The Carb Question

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.


An in-depth, 4-week reverse dieting course for women who feel like their metabolism has slowed down, think they might have hormonal imbalance and can’t lose weight no matter what they do.

Hello, hello! Happy Hump Day!

Let’s get right to the food, so I can answer the carb question that I’ve received a bunch from readers lately.


Last night’s dinner was a winner””definitely a keeper. We had Grilled Honey-Mustard Chicken with Arugula and Plum Salad. The dressing, in particular, was awesome, especially with a bite of both chicken and plum together. Delish.

IMG_9307 (750x563)

After dinner, I enjoyed some strawberries and a little bit of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter straight from the jar.



This morning, I made a wrap with cashew butter and banana slices inside. I also drank a glass of iced coffee with coconut-almond milk.


The Carb Question

So, a lot of you guys have asked me why I’m not eating as many carbs and whether I’m trying to lose weight by reducing them in my diet. I’m not trying to lose weight. If anything, I wouldn’t mind gaining some muscle and looking like Julie Foucher.

[image source]

As far as cutting carbs, I’ve definitely reduced the type of carbs in my diet. You’ve probably seen more starchy veggies and dairy, but less bread and oatmeal on CNC, right? Ok, let me explain why.

After Mal went to his Level 1 Certification for CrossFit, he came back with his mind totally blown. One of the first things he said to me was that we (him and me + Americans in general) eat too many carbs. I mean, think about what the USDA recommends we eat.


As you can see, MyPlate is divided into sections of approximately 30% grains (carbs), 30% vegetables (carbs), 20% fruits (carbs) and 20% protein with a small servings of dairy (carbs) on the side. Do you see what I’m seeing? In theory, there’s nothing wrong with this recommendation, especially when you make half of your plate super nutritious fruits and veggies, but there’s no denying that our diets are carb-heavy.

Plus, growing up and living in the US, we’ve become accustomed to supersize everything, including food. Think about the size of a bagel. Most are the equivalent of six or seven slices of white bread [source: Fitness magazine, June 2012]. How crazy is that? Eating a “standard” size bagel means you’ve consumed nearly all of your recommend daily grains.

[image source: Fitness magazine, June 2012]

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not specifically removing carbs from my diet (hello, I still drink beer and eat Pretzel Crisps),  but instead I’m aiming for a more balanced diet””one with more equal portions of protein, fat, and carbs. I know it might look like I’m eating a Paleo diet, but, as you probably know, I don’t do diets. I love food way too much to ever eliminate an entire food group, but I love how the Paleo diet emphasizes whole foods and a more balanced way of eating, which, of course, is what I’m all about””you know, carrots and cake.

Additionally, eating a more balanced diet makes me feel really good””both inside and out. I’ve noticed that I have more energy throughout the day, especially in the afternoon. I always used to “crash” after eating a carb-heavy lunch, but now I don’t experience that feeling as much. Additionally, eating this way (and reducing my sugar intake overall) has drastically improved my skin. I hardly have breakouts anymore, which is amazing since I’ve struggle with them my entire life.

Switching up the kinds of carbs that I consume hasn’t been difficult at all. Here are some simple carb-swaps that I’ve made recently:

Question of the Day

What do you think? Do our diets include too many carbs?



  1. Thanks for addressing this Tina – I’ve been wondering myself about your carb-habits lately.

    I definitely think that people eat too many carbs. If I look at the way a lot of people eat, I see cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner…more carbs than we need for sure.

    While I don’t worry about eliminating carbs, I focus on making sure my meals and snacks have lots of veggies and protein. Naturally, this causes me to eat less carbs. I felt a lot better once I started focusing on upping my protein intake – less sugar crashes, more energy, noticing more muscle, ect.

  2. Doesn’t everything taste better with a piece of bread or over pasta???!!! Carbs are definitely my challenge. What can I say, I adore them – but, I don’t love the way they make me feel and look. Thanks for a great post – I enjoyed the ideas for some easy switch ups!

  3. I agree that focusing solely on WHOLE foods is the way to go. But I must say, there is nothing wrong with a piece of whole wheat toast or wrap. It’s all about reducing the WHITE carbs & simple sugars in the diet. I think it’s always helpful to amp up the veggies and protein when trying to reduce anything super sweet 🙂

  4. I reduced my carb intake about 2 years ago but left in the grains and dairy (upped my protein more like). Then a friend of mine starting eat Paleo and I was curious. I started reading up on it and I was like Mal-MIND BLOWN!! LoL. But seriously, for me, it was more about digestive problems than anything else. Then I started noticing things like the afternoon slump disappearing and such. Now, I’d say I’m about 90% Paleo.

