Clearing Up the Carb Confusion
This is a PSA for parents (but really for all people)!
With nutrition headlines always changing, it's not strange that parents show up in our office with fears around specific food groups, particularly carbohydrates. In this post, I'll take you through five things to know about this very misunderstood food group:
1. What is a Carb, Anyway?
Carbohydrates are compounds that are composed of sugars and starches. In your body, they are broken down into glucose (a form of sugar) which provides your cells with energy. Many foods contain carbohydrates. The ones we call "carbs" are those which are primarily made up of carbohydrates, such as grains and starchy veggies, but fruit and dairy contain carbohydrate as well.
2. Carbs are Critical
Carbs have gotten a pretty bad rap recenty, and so it's become almost stylish to try and cut back on them. If you are worried that your teen is restricting carbohydrates, you might have good reason to be. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for your brain and muscles. Complex carbohydrates are an ideal source of fuel for your body. Someone who isn't consuming adequate carbs may experience irritability, lethargy, a lack of concentration, etc. Even individuals with diabetes (a disease in which inhibits carbohydrate metabolism) need a consistent intake of carbohydrates.
3. Carbs Do Not Cause Extra Weight Gain
The macronutrients, which include fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, are all sources of energy in the diet. Despite what you may hear, there is no one food or food group that causes someone to gain too much weight. Carbs actually contain the same number of calories per gram as protein. It is consuming food beyond one's needs contributes to excess weight gain.
4. Balance is Best
Do you sometimes feel that your child is living on carbs alone? Children absolutely gravitate to carb-y foods and this is entirely natural. They need them for energy and growth! But what sometimes happens is that because so many kid-friendly foods are composed of carbs, they eat these foods in place of other nutrients, resulting in an imbalanced diet. Balancing your child's meals with carbohydrates, protein and fat is a great way to give your body the nutrients it needs to function and grow. Do not try and restrict carb-containing foods - not unless you want your child to eat even more of them! When an opportunity arises and they have unlimited access to these “forbidden foods,” children tend to overindulge. Rest assured that you are doing your job right if you provide the balanced meals at the designated mealtime and sit back while your child does his/her job deciding whether and how much to eat (because they are naturally intuitive eaters).
5. Consult About Those Carbs (or Other Issues)
If you feel your child is overeating, undereating, or demonstrating concerning behaviors around carbs or other food groups, then it is helpful to work with a registered dietitian who can assess the situation and provide helpful solutions. Developing a healthy framework early on can spare your child from negative habits or attitudes later down the line.