Tracking Carbs Instead of Counting Calories

I have found that people wanting to lose weight simply don’t want to weigh or measure food or count calories – and who can blame them! I design Meal Plans for my clients so they don’t need to. As I will explain in this article, with a Standard Meal Plan (based on a traditional macronutrient distribution), carbohydrate, protein and fat are all laid out, based on the food exchanges. With a Low Carb High Healthy Fat Meal Plan or a Hybrid Meal Plan, carbohydrate percent, protein- and fat percent are also laid out, but for those seeking to lower insulin resistance or lose weight or both, tracking carb intake is important.  In this article, I’ll explain tracking carbs.

Firstly, what is a Meal Plan?

What is a Meal Plan?

A Meal Plan isn’t a “menu” that tells you what foods you have to eat, but indicates how many servings of each category of food you should aim to eat at each meal. I explain more about what a food category is, below.

The first step in designing a person’s Meal Plan after I’ve done their assessment, is to determine their overall caloric needs based on age, gender, activity level, desired weight loss (or gain), as well as any special considerations such as growth, weight loss, pregnancy or lactation, etc.

More about calories in the next article, but suffice to say here, calories are generally not the focus in Low Carb High Healthy Fat eating, carbs are.

The next step is to set the macronutrient distribution (% of calories from carbohydrate, protein and fat) of the Meal Plan according to what would best suit the person’s clinical needs, goals and lifestyle. This is something I discuss with people during the assessment, and which is ultimately up to them.  The Standard macronutrient distribution is ~45-65% carbohydrate, ~15-20% protein and ~30% fat. Generally speaking, unless there is a compelling clinical reason for using a Standard Meal Plan, I encourage people to consider the benefits of a low carb high healthy fat eating.

The Low Carb High Healthy Fat macronutrient distribution is ~5-10% carbohydrate, ~20% protein and ~65-70% healthy fat, with the Hybrid macronutrient distribution falling somewhere in between.

In the final step, I design a person’s Meal Plan based on the foods that they’ve told me they like, avoiding those they don’t, and factoring in the time of day they either need to (for scheduling reasons) or prefer to eat. Then we meet for me to go over their Meal Plan with them, and for me to teach them how to easily and accurately estimate their portion sizes, using visual measures. More on visual measures, below.

The only thing left for them to decide is what they want to eat!

Food Categories – Standard Meal Plan

In a Standard Meal Plan or Hybrid, categories include Starchy Vegetables and Grains, Fruit, Non-Starchy vegetables, Meat, Poultry, Meat and Egg or Cheese, and Legumes (pulses). These categories are based on how many grams of carbs are contained in the foods in make up that category.

Take, for example, the Starchy Vegetable and Grain Category.  This group includes all the standard “carbs” such as bread, pasta, rice and cereals as well as “starchy vegetables” such as peas, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes / yams and winter squash (such as acorn or butternut squash). All foods in this category have 15 gm of carbs per serving (where a serving is 1/2 cup or the equivalent of 1 slice of bread).

So, 1 slice of bread has 15 gms of carb, 1/2 cup of peas has 15 gms of carb, 1/2 cup of rice has 15 gms of carb, 1/2 cup of oatmeal has 15 gms of carb, and 1/2 a hamburger bun has 15 gms of carb.

If a person’s Meal Plan indicates that they can have 2 servings from the Starchy Vegetable and Grain category, that could be 2 pieces of toast, or 1 cup of oatmeal, or 1 cup rice, etc. Their Meal Plan doesn’t tell them what food they have to eat, just how much from each category.

Here is an example of what a Standard Meal Plan looks like;



As you can see, all the calculations have been done.

In this example, this Meal Plan was for an 85 year old man who wanted to gain weight and was based on 45% of his calories coming from carbs, 21% from fat and 34% from fat.

Estimating Portion Sizes

When I’ve taught someone to accurately estimate their serving sizes using visual measures, the amount of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat and calories) they will take in following their Meal Plan will be what was planned.

What are Visual Measures?

