Carbs are not the ENEMY!!!

Over the years I think the media has beaten up carbohydrates leaving us all ‘carbophobics’! They have portrayed carbohydrates as the main culprit of our obesity epidemic never backing up their hype with scientific fact and demonstrating whether they really are the bad guy!

Well my aim today is to prove to you that carbohydrates aren’t as bad as they have been wrapped up to be and they are definitely not the enemy, in fact we need them to provide us with energy on a daily basis.


Why are carbohydrates important?

They are crucial for the body to be absorbing a healthy and well-balanced diet. Carbohydrates provide the body the main source of fuel it requires for many vital organs to function such as the brain, central nervous system and kidneys1.  For this fuel source to move through the body to the cells the digestive system must break down these carbohydrate foods into simple sugars (mainly glucose) and these sugars are then carried to each cell via the blood stream. When inside a cell the glucose will be ‘burned’ alongside oxygen to produce energy.  Any excess glucose is stored within the muscle tissue and liver and will supplement blood sugar levels if they drop between meals or during physical activity2.

Our diet should consist of approximately 45-60% of carbohydrates (protein, fats and discretionary foods otherwise known as ‘sometimes food’ make up the remainder) but the key is to choosing the ‘right’ carbohydrates to form our diet.

 What types of carbohydrates are there?

Simple Carbohydrates – (the ones to have less of – they do play there role in the appropriate environment)

These are refined sugars that have little nutritional value. They are digested by the body more quickly leaving you feeling less satisfied. These are great ‘pick me ups’ or when a quick surge of energy is required so great source before exercise.

It is recommended that a small amount of these foods are consumed. Examples of simple carbohydrates are white bread, crackers, cakes, muffins, sugar, white rice, lollies, soft drinks, biscuits, honey, fruit juice.

Complex Carbohydrates – (the good carbs)

These sugars are more complex and rich with fibre, vitamins and minerals and take longer to digest making you feel fuller for longer. They also play a significant role in producing long term energy.

Examples of these are bananas, oats, beans and lentils, wholegrain breads, whole wheat pasta, barley, brown rice, polenta, rye bread3.

You may hear the use of words such as low GI and high GI foods when referring to the above types of carbs. We will go into this in further detail in next week’s info sheet.


Carbohydrates and its link with weight gain

An unfair tag has been put on carbohydrates over the years with carbohydrates being linked to weight gain when in fact weight gain is a result of consuming more calories than energy exerted which could be a result of any other energy sources such as protein, fat and alcohol.

An interesting survey in the UK found that one in ten women constantly felt bad consuming carbs, one quarter tried to avoid them during the week so they could eat more over the weekend and that they are twice as likely than men to feel guilty about eating carbohydrates even though they are less likely to be overweight.  And no shock that it found that most people were unaware of how many they should be consuming each day, again this comes back to my argument that we need to be better educated about the right foods than simply being told what to do4.


It really comes down to the choices you make when it comes to food. The unfortunate thing about carbohydrates is some can be just too good that they are easy to over-eat, especially those highly processed, like white flour and pasta. So again it comes down to your choices and ensuring you make the right ones. As previously outlined, carbs help you concentrate, they are fabulous brain food, you just need to control your portion sizes and make good quality carbohydrate choices.

If we refer back to the Australian Guide to healthy eating – to be healthy our diet should at least consist of 6 serves of grains, 5 serves of vegetables (6 for men), 2 serves of fruit, 2 ½ serves of lean meat (3 for men) and 2 1/2 serves of yoghurt etc. – based on a male and female 19-50 years.  See here for alternate age groups   Looking at these food groups a lot are linked with the carbohydrate family and now if the science didn’t prove that this was something to take note of to live long healthy lives then I am sure it wouldn’t be endorsed by all of us health professionals now would it5? J

The low down on Low Carbohydrate diets

Very low carbohydrate diets result in the dieter eating lower calories per day and reliant on protein and fat to get them throughout the day with less than 100g of carbohydates contributing to the daily intake. This dieter is unlikely to be meeting their daily nutritional needs containing less fruit and vegetables, less fibre and more saturated fat foods.