    I don’t do diets either but after reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes (for endurance athletes) and The Paleo Solution, I was totally sold by their science behind it (and I’m not talking nutrition – I mean biology and the way your body processes various proteins/carbs/other types of molecules and stuff) and the fact that it was like they were describing me in the book. To me, the Paleo Diet *isn’t a diet* but rather style of eating that works for me. It isn’t low carb for me either since I need those starchy veggies for marathon training. And once in a while, I enjoy a bagel or a slice of pizza 🙂

    By the way, have you noticed any differences with your Colitis since changing it up? A close friend of mine has many health problems which include colitis and she has been trying to control her flairs by eating a Paleo Diet. Just a thought!

    Thanks for talking about this Tina!

    1. @Angela@The Chicken Scoop: That’s my story too, Angela! Paleo has changed my life! It’s for sure not a diet, but a lifestyle and I don’t ever want to go back.

      I don’t miss bread, and anything that lets me drink red wine and eat dark chocolate is a winning situation.

  5. Thank you so much for this post! Your blog has been an inspiration for my marathon training fueling; during my first half, I was eating too many starches, having too much booze and sweets. Now I’m incorporating more “healthy” carbs (fruit, beans) and nut butters – hello, sunflower seed butter! – and have become addicted to your breakfast pancake recipe. I’m trying to enjoy wine/beer rather than see it as a running “reward” — but I still have a crazy sweet tooth which is being tempered. One thing at a time, right? But thanks for your tips and example – it’s much appreciated by this athletic novice. Next on the list: trying Crossfit!

  6. Have you seen the Harvard School of Public Health pyramid? According to their website, it’s “based on the latest science about how our food, drink, and activity choices affect our health””and are unaffected by businesses and organizations with a stake in their messages.”

    This is where I take issue with the Paleo diet (and the USDA recommendations, for that matter)- when there is something at stake in promoting a certain diet, such as the interests of a business, it diminishes the credibility and validity of those recommendations. This is why I personally would never put any stock into what some CrossFit certification instructor told me, but to each their own.

    See the HSPH advice on carbs for more info:

    1. At the Level 1 certification, CrossFit actually teaches about the Zone diet, not Paleo. CrossFit definitely supports Paleo, but I think it’s more the community involvement that makes the CrossFit-Paleo connection so strong.

  7. I’m pretty good at keeping my carb intake in check, though now that I’ve been training for a half marathon/running more, I’ve been feeling like I should eat more carbs just a little more than normal. Curious about your thoughts on this. I’m still not eating crazy amounts of carbs or even increasing my calorie intake significantly, but have your past running/training experiences given you reason to think that it’s really crucial to be eating a lot more carbs than normal while training?

    1. @Julia H. @ Going Gulia: Hey Julia! I have wondered the same myself for my marathon training. I don’t feel like you need to do anything too drastic for a half marathon if you plan on running it in less than 2.5 hours but you are right, you should consider it! Here is a decent article from the author of Primal Blueprint for endurance athletes who eat Paleo. If you eat Paleo or not, this article has some good tips.

  8. This was really interesting… I know personally, I try to balance my carbs because i definitely do think some diets and what we see are too focused on carbs. Nothing bad with it though, just all about balance 🙂

  9. So appreciate this post! I love hearing everyone thoughts about things like this. Lately, I actually have been really trying to focus on HOW I feel after I eat certain foods and how it holds me over. Ex: yesterday for lunch I had chicken, fruit, veggies & hummus … I was full until I got home from work — 5 hrs later. Today for lunch I had a chick pea salad (chick peas, EVOO, parm cheese, salt & pepper) with a fruit — not even 2 hours later and I was already STARVING, like crazy hungry. I just find it so interesting to see how my body responds to the different foods I give it.

    Like anything, what it all comes down to is listening to our bodies and figuring out what works for us, but still eating clean and healthy.

    1. EXACTLY! Once you start LISTENING to your body–how you feel and the different reactions you have after eating certain things–you can make a difference. I’ve done raw, dabbled in vegetarian, but being a born and raised Midwestern girl, I’m in it for the meat and veggies. Those are what makes my body feel good.

  10. Is there a reason you prefer to replace processed grains with bananas, sweet potatoes, and nuts/nut butter rather than fibrous veggies, meat, and eggs? For example, Frozen waffles and English muffins ””-> eggs scrambled with spinach and avocado?

