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Eating Carbs The Healthy Way

The "What America Eats" survey, published in this Sunday's Parade Magazine, revealed that most Americans are not as concerned about eating carbohydrates as one would think - especially considering the low-carb diet craze.

According to Parade Magazine, over half of survey participants (56 percent) say they "don't think about carbohydrates when buying/eating foods". In fact, 38 percent consider low-carb diets unhealthy.

However, more than a third - 38 percent - describe "reducing carbs" as a permanent change in their eating habits.

American Dietetic Association spokesperson Elisa Zied says she is a little bit surprised because of the recent focus on high-protein diets and eating less carbohydrates.

She says a lot of health professionals have always talked about the importance of carbohydrates in a healthy diet.

Carbs are key for fuel. They are the foundation of a healthy diet - providing glucose, which fuel the brain and entire central nervous system. They contain lots of vitamins and minerals, as well, and are generally low in fat and calories (especially veggies and fruit).

Many carbohydrate foods provide fiber to keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy. They play a role in preventing heart disease and cancer. Most people are not getting enough fiber. Eating carbs means everything else in balance - so you are not getting too much of the other food groups like, fat and protein. Carbs should make up half your calories each day.

There are two types of carbs: simple and complex.

The complex carbohydrates are the veggies, whole grains like whole wheat pasta, rice, and oatmeal. This group also includes sweet potatoes and white potatoes. Typically, they are high in fiber and take longer to digest.

The simple carbohydrates can be good if they are orange juice and fruit. This category also includes candy, cookies, sugar, honey, syrup. Typically, they break down quicker. Sugar only provides calories and carbs. It is not as nutritious.

The simple carbohydrates are the things we usually eat too much of.

On average, people should have 250 grams of carbs per day, assuming they are on a 2000 calorie diet. That is the suggested caloric intake for most kids. Woman may consume a little less than that; and men may consume a little more than that. But generally most people need about 2000 calories per day.

This is what 250 grams of carbohydrates over a day could look like.

1/2 cup orange juice (15 grams)
1/4 cup low fat granola (15 grams)
8 ounces plain vanilla yogurt (12 grams)

1 cup (8 oz) low fat milk (12 grams)
17 green grapes (15 grams)

2 slices whole wheat bread at lunch (30 grams carbs)
Turkey breast or fresh turkey for lunch (3 slices) - with tomato slice and mustard

1 cup shredded carrots (5 grams)
1 cup raw spinach leaves (5 grams)
1 cup romaine lettuce (5 grams)
1 cup cucumber slices (5 grams)
Salad dressing (2 tbsp) (oil and vinegar)

1/3 cup hummus (15 grams)
5 whole wheat/whole grain crackers (15 grams)
1 medium red apple (15 grams)

1 cups of whole wheat pasta, cooked (30 grams carbs)
1/2 cup tomato sauce (not marinara, though they look the same) (15 grams carbs)

1 cup broccoli (5 grams)
1 piece of grilled chicken (3-4 ounces or 1/2 breast)

1/8 of an 8-inch pumpkin pie (30 grams)

In general, people over eat carbs. Many have given up eating things like pasta but when they do eat it they eat more than one cup of carbs. And most people are not eating enough of the right carbs.

If you are changing from a low-carb or no-carb diet, do it slowly to prevent gastrointestinal upset, make most choices from veggies, fruit and whole grains, and limit sugar and refined carbs, and make sure to drink plenty of water as you add fiber to diet. The water helps the fiber past through the body.

You may gain a little weight at first. But don't be alarmed. If your caloric intake has not increased - the pounds are probably water weight.

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