Ask an RD: ‘What is the most common food people cut from their diets?’

Ask an RD: ‘What is the most common food people cut from their diets?’
Lori Skurbe, RD


As a dietitian, one of the most common foods we see people cut from their diet is carbohydrates.
With the popularity of ‘keto’ diets, carbs have been villainized as a food that makes people gain weight. The reality is that eating too many calories from any source and not consistently burning those calories off are what causes most people to gain weight. In some cases, weight gain can also be attributed to hormonal imbalances. 

Carbs are the body’s main source of fuel, and many people are omitting healthy foods from their diets like fresh fruits, whole grains and plant proteins (beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.) to cut out carbs.  I encourage people not to view any singular food as good or bad, but rather look at the context in which they are eating it.

The 3 things I emphasize are: the nutritional quality of their food choices, the quantity (amount eaten) and frequency (how often you eat a particular food).  

Quality:  When I say quality, I am referring to the food’s nutritional quality. Nutritional quality looks at the characteristics of a food or beverage, specifically the inclusion of  important nutrients such as: fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants.  Foods with high nutritional quality are important to include in your diet consistently. 

Quantity: Quantity, refers to the amount (portion size) of a food or beverage we consume. The amounts of various foods we eat make a difference in our overall diet.  Paying attention to not just what we eat, but how much we eat is important.  Portion sizes matter, even with foods that have a high nutritional quality. Overeating of almost any food  can make it harder to maintain an optimal weight and manage certain health conditions, such as diabetes.

Frequency: How often you eat a certain food is important. If we are eating high quality, nutritious foods on a regular basis, that could have a positive effect on our overall health, if we are eating lower quality foods more often, that could have a negative effect on our health. Eating less healthy foods occasionally does not impact our health as much. 

For example, if you are choosing a well-portioned whole grain carb like wild rice, quinoa or barley and you incorporate these foods as part of a balanced meal plan, they can be a healthy part of your diet.  These whole grains provide your body with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that we need to stay healthy and if you are mindful of portions these foods are not going to increase your weight or cause a health issue.  Large, frequent portions of even healthy foods can cause weight gain if we are consistently exceeding our required calorie levels.

On the other hand, if we are eating large portions of refined carbs (cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, overly processed grains with little or no fiber, etc.) we are taking in foods that provide little or no nutritional value (empty calories) and in larger portions. Larger portions usually mean high calorie intake. Also, if we are eating these foods regularly (high frequency), they will have a greater impact on our health and possibly our weight. If we eat these refined carbs in small portions and less often, they probably won’t impact our weight or overall health.

The bottom line is to think about how much, how often and the nutritional quality of your carbs (and all food choices for that matter). Choosing carbs as part of your meal plan most likely is not going to cause you to gain weight, if you are paying attention to quantity, quality and frequency in regards to how these foods are included in your diet.