Calories and Carbs: Test Your Weight Loss Wisdom (cont.)

False. The only way to find out whether a low-carbohydrate product also has fewer calories is to read the label. Many manufacturers are cutting carbohydrates from their products while loading them up with fat -- and without reducing the calories. A calorie is a calorie, whether it's from carbohydrate, protein, or fat.

Beware of terms such as "net carbohydrates," "impact carbohydrates" and "effective carbohydrates." These terms are not defined by the Food and Drug Administration, and are used by food manufacturers to cash in on the current carb phobia. Whatever the manufacturers call it, this is supposedly the amount of carbohydrate that's left after you subtract those carbohydrates said to have a negligible effect -- such as fiber, sugar alcohols, and glycerin. Until the government defines these terms and research supports the assumptions behind them, my opinion is that these are useless words that do little more than confuse consumers. Read labels, and choose foods that are low in sugars but rich in fibers for the healthiest carbohydrates.

Now that you're an expert on carbohydrates and calories, you can better make sense of food labels. Calories, along with fat grams, protein grams, and carbohydrate grams, are listed in the nutrition facts panels of most commercial food products.

When in doubt, I go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's online nutrient database (called the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference). This extensive database allows you to choose the portion size, and provides not only calories but a whole host of nutrients contained in the food.

Most Weight Loss Clinic eating plans will provide at least half of the total calories from carbohydrates. Choose your carbs wisely. Healthy carbohydrates that contain plenty of fiber (2-3 grams per serving) not only aid in digestive health and keep things moving along, but they also fill you up and help keep snack attacks at bay.

Originally published Monday, August 02, 2004
Medically updated July 26, 2005.

©2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

Last Editorial Review: 8/11/2005 6:55:17 PM

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