Just One Change week five - halve your carbohydrate portions
Over the next few weeks we're giving you one small, manageable change you can make to your diet each week, that over time will add up to a big difference to your health. This week is a tricky topic - carbs.
Quick note: Before we get started, this will be our last Change for now. We're going to take a little hiatus to assess how we've done and make sure we're giving you all the best advice! In the meantime, if you haven't started Just One Change yet, we recommend you go back to the beginning and give it a go! You can read our introduction or go straight to week one.
We'd also love to hear your thoughts - did you have a go at Just One Change? Was the advice useful? Did you find it too easy or too hard? Our goal here is to offer advice that you can really put into action and feel you're making a difference to your health, so tell us what worked for you and what didn't! You can reply in the comments, send us a tweet at @JustHospitality or drop by our LinkedIn page to tell us what you thought.
This week we're delving into the sticky topic of carbohydrates. Why is it sticky? Because until very recently not many people paid much attention to carbohydrates compared to fat unless you wanted to try the Atkins Diet, but in recent years many people see it as the real enemy of good health and say we don't need it at all.
We want to take a more balanced approach, and say this is less about carbohydrate being a dietary supervillain and more about how our eating habits, especially our portion sizes, have changed over time.
The benefits of carbohydrate
There are actually three major types of carbohydrate - fibre, starch, and sugars like glucose, lactose and fructose. Fibre is found mostly in fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains, and is a really important element to a healthy diet. It regulates both your digestion and how your body manages energy levels - and it's thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Starch is more concentrated carbohydrate than sugar, but tends to come hand in hand with that fibre - meaning you don't want to cut out starchy carbs like rice, pasta and potatoes altogether!
Then there's the sugar - this is found in fruit and milk, and obviously is used as a flavouring in sweets and chocolate. It's... not so good for you. However in those fruit and milk sources it again goes hand in hand with other valuable vitamins and fibre. As for the sweets, well, we probably don't need to tell you.
But we're really talking about starchy carbohydrates today - the rice, potatoes, bread and pasta that are the base of so many of our meals.
A problem of portions
So carbohydrates aren't the worst things in the world. Why, then, have we started becoming so concerned with them? There are two reasons. Firstly, in around the 1950s a lot of governments put out dietary advice suggesting we should eat less foods high in saturated fat like butter, eggs, milk, nuts and red meat. Because of this, a lot of people started replacing them with carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. Not only that, but people often opted for the "white" versions of these foods, which were sweeter and softer than the wholemeal versions.
This issue, where we suddenly started eating far more carbohydrate than we used to, has become even more problematic in recent years as our portions sizes for our meals as a whole have gone up. For example, supermarket ready meals now are around 50% larger than they were 20 years ago. That means not only are we filling half of our plate with carbohydrate, but that plate has also become bigger.
Why halve the amount of carbohydrate?
Okay, everyone eats a different amount, so this is a very generalised rule. However, one tip that we think is great when it comes to a healthy diet is that you should try to fill half your plate with vegetables.
Imagine, at the moment, about half of your plate is pasta, or rice, or a couple of slices of bread, a quarter is perhaps meat, cheese or some other protein, and the other quarter is vegetables. If you half how much carbohydrate you have on your plate, it's now a quarter carbohydrate, a quarter protein, and you have space on half of your plate for the vegetables. You're not giving up on carbohydrate altogether - you're just balancing out your meal a little better.
Foods like white rice, pasta and bread are carbohydrates that have been refined to change the taste or make them easier to cook with, but the trade off is they lose a lot of their nutritional value and fibre. It's important to balance your carbohydrates with fibre, because that will help you regulate how your body processes it. The more pure carbs you eat, the more likely you are to feel fatigued and unfocussed later in the day.
Bonus points - go for whole grains
That’s why dieticians recommend whole grain carbohydrates - carbs that have had little to no processing and contain lots of vitamins and minerals. They include porridge oats, brown rice and pasta, and wholemeal bread.
Are you going to try this one? Brave enough to go wholemeal too? Let us know how it's going on Instagram or Twitter with #JustOneChange - and don't forget to give us your feedback on the last five weeks!