“A Man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will’s freedom after it.’ Aldous Huxley
By lunchtime, after eating only fruit for breakfast (see my previous post Fruit First Thing), you’ll be right in the mood for a good carb fix. But, there’s a proviso. If you want to lose weight your carbohydrate lunch needs to comprise complex carbs – not simple carbs. Healthy complex carbohydrates are those found in whole grains, beans and vegetables. Because these ‘good’ complex carbs contain a higher percentage of fibre, they break down slowly in your body, reducing sugar spikes and the cravings that follow.
‘Bad’ simple carbs (white bread, white rice, all products made from white flour including pasta, crackers, biscuits, etc) are low in nutritional value, which is why they are often referred to as ‘empty calories’. When you consume simple carbs, they are rapidly broken down into glucose, which floods into your bloodstream. In response, your body produces insulin to allow glucose to enter your cells for energy. If there’s more glucose than your body requires to meet energy needs, the excess is stored as fat. And we don’t want that do we!
This is why the Slim Rule regarding lunch is to eat a COMPLEX carbohydrate base and to eat it with a smart-choice accompaniment. Examples of smart choice accompaniments are: a wholegrain sandwich with salad and avocado; whole-meal pasta with a tomato-based sauce rather than with a thick cream-based sauce; brown rice with a vegetable stirfry; lentil and vegetable curry (without coconut milk), and so on. Yes, you can have meat with your midday meal if you want to, but for optimal health it’s not ideal, as carbs are better digested when eaten with salad or vegetables. But, if all you can lay your hands on is a slab of protein and two pieces of bread (ie a ham sandwich) by all means have the ham, but please make sure to use wholegrain bread rather than white, and do toss in a bit of salad!
In moderation, complex carbs by themselves are not fattening – it’s the things you put with them that are the real problem. It’s the butter you slather on your bread, the cream-based sauce on your pasta, the coconut milk in your curry – these are the things that are SIMPLY NOT WORTH IT. These things must be reduced and ideally replaced in your diet immediately.
Now for some good news, if you’re one of those unfortunate people who struggle with a lack of energy and/or mental clarity after lunch (ie almost everyone who works in an office), eliminating all simple carbs (sugars, white flour products, etc) from your lunch can make a dramatic difference in your energy and focus in the afternoon.
Because complex carbs also fill you up faster and more completely than any other food group you probably won’t feel hungry again till dinnertime – you may even unconsciously decrease your caloric intake over the day. Small changes over time create lasting results – which is what the Slim Rules are all about – making mastery over your weight easy to achieve, and easy to understand.
More facts about carbohydrates
• In a healthy diet ‘good’ complex carbs should make up around 55 percent of the calories in your daily diet. In an average 1,800-calorie (7,536 kilojoule) daily diet for women, that’s about 250 grams of complex carbohydrates – nearly 1,000 calories (4,186 kilojoules) per day.
• Complex carbs provide only 4 calories (16.7 kilojoules) per gram, while fat provides nine calories (37.7 kilojoules) per gram. Without the toppings, or with only moderate amounts of topping, complex carbohydrate foods can be less fattening than animal-protein foods.
• The best carbs are the ones with the highest fibre content. Stay away from the usual evils of cookies and cakes made out of refined flour and instead increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat.
• Make lunch your main carbohydrate meal of the day.
• Select complex carbs over simple carbs for this meal.
• Always select a low-fat accompaniment.
• Make sure you fully understand the difference between simple carbs and complex carbs – make a list of all the carbs you are currently eating and then split everything on this list into one of the two categories – if most items on your list are simple carbs change what you’re eating immediately.
• Go to a good health food shop and stock up on wholemeal pasta, brown rice and other whole grains and beans. Use them in preference to simple carbs in all your home-cooked meals.
• Remember that vegetables are also complex carbs – so a big bowl of pumpkin soup (without cream of course) with a piece of wholemeal bread (no butter) and a side salad is a great example of a premium complex carb lunch.