    1. Honestly, I like them better, but it was just an example. I also eat plenty of veggies, eggs, and meat. It’s all about what works for you! 🙂

  11. I’m uncomfortable with the Paleo lifestyle being so attached to “low-carb.” I get that Mal probably came away with that message because there is in fact less carbs due to the elimination of grains, but it’s much more complex than that, and really, that shouldn’t be touted or emphasized as the lifestyle’s central restrictive component, just as its benefit shouldn’t be weight-loss/management.

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  13. I agree with you regarding us super-sizing everything, and I really think this right here is our problem. Carbs are not our issue- ingesting excess calories is our issue. Even if we exercise, for most of us, we only need 2,000 calories a day to survive. In reality, we can eat whatever we want, as long as we keep it within the appropriate amount of calories our bodies need (need, not WANT).

    I love your healthy, balanced approach to eating (and that you haven’t cut out beer, woohoo!). 🙂

    1. @Katie: I agree. In fact, has anybody else noticed that the calorie recommendations have changed. When I was a kid (for reference I’m 29), I remember looking at packages and seeing 1500 calories for women and 2000 for men. And sometimes even 1200 for women. 2000 is probably more than enough, but a lot of us go over that every day =(

  14. I definitely think our diets are too “carby” (word? now it is!). I didn’t really realize it until I started making changes myself..I too feel better now eating a more balanced plate, especially for breakfast and lunch, with much more energy throughout the day! Crazy how a few simple swaps can make such a difference

  15. I think we definitely eat too many processed carbs! In October, I got very inspired by the paleo movement and simply cut processed sugar and grains out of my diet- basically cutting out the processed carbs but keeping the natural ones such as fruit- and dropped over 50 pounds.

  16. Totally agree! We eat wayyyy too many carbs- specifically grains. Most people eat cereal/toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, popcorn or crackers for snacking and then pasta for dinner. It is absolutely insane! I am all about balance and indulging every once in a while, but 90% of the time I eat eggs, fish, greek yogurt, berries, sweet potatoes, protein shakes and a TON of veggies. I don’t know how people who eat grains/carbs at every meal don’t feel so blah and sick all the time. I like at least 1 meal (usually 2) of the day to be veryyy low carb. I feel SO much better that way!

  17. i honestly have to say i do not think it is carbs in general but the quality of our carbs. just as it is the quality of our meats, cheese and dairy. i am a plant based eater and eat plenty of carbs because i do not consume animal products at all however i am fitter, healthier, stronger and have much more energy that i did in my 30’s……so again i think it is quality over the actual carb or meat product that makes the biggest impact. most americans do not eat hemp brain and raw sprouted grains.

  18. I wouldn’t consider dairy to be a carb. I would consider it to be a protein but that is just me (and my nutrition training) with that said I agree that we eat way too many carbs as a nation…hello that’s why America is so overweight. I think making smarter carb choices is something everyone should do.

    Julie Foucher…while a very pretty woman is way to manly looking IMO. It is not natural for women to have 6 packs. It means they have too low body fat and for women that is extremely dangerous and can cause a lot of reproductive and hormone problems. Too little body fat on a woman is much more dangerous than too little body fat on a man.

    1. @Kelly:
      Thank you so much for pointing out the part about body fat. Women are supposed to have curves and some fat, it is essential for us to survive and thrive. I am currently at a low BF % ( about 17) and have not had my period naturally for over a decade (though I am trying to get it back now). It was due to years of competitive sports and training. IMO the majority of women should really be careful how much they exercise and the intensity.Constant HI workouts can be damaging to the body over time. Sadly this seems to be a trend in the healthy living blog world and so is the number of bloggers with irregular periods.

      1. @liz:

        Same here. You need tons of fat …and protein and carbs are super important (carbs are not a problem, but “crap” carbs are )…I now only do walking each day and am burnt out and amennorheic for the last few years.

        Good articles related to that:

        I don’t anyone should be eliminating any food groups….just red flags and its all I see on all the young, orthorexic girls blogs these days..

        1. @gina: Great comments. I totally agree. A woman NEEDS body fat. A woman needs curves. I would be surprised if the woman above is actually having periods. It can also lead to osteoperosis in women even if there is an abundance of muscle. Sadly most women don’t know how dangerous a low BF % can be.

