Welcome to Part II. Let me continue this discussion about carbohydrate counting as a method of weight loss and healthy eating patterns. To quickly review: one carb serving is the equivalent of 15 grams of carbohydrate. A healthy amount of carb servings per meal is about 3 - 5. Breakfast was discussed in the first part of this offering. If you missed Part I, check here: Changing Your Chassis by Carbohydrate Counting: Part I.
Lunch can be a really tough meal to handle. Many people have a limited time for lunch and either skip it or eat this meal away from home on work days. Sandwiches may be the most popular lunch item of all. Fast food restaurants are convenient and serve all kinds of sandwiches. You actually can have lunch at a fast food place like McDonald's for a reasonable number of carb servings. Try a Quarter Pounder with cheese, a small order of fries and a calorie-free drink. Your carb servings total 4.5. If you just have to have your fast food fix occasionally, this lunch will work.
A lunch brought from home can be creative and satisfying. Pack sandwich ingredients separately and put the sandwich together at lunchtime. Two large romaine leaves, each lined with a slice of hard cheese may be used instead of bread for almost any meat sandwich. I like a BLT made this way because it tastes good and cuts the bread carbs completely.
Did you know that Ritz wheat crackers have 22 grams of carbohydrate per ten crackers? That's a little more than one carb serving. Add two ounces of hard cheese, a piece of fruit, a handful of baby carrots and a calorie-free drink for a lighter and crunchy lunch. Pack a serving of diet gelatin in your favorite flavor topped with two tablespoons of a "lite" whipped topping. Add one tablespoon chopped pecans--a negligible carb serving dessert.
Store bought entrees make imaginative lunches if a microwave is available. Healthy Choice Pumpkin Squash Stuffed Ravioli with Butternut Squash and Asparagus is delicious and contains 52 grams of carbohydrate or 3.5 carb servings (1). If you want fewer carb servings try the Cafe Steamers Lemon Garlic Chicken and Shrimp. This meal also features pasta, spinach, broccoli and peppers for a total of 34 grams or slightly more than two carb servings (2).
Lean Cuisine has introduced a roasted garlic chicken entree with spinach in a parmesan sauce, for less than one carb serving (3), while Budget Gourmet presents lasagna alfredo and broccoli for just over two carb servings at 35 grams (4). All three brands offer many other low carb serving options. The reference websites at the end of this article are good nutritional and/or weight loss sites, too. You may want to check them out even if you don't do microwave lunches. They're great for a quick supper.
Suppose you're in the mood for a spaghetti dinner. A half cup of pasta is one carb serving. When that isn't a satisfying amount, have one cup. Be certain to count it as two carb servings. Serve with a low carb dressing and seafood instead of sauce. Shrimp, olive oil, red peppers, sliced black olives, a touch of garlic and grated Asiago cheese suit spaghetti very well. Add a piece of garlic bread or a dinner roll (one or two carb servings depending on size) and a tossed, mixed green salad with a tablespoon of capers and a quarter cup of chopped tomatoes. The carb servings in your salad will depend on your choice of dressing. Be sure there are two or fewer carb servings in whatever you choose, or use seasoned rice vinegar for no carbs. Another great dressing choice is tomato salsa. This meal leaves no carb servings for dessert. If you want a half cup of ice cream you need to drop two carb servings from the meal, depending again on the size of your bread choice and salad dressing. The half cup of ice cream is a two carb serving item. Be aware that the calories in ice cream vary widely according to the fat and carbohydrate contents.
Take the time to learn the carb counts for the 20 - 30 foods you eat most often. It's much more effective to count your carbs before you eat the food, so be consistent about portion sizes. Most of us don't carry a scale around to measure food so use these guidelines. A portion of meat the size of a deck of playing cards is about three ounces. A piece of fruit the size of your fist is one carb serving. One slice of bread or half a bun (hot dog or hamburger) is one carb serving. Rice and pasta in half cup amounts also equal one carb serving. A serving of rice, potatoes, corn or peas the size of a tennis ball is about a half cup.
Is there anything you can't eat? No. The rule of thumb is everything is allowed in moderation. If it contains carbs, count it. If you eat foods in reasonable portion sizes and count the carb servings, you will find yourself feeling healthier, having more energy and losing some weight.