As a result the dieter may lose weight because of the restriction in calories and energy (usually this loss is due to loss in water) but in turn the body starts to use the glycogen the body has stored in the liver and muscles to replace what it isn’t getting from carbohydrates in the diet. When these stores have been exhausted the body starts eating away at the fat but not in a good way. This leads to the body developing ketones (as a result of not enough carbs in the body to produce the sugar it needs) which make the body acidic which may lead to metabolic changes within the body.  As a result you may start to feel nauseas, dizzy, lethargic, constipated, and dehydrated with a loss of appetite.1

The long term effects are continuing to be researched but these may include weight gain because when you resume a normal diet you will rebuild some muscle tone, regain water and therefore weight appears rapidly, bowel problems due to the pressure the body has been put under, dieting problems, kidney problems and osteoporosis due to the excretion of calcium from the bones.1

 Best time to eat carbohydrates?

Let’s be honest here your body doesn’t know what time it is!It’s not when you eat but what you eat that counts. Eat more calories than you burn and you’ll get fatter. But late snacking can push your calorie intake over the edge. It’s best to have regular mealtimes so you can keep track and having 10-12 hours without food supports hunger so you start the day with a healthy breakfast. Eating just before you go to bed can hamper sleep patterns in that it messes with your insulin. I’d suggest you don’t eat for two to three hours before bed.

 Athletes and carbohydrate needs.

Carbohydrate availability will determine how well an athlete performs and why sport nutrition guidelines highly recommend intake pre, during and post exercise. The amount an athlete consumes will depend on the stage of competition, an individual’s body mass (BM) and perhaps their individual situation. The following table summarises the recommendations upon which this review is based.6

We will discuss this further in eating before and after exercise blog but to give you an indication of the recommended guidelines are – see below.

Carbohydrate Needs.


Recommended Carbohydrate Daily Intake

Sedentary – low-intensity training


3-5 g/kg BM

Daily refuelling needs for training <60-90 minutes p/day or low intensity exercise

5-7g/ kg BM

Daily refuelling for training > 90-120 minutes p/day

7-10 g/kg BM

Daily refuelling for an extreme exercise program 6-8 hours p/day

10-12+ g/kg BM

Carbohydrate loading for endurance/ultra- endurance events

7-10 g/kg BM

Pre event meal (1-4 hours pre competition)

1-4 g/kg BM


Carbohydrate intake during training and competition events greater than 1 hour

1 g/min or 30-60g/hr

Rapid recovery after training or multi-day competition, especially when less than 8h until next session

1-1.5 g/kg BM for every hour in the early stages of recovery after exercise, contributing to a total intake of 7-10 g/kg BM over 24 hours

 Athletes and Carbohydrate loading

Is defined as the changes to training and nutrition that will increase muscle glycogen stores prior to an endurance event.  

An athlete will load up on carbohydrates (7-12g/kg body weight) while tapering exercise over 1-4 days prior to an endurance event to ensure the muscle glycogen is being stored appropriately.

This type of diet will only benefit those engaging in 90 minutes or longer high intensity exercise such as marathon runners, cycling, triathlon (long distance) etc.7

For an example of a high carbohydrate diet or more information – click here

What about carbohydrates for those with an intolerance?

Something that can be very difficult for the athlete with coeliac disease or equivalent as most of the products on the market have gluten or some type of allergy friendly ingredient. A great summary here by the Australian Institute of Sport for athletes with nutritional issues.7

Funnily enough an analysis in the Amercian Journal of Medical Association has hit the nail on the head.  It has found that it doesn’t matter what diet you are following in fact it is more about being able to follow a healthy eating plan long term and that is what the Wall2Wall Fitness Nutrition Overhaul program is all about!

 Tips for eating carbohydrates wisely:

  • Breakfast cereals should contain oats, barley or bran
  • Breads should be grain or soy based
  • Consume a wide variety of fruit and vegetables
  • Enjoy a wide variety of complex carbohydrates and limit the simple ones
  • Portion sizes are the key
  • Don’t eat high calorie foods just before heading to bed, make sure you have about 2-3 hours between meal and bed times.

Food labelling – lets make them a little easier to read

Food labelling can be one of the most confusing parts of following a nutritious diet.  So many people out there telling you to eat this or don’t eat that you just don’t know where to begin. 

The following aims to explain and give you tips on how to choose the right foods when following a healthy diet.  I have tried to cram pages and pages of information into just a couple of pages for your easy reading.

 What information appears on food packaging? To understand food labelling you need to understand what you are looking at when you pick up a food product.  The above diagram outlines the specific areas you may or may not notice that are mandatory for manufacturers to follow when creating packaging.

Ingredients List:  Ingredients are listed from biggest to smallest amount.  If a food only makes up 5% of the ingredients it is not required to be listed.  On some ingredients list you may see a percentage in brackets next to the ingredient eg. Orange (15%) which is informing you what percentage of your orange cake is orange.  If it says orange flavoured then you may not find real oranges in the ingredients list.