  19. I’ve often thought about how many carbs I eat per day. Just today, my lunch consisted of some brown rice, about half a sweet potato, some watermelon, and string cheese. It seems like it’d be a healthy meal, but if we’re talking carbs, it was loaded! The bagel chips I snacked on later didn’t help either… 😉

  20. Can we get a guest post from Mal? He can talk about his crossfit experience and his take on food from the certification class. That would be great!

  21. I don’t really think there is an ideal way of eating that we should strive for – some people like lots of carbs and some like lots of protein. I think both are okay – what really matters is the quality of our food and the amount we’re eating! Also I think it’s important to remember that the brain needs a minimum of 130 g of carbs per day to even function!

  22. I totally agree that grain-based diets are overrated. I recently reduced my gluten intake to see if it would help with my hypothyroidism, and it’s made me realize how much I was relying on wheat and grains before. I’ve replaced sandwiches with salads and vegetables for pasta/rice, and I don’t miss the old diet at all.

  23. thanks for the tips and thoughts on the topic! as a runner, i’m constantly debating whether a high-carb or low-carb diet is right for me. i know other marathoners who swear by one or the other, but i just haven’t determined if bagels or eggs are best for me in terms of speed and energy. the saga continues!

  24. Definitely too many carbs in the typical America diet. Especially refined carbs..which..lets face it..are cheap to eat. But with everyone addressing the gluten issue these days many in the nutrition field are now saying that its not just wheat that is the cause of so much inflammation and problems but all grains (yikes!). I think we just overdid it. I have pretty much given up all grains. Having Celiac I am even cautious about eating gluten free grains these days.

  25. I like “Kath eats real food” approach…balance and carbs at each meal…yeah, before you were eating maybe too much processed crap…BUT whole grains, REAL oats, barley, beans, veggies, lentils, etc…jeesh, there is nothing wrong with them…
    and “oats” out of protein and fat? makes no sense…kath made a good comment about that on her yesterday afternoon post when a commenter brought it up.

  26. Hi Tina, it’s interesting you’ve noticed a difference in your skin. I’ve found my main skin trigger to be Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Nutella, etc. so I avoid them, but I’ve started to suspect a correlation between pasta and bread as well. Was there a specific carb that you’ve avoided that helped clear up your skin? It seems my skin gets bad every summer, perfectly in line with my fall 1/2 marathon training and carb increasing!

  27. Thanks for this post Tina! It was so interesting. I love your blog because you never seem to deprive yourself or eat too little, but you make healthy, balanced choices. I just made your favorite breakfast pancake for breakfast and it was so delicious! I am going to try to have that or a smoothie for breakfast, rather than my usual oatmeal, for the next few weeks- and see if I feel any differently. I’ll keep you posted if I notice a change! Have a great day 🙂

  28. Love the post! I used to eat a lot more sweets and breads that made me notice that my workouts still wouldn’t slim down the “problem” areas”. I have cut down on the amount of processed foods like crackers, breads and sweets and have seen great results from my workouts and strength training.

  29. I am a Registered Dietitian and Olivia’s comment above concerns me:
    “I’ve often thought about how many carbs I eat per day. Just today, my lunch consisted of some brown rice, about half a sweet potato, some watermelon, and string cheese. It seems like it’d be a healthy meal, but if we’re talking carbs, it was loaded! The bagel chips I snacked on later didn’t help either”¦ ”
    The above meal Olivia descrbies is in no way unhealthy. It is unfortunate that some readers may think that, because they are eathing healthful sources of carbs, they might be overeating carbs. This simply is not true. It might be helpful if you consulted a nutrition professional, such as a registered dietitian or someone with a PhD in nutrition, to address this issue. I am familiar with the Paleo diet and while it is not necessarily unhealthy, eliminating healthful whole grains, beans, etc. that this diet encourages is simply not supported by the research. I know the Paleo diet has been researched extensively in the scientific community, but eating large amounts of meat/animal protein is also linked with health risk, such as certaub cancers. I do hear where you’re coming from in that you do not endorse any one diet, which is commendable. However, since people do look up to you and your suggestions, you may want to bring in the experts on this one. I too think that finding a substitute for oatmeal or 100% whole grain waffles or pancakes is simply not necessary. Why not allow yourself to enjoy these healthful whole minimally processed foods? There simply is no scientific evidence that supports this. I do agree most people eat an excess of carbs in general (especially refined ones) and not enough fruits and vegetables. Even overeating healthful carbs is not encouraged. But in this case, please let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Tina, you have a voice in the healthy blog world community and many followers who look up to you. You influence alot of people. I urge you to consult some sports RDs (Nancy Clark, RD comes to mind) or even Ellie Krieger, whom you spotlighted on your blog recently, about this issue. Thanks for listenting and for promoting a positive healthy lifestyle for all.

