- Holiday weight gain is tough to avoid, but there are plenty of things you can do to stay lean this winter.
- Instead of avoiding rich and savory foods that are high in fat, you should be avoiding refined carbs.
- Refined carbs are quickly turned into sugar in the body and have been tied with weight gain and obesity.
If you’re concerned about putting on a few pounds this season, those rich, savory foods like cheesy dips, grilled salmon, and guacamole probably are not the ones you should be avoiding.
Instead, keep an eye out for huge portions of refined carbs like white rice, which the body quickly turns into sugar.
Dinner rolls, stuffing, and flour tortillas all fall into this category. Because they’re so low in fiber and protein, they’ll only fill you up for a short period of time. Refined carbs also lurk in dozens of processed foods, including granola bars, baked goods, pizzas, and pastas. Still, this doesn’t mean you should ban these foods from your repertoire completely – just keep in mind that when you help yourself to a serving of them, you might want to keep it small and make room for more fish, veggies, and whole grains instead.
Overindulging on something like biscuits once is OK, but doing it consistently for months or years can wreak havoc on your health. Diets high in refined carbs have been repeatedly tied to outcomes like weight gain and obesity.
A review of 50 studies on diet and weight gain published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research found that on average, the more refined grains someone ate (like white bread and white rice), the more weight they tended to gain over the study period.
Some health experts think the problem with refined carbs has to do with the way we label them. After all, “refined” carbs sound like something you’d want to have on your plate. But Roxanne B. Sukol, a Cleveland Clinic physician and the medical director of its wellness enterprise, says we should start calling them “stripped” carbs instead -because they’ve been “stripped of all their nutrition.”
The easiest way to steer clear of refined carbs
- Flickr/Wally Gobetz
The easiest way to avoid refined carbs is to simply cook with or choose their whole grain versions. Instead of white rice, choose brown. Rather than white dinner rolls, opt for whole grain ones.
Whole grain carbohydrates aren’t bad for you, and because they are rich in fiber, protein, and other nutrients, we tend not to overeat them like we do with “stripped carbs.”
“People need to understand there are nutritious carbohydrates,” Sukol tells author and chef Michael Ruhlman in the book “Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America.” Brown rice, wheat bread, fruits, veggies, and loads of different beans and legumes are all good options and contain what Sukol calls a healthy “fiber matrix.”
In fact, whole grains are a chief component of some of the healthiest diets. US News and World Report describes plant-based diets featuring whole grains and vegetables as their foundation as “good for the environment, your heart, your weight, and your overall health.”