If packaging specifies a picture of an orange or reference then that food must be declared on the packaging as an ingredient.

Nutrition Information Panel: Identifies the quantity of nutrients a food contains per serve.  When comparing nutrients (such as carbohydrates, sugar, fat, salt (sodium)) in different products it is recommended you use the 100g/100ml column. This is because per serve sizes may vary between manufacturers.

Since labelling laws were introduced in 2003, the majority of products must have a nutrition information panel however you will find exceptions for products such as – very small packages (herbs, salt, tea and coffee), single ingredient foods (fruit, vegetables, water, vinegar), food sold at fundraising events, food sold unpackaged, food made and packaged at the point of sale (Better Health Channel, food labels1).

Percentage labelling: Some products may list the percentage daily intake on their packaging.  For instance salt (sodium) is 5% of your daily intake.   This information refers to how much an average adult male should eat in one day and will need to be reduced for women or children.

Nutrition claims: Manufacturers are not able to make claims that their food is low in fat, high in fibre, low in salt unless they meet particular criteria. 

As a guide here are a few simple label reading tips for you to follow when choosing healthy food and drink options. Look for the following: Saturated Fat = 3g of fat or less per 100g / Total Fat = 10g or less per 100g

 *Total Fat for milk, yoghurt, ice-cream = less than 2g per 100g

* Total Fat for cheese = less than 15g per 100g

 Sodium (Salt) = 120mg of or less per 100g (is best) / = 400g or less are good options

 Sugar = 15g or less

Fibre = 3g or more per serve

 Click here for a great summary on how to understand food labels with regard to total fat, fibre, sugar, sodium (salt) and also gives you a brief overview of alternate names for the above categories.

 Please note: even if a product says they are low in salt it could still be high in fat so make sure you read everything on the nutrition information panel.


Need some extra assistance with food labels?  There is a fantastic app called Foodswitch.  This app easily interprets nutrition information panel for you by  using a traffic light colour coded system to tell you whether a food contains high/medium/low total fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, all by simply scanning the barcode on a packaged food.  If you are gluten intolerant there is also a mode for this so you can tell whether a food has gluten.

 Watch out for misleading claims – here are some you may come across:

  • The term ‘light’ or ‘lite’ doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is low in fat or energy. The term ‘light’ may refer to the texture, colour or taste of the product. The characteristic that makes the food ‘light’ must be stated on the label.
  • The claims ‘no cholesterol’, ‘low cholesterol’ or ‘cholesterol free’ on foods derived from plants, like margarine and oil, are meaningless because all plant foods contain virtually no cholesterol. However, some can be high in fat and can contribute to weight gain if used too generously.
  • If an item claims to be 93 per cent fat free, it actually contains 7 per cent fat, but it looks so much better the other way.
  • ‘Baked not fried’ sounds healthier, but it may still have just as much fat – check the nutrition information panel to be sure.
  • ‘Fresh’ actually means the product hasn’t been preserved by freezing, canning, high-temperature or chemical treatment. However, it may have been refrigerated and spent time in processing and transport. (Better Health Channel, Food Labels1)

 Allergy statement: Foods containing crustaceans, tree nuts, fish, eggs, soybeans, milk, peanuts, sesame seeds and their products along with gluten and sulphites (in an ingredient or compound ingredient) must be declared on the label whether big or small amounts and must appear in the ingredients list or in a separate advisory statement.

You may also find a warning from manufacturers if they know their product may inadvertently have these ingredients because of harvesting, storage or processing equipment. For instance ‘may include traces of nuts’.

Separate advisory statements are required to alert consumers of the possible health risk of the ingredient and will appear as the following.

  • Aspartame = ‘contains phenylalanine’
  • Added caffeine in cola drinks = ‘contains caffeine’
  • Guarana = ‘contains caffeine’
  • Quinine = ‘contains quinine’
  • Unpasturised egg products = ‘unpasturised’

 Food Additives: All additives must have a use, approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and used in the smallest of quantities. Additives are used to improve flavour, quality or appearance of a food.

You will find additives in the ingredients list according to class followed by chemical name/number.

For example – emulsifier (lecithin), flavour enhancer (621)

Country of origin: All packaged food, some unpackaged, must declare where the food comes from.  For instance ‘product of Australia’ means that the majority of the ingredients is from here and the majority of processing should be here too.

‘Made in Australia’ can only be stated if the food has been considerably changed or processed here and 50% of the cost of production was incurred here.