  30. I found your blog by another blog (fitting it all in) and I agree with the carbs. I was recently diagnosed with diabetes (2). Carbs are now my enemy (maybe not quite enemy but certainly not my friend). I have to wait 2 months to see the dietician and diabetes educator but in the meantime still get my blood sugar down… I thought “no problem I don’t eat a lot of bread or pasta”… but I wanted to cry when I realized just how many foods are high in carbs and how much I’d been consuming. A blog post like this is very helpful to me because this is not just about trying to lose weight as I will have serious consequences if I don’t have carbs under control.

  31. I agree totalllly Tina its all about the well balanced diet and not eliminating foods. Paleo diet makes sense if you read all the “science” behind it, but the reality is there has been very minimal RELIABLE studies done to show the benefits. If we know anything about evolution we know the body has an amazing way of adapting to its environment, not to mention most of our ancestors were pretty close to vegetarians not so much living it up on buffalo thighs every night. In fact they ate to survive. Which meant any and everything they could find. Im not a fan of eliminating food and I think the Paleo is extremely challenging to substain..which usually = failure. I see many people on Paleo hard core and then DIVING off the wagon into a plate of cupcakes and nachos, and then back on Paleo again. Thats not balance or healthy in my mind. Eating a balanced “lifestyle” diet is 100% what works best for me.

  32. I definitely catch myself eating too many carbs sometimes! I try to eliminate/swap out carbs from at least one meal a day, for balance not “dieting”, just like you said.

    Great swap suggestions!

  33. I think too many people believe that “carbs” are restricted to breads, cereals and pastas- what they don’t realize is that all grains as well as veggies and fruits are carbs too. I think its awesome (and necessary) to restrict your carb intake and get energy from protein instead. And the serving sizes in the U.S. are absolutely crazy! Go to Europe and you’ll head Americans complaining left and right about the servings (which are what they’re supposed to be).

  34. Here’s my story and a definitive vote for Paleo 80/20:

    I am from a rural farming community and my family has raised wheat & corn for a very long time. I’ve always eaten the typical American diet and always had the typical American complaints : I can’t lose weight and keep it off, nothing works, I’m tired, I’m stressed, blah blah blah… I’ve never been “overweight” but, again, the typical American always thinks they’re fat.

    I moved to the city a couple years ago and started doing BodyPump classes and spin classes at a Globo gym and stuck with it for a little over a year. I also rana couple miles 2-3 days a week. I started eating “healthy” – whole grains and fruit and lean meat like chicken. Fast forward to May of this year and yet again I was frustrated because here I was going into another bikini season still with the same stupid fat pooch below my belly button that I’ve always had and flabby arms that I didn’t want to show in a tank top. I probably make it sound worse than it was but face it, we are all our toughest critic. I saw Groupon deal for a local Boot Camp and figured it couldn’t hurt to try something different. I had heard a lot about the Paleo diet and decided to challenge myself to cut grains for the 30 days of Boot Camp. I wasn’t perfect with the challenge, but I have discovered just how terrible grains, legumes, even peanuts make me feel. When I eat a cheeseburger on the typical white bun at a family barbeque and turn into a fun hater because I have a headache ten minutes later, it’s not cool. Peanuts make me constipated (yes, even peanut butter) and grains give me food babies and neither of those things are cool either. Sorry for excessively sharing, had to get the point across! 🙂

    Bottom line its “to each their own” but before you knock the effectiveness of a Paleo or mostly Paleo diet, try it. Of all the people who read this blog I should not be advocating against my family’s main source of income. But when it comes to health and fueling my body, I will absolutely do what’s right for me. I’ve never felt or LOOKED better than I do now and it’s only been 3 months.

  35. I’m so enjoying browsing your archives. Love your steady, balanced, life-loving approach to everything. The carb philosophy yup described her is so close to how I try to eat here recently, and I’m happy because it seems both instinctual and sustainable. Good stuff. Anyway, love your blog so please keep writing! New (since your marathon) reader in Oklahoma. xo

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  37. Completely agree with your thoughts on carbs. For me going carb free or low carb is eating a lot less processed food., including grains. There is nothing healthy about our modern grains when you do the research. It’s a reason I like to focus on some paleo inspired eating too. Glad to find your blog xx

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