Finding the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat is the key to effective weight loss. While eating too many carbs can prevent weight loss, getting too few carbohydrates in your diet can be problematic and cause unpleasant side effects. Choosing healthy carbs is a must when you want to shed pounds.
Minimum Carb Requirements
While some low-carb weight-loss diets may contain as few as 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, these very low-carb plans are often difficult — and unsafe — to maintain long term. The Institute of Medicine suggests adults need at least 130 grams of carbohydrates each day for their bodies to function properly. Therefore, if you’re seeking a low-carb weight-loss diet you can maintain long term, aim to eat 130 grams of carbs — or more if you’re very active — daily.
While meeting your daily carb allotment, be sure to control your total caloric intake for effective weight loss. Your weight-loss calorie requirements vary based on a number of factors, including age, gender and physical activity level. A good rule of thumb is to eat 500 to 1,000 fewer calories than your usual intake, or eat the same number of calories but burn an extra 500 calories per day. Such lifestyle changes can help you lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests safe and effective weight-loss plans for many women contain 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, and weight-loss calorie needs for men and active women often range from 1,500 to 1,800 calories daily.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Carbs
While some high-carb foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, others contain few essential nutrients and don’t help fill you up as much during weight loss. Unhealthy carbs to avoid when you’re trying to shed pounds include sugary drinks, white bread, white rice, commercial baked goods, candy and other sweets. Instead, choose healthier options like nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk, non-fat Greek yogurt, legumes, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and whole-grain cereals.
Carb Spacing and Meal Plan
To maximize your energy level while following a low-carb diet for weight loss, eat a small amount of carbs every few hours spaced evenly throughout the day. A study published in 2011 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that a higher eating frequency, which often includes three meals plus two snacks daily, may aid in effective weight loss. If your low-carb diet goal is 130 grams daily, try eating 30 grams of carbs for breakfast, 20 grams for a morning snack, 30 grams for lunch, 20 grams for an afternoon snack, and 30 grams of carbohydrates for dinner.
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