Food-recall information: Packaging must include manufacturers/suppliers name and business address, lot and batch number (or date coding) in the case of food recalls.

Date Mark: These are to inform us of the products shelf life.  All food with a life of less than 2 years must be marked. 

Use by date = foods MUST be eaten or thrown away by this date because after this time they may be unsafe to be eaten as the nutrients may become unstable or a build-up of bacteria may follow.

Best before date = foods are still safe to eat past this date but ensure they are not damaged, deteriorated or perished.  This title indicates that this product may have lost its quality and as long as stored correctly these products will keep their colour, taste texture and flavour.

Name and Description of food: All food products must be given a name that is either prescribed by the food standards code or describes the nature of the food.  These names must be exact and no mislead the consumer.

Storage requirements:  Follow any storage instructions to ensure your food is safely kept.  Terms such as ‘keep refrigerated’, ‘Store in a cool, dark place’ may appear on packaging.  Manufacturers must also provide preparation details on packaging if specific preparation must be followed to ensure the product remains safe.

Here are some really simple food shopping tips provided by the Eat for Health website.  Some of these were mentioned in my back to basics information sheet last week.

Hopefully you feel that the above information clarifies some of the questions you have.

If I suggest you take anything from this information sheet it is the section on the Nutrition Information Panel and I highly recommend you print the link off until you have an understanding of what you are looking for.

If I have left anything out, you would like to know more information or clarification, please email me at and I would be happy to assist.

 References for more information:



Back to Basics – Kick starting your nutrition plan

I strongly believe for you to have a successful nutritional plan and lead a healthy lifestyle you firstly need to ensure you are equipped with the correct information and have strategies in place to implement what is hopefully a successful plan to adhere to.

I don’t believe one plan will ever suit everyone. You can sign up for any weight loss program and be told what to eat but if you really don’t like it will you stick with it? Do you know why you are eating those foods? What calories you are consuming and how many and why? And if you have an intolerance to food, is the program catered for you or is it just aimed at the general population.

If you are equipped with the correct information I strongly believe you would be able to adapt this to your own lifestyle and nutritional needs and be more motivated to continue and reach your goals. This is why the W2W Nutritional Overhaul program is all about educating you and providing you with the right tools to form your own strategies so that this becomes a lifestyle choice and not a short term solution.

So today I am taking us back to the basics. Over my time as a health professional many of the same questions are asked because people just don’t know where to start. The following answers these questions and demonstrates how I would go about a week of nutritional planning in our household.

Where do I start when making a weekly food plan?
My shopping is on a Wednesday so thus why I write my plan out as below. I, like I have suggested to you, will look at old recipes I have used over time (obviously healthy options) or refer to links as I have provided.

I will ensure we have the right balance throughout the week – Fish, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Turkey/Kangaroo are some of the options I look towards (obviously this will vary if you are a meat eater or not and can be changed). I choose dishes that have a great amount of vegetable/salad options and if they don’t I will purchase extra vegetables/salad to change the recipe accordingly.

A week for us may look like the following, may look boring but it is delicious! I will also give all of these meals to Olivia and Nick.

Wednesday – Baked Fish with sweet potato chips and ¼ cup of Cous Cous
Thursday – Chicken stir fry with soy sauce and garlic and vegetables (these can be fresh or frozen) with ¼ cup of brown or basmati rice
Friday – Home-made Pizza with homemade meat balls, grilled vegetables, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach. Base is olive oil and garlic with no dressing
Saturday – Tuna Mornay (a basic old favourite) with rice and curried tuna but I add veges on the side with this or salad
Sunday – Fresh Pasta with Napoli sauce (and I would add some of our frozen veges to this)
Monday – Kangaroo steak with baked sweet potato, carrot, capsicum, tomato and spinach
Tuesday – Turkey breast marinated in honey and soy with salad vegetables and ¼ cup of brown rice

I will buy meat in bulk and freeze the meat I won’t use for the next couple of days. I will also purchase more than the recipe so that I can make extra meals and freeze them for our lunches, removing take-away temptations.

To avoid wastage I buy frozen vegetables, grilled vegetables in a jar, corn/bean/beetroot canned vegetables (always a great option to throw into a salad or add extra vegetables to a meal) along with fresh varieties, I just ensure I use these first.

When I have done my shopping, I write this list up and pop it on our noticeboard at home so that I can see an outline of the week. Note: if I have put a meal on Wednesday it doesn’t mean we have to have it that day, but it provides us with options throughout the week and because life (like everyone’s) is busy and dinners can be late due to our hours, it removes the temptation of buying take-away meals on the way home.

