By Charlotte Debeugny.
Want a balanced diet? What about fats and carbs?
So what can we eat? If fats block our arteries and carbohydrates and sugars make us fat (and sick!) than that only truly leaves us with protein, vegetables and fruits.
The debate has been ‘fast and furious’ with the newly formed Public Health Collaboration and the National Obesity Forum calling for a new perspective on public health nutrition guidelines. They firmly point the finger at carbohydrates as being responsible for the increasing rates of obesity, and recommend reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing the consumption of fats. This is much to the fury of the government established ‘Public Health England’ who feel that this guidance is inappropriate and unacceptable from a public health perspective.
Nutrition does seem to inspire very ‘black or white’ options with no middle ground. ‘It’s my way or the high way’. People can sadly start to become ‘fanatical’ and lose all sense of perspective
(deep, sad sigh!)
On one side there’s the ‘low carb camp’ – ie: sugars are evil and dangerous and on the other side the ‘low fat camp’ – ie: fats are dangerous and evil . It’s incredibly unhelpful to the public who are continuing to look on with complete confusion while they try to desperately to work out what exactly is a healthy diet.
The honest answer is that both camps have an element of truth on their side. The key word is moderation. Yes, excessive sugars and excessive carbs are not particularly good for us as they play havoc with our blood glucose control, encourage fat storage around our waists (known as visceral fat) and destroy our teeth.
Yet, do we really need to avoid carbs completely? Oh my goodness, that seems extreme! Surely it depends on the quality of the carb and the portion size. Ideally whole grains and keeping the portion size to around 100g-150g cooked weight. Whole grains are a good source of fibre and B vitamins – essential nutrients for a healthy diet.
As for my personal tip: I don’t eat carbs at every meal as I’m simply not active enough and I don’t need huge amounts of ‘energy’ in one go, so I eat unrefined carbs such as quinoa, rice, bread or pasta 1-2 times a day, but certainly not at every meal. I also limit added sugars to my weekend dessert and my wine!
As for fats? Given recent and updated research, there does not actually seem to be a clear link between saturated fats (red meat, full fat dairy products) and heart disease. Score 1 to the low carb camp! However, given the increasing levels of excessive weight and obesity, does it make public health sense to tell people to eat more fat – given that fats are ‘calorific’ and the general population are not likely to reduce their carbohydrate intake at the same time?! It will be high fat and high carb chaos! Score 1 to the low fat camp. We can indeed eat fats in moderate quantities. We certainly should be eating the ‘natural fats’ found in oily fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds and can also eat balanced amounts of saturated fat without any adverse health risks.
I’m not a fan of low fat products, simply because removing the fat normally means that something else needs to be added back and this usually tends to be sugar. They also taste foul! I therefore buy full fat dairy products, enjoy small amounts of cheese on a daily basis (after all, I live in France) and limit red meat to 1-2 a week.
So – my recommendation is to ignore the headline spate and think – natural, relatively unprocessed, Mediterranean style diet. Don’t be scared of fats, but don’t be terrified of carbohydrates either. Both of these food groups have their rightful place within a balanced diet.
Here’s also a couple of breakfast recipes of you might enjoy that are lower carb, contain healthy fats and would satisfy both camps!
Charlotte’s lower carb no added sugar granola
I love a bit of crunch on my yoghurt in the morning but the commercial granolas are either shockingly high in sugar (and repeat after me – honey and agave syrup count as sugar!) This is an easy alternative:
Makes 12 portions (depending on the size of the tea cup!)
1 tea cup of porridge oats
1 tea cup of almonds
1 tea cup of pecans
1 tea cup of pumpkin seeds
1 tea cup of sunflower seeds
1 tea cup of coconut chips
2 tbsp coconut oil or light olive oil
1 egg white
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees
Place the almonds, pecans and pumpkin seeds in a blender. Blend slightly to break down the nuts and pumpkin seeds. Place on a large baking sheet. Add the sunflower seeds and oat flakes.
Melt the oil and cinnamon in a saucepan over a low heat (if you are using olive oil you don’t need to do this). Mix in the egg white and then pour over the seed and oat mixture. Use your hands to ensure the flakes are thoroughly coated. You can lick your hands!
Smooth out the mixture so it is evenly distributed, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the coconut chips and bake for another 10 minutes until golden. You can store in a airtight container for 1-2 weeks.
Greek yoghurt and fruit
As a crumble topping (adding in possibly 2 tbsp of brown sugar)
As a snack on its own!
It’s like marmite, people either love or hate chia pudding. Made well, it’s delicious, made badly and it’s like eating frogspawn cement! The secret is to add more liquid and some key flavours.
20g chia seeds
1 tsp ground almonds
150 ml milk
25 ml apple juice
2 chopped dried apricots
½ tsp orange flower water (optional)
Decent pinch of cinnamon
Mix all the ingredients together (I use a jam jar). Place in fridge overnight. Give it a good shake and a stir before eating. You’re good to go.
Charlotte Debeugny has a BSc in nutrition and is currently completing her Masters in Food, Nutrition and Public Health. She’s a member of BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and is registered with and regulated by the CNHC (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council) in the UK. Charlotte spent 14 years working in finance before switching careers. She truly understands the difficulty of balancing a busy professional life with a healthy lifestyle. She’s also a mother of 3 children and has first-hand experience (cough!) of the challenges of supporting children in eating a healthy and balanced diet. Charlotte is also a ‘gourmande’ in the true sense of the word and a firm believer that healthy food can and should taste delicious. You can find out more on Charlotte’s website.