight.”