by Katie Caldesi
Below is a summary of the principles of the CarbScale based on a strict carbohydrate target like the one Giancarlo follows, which we encourage you to experiment with. If you are lean and healthy, then these principles are still valid, but you can afford slightly more leeway. Jenny tends to add in extra fruit and starchy vegetables, whereas Katie prefers the occasional slice of sourdough bread or a small bowl of pasta.
1 Reduce or eliminate sugar and starchy carbohydrate foods.
Choose a date to start and get ready. Clean out your cupboards, throw out the cookie jar and empty the sweet drawer. From now on you are going to say no to these foods as you know how they affect you.
These include: breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, white potatoes, rice, couscous, crackers, oats, oat cakes, rice cakes, cakes, biscuits, sweets, milk chocolate, fruit juice, fizzy drinks and cordials.
2 Enjoy plenty of nonstarchy vegetables at each meal
See here for low and high carb vegetables. Eat modest amounts of starchy root vegetables depending on your carbohydrate tolerance (where you are on the CarbScale). Starchy vegetables tend to be veg that grow underground such as carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, sweet potato, sweetcorn and beetroot. You can still use gravy, curry and other sauces over your vegetables. Some popular replacement for the starch include shredded cabbage cooked in butter (replaces tagliettelle), cauliflower rice and courgette spaghetti, but you can also just include more varieties of veg on your plate.
3 Eat good fats
These are essential for your metabolism and help you to feel fuller for longer. Include oily fish, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and animal fats. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies contain omega 3 which helps to reduce inflammation and keep brains healthy. Olive oil can be used as a salad dressing and very light frying. Butter and coconut oil are both tasty, saturated fats which are safe to heat in roasting and frying. Avoid margarines and vegetable oils which oxidise when heated. Also avoid low fat products which tend to include sugars and sweeteners to improve flavour. Full fat yoghurt is a good choice.
Nuts and cheese can be added in moderation; they are nutritious and tasty but also highly calorific, so go easy on them.
4 Eat low-carb fruit
When it comes to fruit, berries are good as they are naturally low in sugar. Try to avoid high-sugar tropical fruits, such as mango, pineapple and banana. Certainly modest portions of fruit within a salad or alongside a main course can add flavour and interest.
5 Enjoy protein with every meal
Protein is essential to your body for growth and repair and helps you feel fuller for longer. A piece about the size of a deck of cards is enough at each meal. Checking with Jenny this is ok to say here. If you are vegetarian then choose carefully to ensure adequate protein intake from pulses, cheese, nuts, seeds and eggs. Omnivores also have the advantage of meat and fish, which are incredibly nutritious and good sources of vitamin B12, iron and essential fats. Red meat can be enjoyed 2-3 times per week.
6 Stop snacking.
Fasting between meals and overnight can really help to improve insulin resistance – we are not designed to eat constantly! Aim for three good meals a day and then stop. Whilst fasting your digestive system gets a rest and your body can concentrate on other vital jobs such as keeping your immune system strong, balancing hormones and spring cleaning (detoxification!).
Drink about 2 litres (3½ pints) of water a day. Avoid diet & low calorie drinks. There are studies showing that these create hunger which leaves you vulnerable to poor food choices. Instead enjoy fresh water, teas including green, herbal and red bush, and moderate cups of coffee (2-3 per day, unless coffee makes you jittery).
Your number one health-giving drink is… water. Enjoy it still or sparkling, add a slice of lemon or lime, or maybe even try it warm between meals, particularly if you are trying to reduce your snacking. Often when you get cravings for food, it can be a sign that you are dehydrated, so always drink water or a hot or cold drink before reaching for a snack.
Regular tea and coffee is also allowed on the CarbScale plan, but just check how many cups you are drinking in a day. If you are drinking multiple cups to give yourself a little caffeine hit, then this might be a sign that you need to cut your intake. Some people find the caffeine in regular tea and coffee makes them jittery, which is also a sign to decrease consumption.
Beware of the hidden sugars in drinks sold at high street coffee shops. If you enjoy coffee, then a good choice is an Americano or filter coffee, either black or with full-fat milk or cream. This may sound surprising but it is carbs that you are restricting not fats; many people report that adding cream is satiating and helps them to control their appetite. Don’t add a syrupy shot to your coffee – this is pure sugar and will send your insulin levels soaring.
Obviously as this is a low-sugar plan, sweet squash, juices, cordials and sodas are completely out, and this includes the diet varieties. Whether based on artificial sweeteners or sugar, these drinks will likely fuel food cravings for the wrong foods, and hence contribute to weight gain either directly or indirectly.
Ban The Beige!
Dr Unwin suggests thinking of meal as a protein, a little fat and lots of green veg. He suggests you “ban the beige” by turning the white or beige part of your plate green.