What about breakfast and lunch?
Our breakfasts and lunches are pretty basic and less time consuming. I always make sure I have porridge, bread, eggs and one type of cereal (my choice is special K – but our family goes through phases) in the cupboard.

With breakfast if it is cereal/porridge I am having I always have it with a piece of fruit (easy way to get your fruit intake for the day) and if I need to add a bit of sugar, a little bit of honey works well. Condiments such as vegemite, peanut butter, honey are always easy options to add to your toast. Eggs are great for weekend meals when you feel like something a little more hearty – omelette, scrambled eggs/poached eggs with tomato and avocado (try it with vegemite on the toast and cut the avocado and tomato up like a salsa and drizzle with lemon and coriander – don’t knock it till you try it) are great ways to mix up your meals and avoid getting bored.

Lunches I may be a little more boring for people, rice cakes/corn thins and bread is stock standard in our household. As I am pregnant at the moment I avoid the night before meals due to listeria possibilities so these are given to Nick. So for me some lean meat, grilled veges or salad veges, and cheese satisfies my hunger. These are also easy options to have sitting at work, but night before meals also works wonders.

How to fill out a food diary?
How this has been filled out may depend on whether you are using an app or online program (see meal planning on the website for suggestions) or simply writing it in a diary of your own. To count calories (which is optional) it is best to use one of the online programs and have them do it for you. You can buy calorie books and enter the individual food and count it this way, it does become rather time consuming and I think this is a good way to STOP you from writing a food diary, which is what we definitely DON’T want you doing.

Ensure that when writing a food diary that you list the portion sizes because this could be where you are going wrong. Also remember to write any food you may have picked at while cooking meals or perhaps the leftovers of your children’s meals, again an easy one to forget about and what could be affecting your weight loss/management plan.

½ Cup of muesli with small cup of frozen berries, and ½ sliced medium banana, with ½ cup of milk
1 x green tea
1 x small apple
2 x tim tams
4 x soy linseed corn thins with tuna, cheese and tomato
1 x 75g tub of nestle diet yoghurt (vanilla)
1 x 75g uncle tobys muesli bar (choc chip)
200g pasta (roasted vegetable fresh pasta) and Napolitano sauce with 2 white dinner rolls with butter
2 x 125ml glass of Rose
150g of choc chip ice-cream
1 x waffle cone
Water intake
1 litre of water

How many calories should I be consuming each day?
The amount of energy you need each day to maintain your weight depends on your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity level. Your weight history can also influence your daily requirements.

Various weight management plans will indicate that females wanting to lose weight should aim for 1200-1500 calories and males 1800 calories per week. However, watching clients over the years this hasn’t worked for everyone and with that, they may have gained weight.

For any healthy diet, I would be recommending you use a nutritional calculator and a great one exists on the Eat for Health website that will take into account age, gender, physical activity etc.
If after sticking with these numbers things are still not working for you, we will re-asses on an individual basis – so please contact me, don’t just give up!

What should I be consuming everyday and how much?
As I mentioned in the W2W Nutrition Overhaul guidelines before signing up, I recommend the best ‘diet’ to follow are The Australian Dietary Guidelines. These guidelines provide advice on simply eating for health and wellbeing and to be honest it was all I did to lose the weight after having Olivia and feeling myself again 
They’re called dietary guidelines because it’s your usual diet that influences your health. Based on the latest scientific evidence, they describe the best approach to eating for a long and healthy life (NHMRC website).
Along with the scientific evidence, these guidelines have taken into consideration individual preferences, intolerances, nutritional choices, and have provided you with a source of information to make healthy food choices. The guide also provides you with advice on how many serves of these food groups (assisting you with portion control) you need to consume everyday depending upon your age, gender, body size and physical activity levels. (NHMRC website)

Rather than me re-creating the same information, check the website out for more information on the following: keep these in mind when writing your plan this week.

About the guidelines

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating – in graphic form

Recommended serving sizes for an adult

What is a serve?

Meal Plan/Food Ideas based on the guidelines (have also put one on our website)
Check out these food plans on the Eat for Health website. These are based on the genders average height/weight and light activity so some changes may need to be made on a case by case basis.

Women aged 19-50
Men aged 19-50

Has this helped you? Do you have more questions that need to be answered? Then email me at and I can add it to the weekly updates so this can be shared with everyone or topics/fact sheets on the website.

Stay Healthy