How do you know if you are eating too many carbs?

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With all the recent talk about the pros and cons of a high fat, low carb diet, one key question that has been repeatedly ignored by those sprouting these messages, is how much carbohydrate are we talking about? Any discussion about carbohydrate by those trained to be talking about it will inevitably turn to questions regarding the dietary % of calories that are coming from carbs, and the total number of grams of carbohydrates as when we model individual diets, these are the number we are working from. General descriptions of low carb or high protein diets mean little without some reference point of exactly how many grams of these macro nutrients we are actually talking about.

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‘Low carb’ is a description that is given from anywhere between 20g carbohydrate (roughly a piece of fruit worth) to 100g (2 slices bread, 1 fruit, 1 coffee and some sweet potato) and such as large variation naturally means that the diet results differ widely based on the exact amount. In my experience the average person does not need to drop to any where less than 80-100g of total carbohydrate each day to reap much benefit. This takes into account that a high proportion of individuals are insulin resistant, which means they do not burn their carbohydrates as efficiently as they once did ( and that many of us sit down for many, many hours each day, which means we do not burn as much carbohydrate as we once did. Rather than a more extreme carbohydrate restriction, including some carbohydrate in the diet (30-40% of total calorie intake) means that you;

1. Get the dietary fibre that you need to keep your gut healthy

2. Do not have extreme sugar cravings.

3. Avoid the wasted look that many ‘low carb’ obsessives get

4. Have greater mental acuity throughout the day

5. Can enjoy the foods like bread, fruit and wholegrains that most people enjoy eating.

What is frequently missed during all these discussions about carbs is that it does not have to be as extreme as eating them or not and when you actually look at what the average person really eats, they are eating so much carbohydrate <200-300g per day, that cutting back is all that needs to happen to reap much health benefit. So, to get an idea of how much carbohydrate you are really eating, log your food intake for a day on ‘MyFitnessPal’ (

Chances are, you will find many extra carbs slipping into your daily intake via snack food, coffee, crackers, rice, biscuits and treats, and once you cut back on these, it is relatively easy to keep your carb intake between 80-150g of carbs per day (depending on your activity levels). Once you do this, you will lose weight; you will feel better and you can keep eating like a ‘normal’ person who enjoys their carbs, albeit in smaller amounts. And that is what we call balance, it may be boring but it does work.

Sample 20g Carb (CHO) serves:

1 medium jacket potato

100g sweet potato

½ corn cob

½ cup cooked rice

½ cup cooked pasta

¾ cup kidney beans / chick peas

½ cup quinoa

2 slices lower carb bread

1 piece of fruit

6 Rye Cruskits




  • Lorraine says:

    Susie, you are the absolute voice of reason, albeit a highly qualified one! I just wish that your great healthy food messages could totally drown out all the crazy full on ‘diet’ advise thats out there from people who are from qualified to do so.

  • Tim says:

    For the past decade it certainly has been all the carbs: Simple vs. complex, High GI vs. Low GI, Before 6pm vs. After 6pm.

    This article is very well-researched and factual, for a far less scientific approach I find it easier to read the body signals to tell if you’ve overdone the carbs and not enough protein/fat.

    Too little carbs/fibre often leads to:

    Hunger 1-2 hours after eating
    Craving protein or fat
    Headaches and/or jumpy mind
    Energy highs and lows

    Thanks Susie for putting the carb-phobia into perspective.

  • monique cross says:

    Thank you Susie.
    You make such perfect sense.
    Balance is the key.
    Sometimes we just need reminding.

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