Have you ever noticed how you feel after eating a lot of carbs? I know that I tend to get sluggish. But many People describe intense feelings of lethargy that can last for over a day.
How do you feel after eating a large bowl of pasta or jumbo piece of cake (or two)? Does it send your energy levels and mood plummeting? The type of food we eat can affect our energy levels; some foods can make us feel energized while others can induce feelings of lethargy. It is not unusual to feel sluggish after eating hefty portions of processed carbs.
Now that the holiday season (filled with holiday sugary treats) is upon us, I thought it would be a good time to address this “carb coma”. By paying more attention to the foods you eat and by making better choices, you should be able to avoid these unpleasant feelings.
Why can carbs make you tired?
Here is a simplified explanation of what happens in your body: Carbohydrates, found in fruit, grains, milk and yogurt, sweets, many snack foods and vegetables (which contain minimal carbs), will break down into sugar in your blood. This rise in blood sugar will make your body produce insulin, which in turn, will “unlock” your cell doors to let the glucose in. Our bodies need carbohydrates for the nutrients they provide as well as for energy. However all carbs aren’t created equal! Sweets and processed “white” carbs will cause a quicker rise in blood sugar, followed by a quicker drop. In general, the quicker and higher the rise of blood sugar, the quicker the drop. The drop in blood sugar can make many people feel tired and / or mood
So what do we do to avoid the carb coma at potlucks? The obvious answer is to bring your own non-carbohydrate dish, such as a green salad. Or at least bring a whole-grain complex carbohydrate side, such as a pasta salad that includes beans, quinoa and lentils. Guests will likely welcome your different dish, and it could be easier to prepare than Aunt Jo’s famous potato casserole.
As you fill your plate, focus on the main course, assuming it is a protein. Fill at least half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, and browse the options before filling the last small section of your plate with a carbohydrate choice. Try to include some heart healthy fats, such as a small handful of mixed nuts or a light vinaigrette salad dressing. Go easy on the dessert, and determine ahead of time whether it is worth it to indulge.
Another helpful action is to eat before going to these events. Excuses such as, “We had another event to attend before this” or “I already ate, but this (insert your non-starchy choice) really looks great. I better try some!” work well. It won’t bother the host if you state your excuse and stick to it. It is likely that the host won’t notice anyway!
The general healthy eating rules apply to potlucks. Drink water between bites and leave some food on your plate. Remember what the carb coma feels like, and avoid the dessert table whenever possible. If you make note of your successes, at least mentally, it will get easier in the future to avoid yet another carb coma.
Bring your own non-starchy side dish:
2 tablespoons no-sugar-added orange marmalade
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 cups raw spinach leaves, washed
1/2 cup mandarin oranges, drained
Whisk marmalade, soy sauce, and vinegar. Whisk in oil. Add spinach and oranges and toss to coat, or save this step until you get to the event to avoid wilting spinach. Season with pepper.
The oranges in this salad help you absorb the iron from the spinach. Double the recipe for a larger group.