Visual measures are easy and accurate means to estimate serving sizes. For in-person clients, this might be based on the size of their hand or fingers, such as (depending on the size of a person’s hand) a 1/2 a cup (dry measure) may be the amount of something round (like frozen peas) that could be contained in their scooped hand, without rolling out. An ounce (by weight) might be the size of two specific fingers on their hand, or a Tbsp may be the amount of the last digit on their thumb. For Distance Consultation clients, the standard used in teaching visual measures are standard size items, such as the size of a golf ball or four dice stacked up.

Tracking Carbohydrates

Where tracking carbohydrates comes into play is with Low Carb High Healthy Fat Meal Plan or a Hybrid Meal Plan – especially when lowering insulin levels or losing weight is desired. Keeping track of carbohydrates on these kind of Meal Plans is nothing like needing to count calories! It is very easy.

On a Low Carb High Healthy Fat Meal Plans, the macronutrient distribution for carbs is set quite tightly. For men, total carbs would be somewhere between 80-100 grams and for women, it may be set as low as 35 gms carb or as high as 50 gms. It depends on their needs. Naturally, Hybrid Meal Plans will have higher total daily carbs.

Since there are no Starchy Vegetables and Grains and Milk on these Meal Plans (cheese is used, just not milk due to the carb content), the Food Categories on a Low Carb Meal Plan or Hybrid are different than on a Standard (or traditional) Meal Plan).

Food Categories in a Low Carb Meal Plan include Non-Starchy Vegetables, which exclude “Starchy Vegetables” such as peas, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes / yams and winter squash – with some intake guidelines around root vegetables such as carrots, beets and parsnips. The Fruit category here is specified more narrowly than in a Standard Meal Plan – generally focused on berries and low sugar citrus such as lime and lemon, as well as tomatoes and cucumbers (yes, both are technically ‘fruit’).

Meat, Poultry, Meat and Egg or Cheese is pretty much the same as with a Standard Meal Plan, with an ounce of any of these protein foods being 1 serving and individuals being able to have several servings at each meal (based on their caloric needs, factoring in any weight loss). The fat contained in the Meat, Poultry, Meat and Egg or Cheese is already calculated when the Meal Plan is made, so “Fat” here means added fat. The Fat category includes everything from olive oil, avocado (both the fruit and the oil), coconut oil, butter, olives and nuts and seeds.

Foods in the Meat, Poultry, Meat and Egg or Cheese category have little or no carbs in them and Non-Starchy Vegetables are generally around 5 gm of carb per cup and berries, which are in the Fruit category are roughly 15 gm of carb for 1/2 a cup. A few berries on a salad isn’t usually a problem, but more than that can easily put us over our maximum amount of carbs for the day, which I call the “carb ceiling”.

Where it becomes particularly important to track carbohydrates when one is seeking weight loss is with foods such as nuts and seeds.  It is very easy to eat a handful of nuts and end up exceeding one’s daily maximum number of carbs.

[an article written a month earlier will provide detailed information regarding the carbohydrate content of nuts:]

Carb Creep

“Carb-creep” is when we eat more carbs than we think we are, which results in weight loss slowing, or even stopping. When one reaches a plateau  where they haven’t lost any weight for longer than a week or two, then tracking carbs to see if there is carb creep is advised.

A man’s carb limit may be set to 80-100 gms per day and a woman’s may be as low as 35 gms or as high as 50 gms.  That is not a lot and it is easy to inadvertently exceed this amount of carbs in the course of a day. A few splashes of milk in several cups of coffee, a handful of peanuts walking by the bowl near the photocopier and an ounce or two of 72% dark chocolate (for heart health, of course!) can quickly put us over our carb ceiling. This is where it’s important to evaluate food choices that may be putting your over your carb ceiling.

Want to know more about having a Meal Plan designed for you?

Please send me a note using the “Contact Us” form above and I will reply to you, usually by the next business day.

To our good health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the ”content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content.



1977 Dietary Recommendations — forty years on

Since 1977, the dietary recommendations in Canada and the US has been for people to consume a diet with limited fat and where ”complex carbohydrates” (starches) comprise the main source of calories.

From 1949 until 1977, the dietary recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide were for people to consume

~20-30% of their daily calories as carbohydrate

~40-50% of daily calories as fat

~20-30% of daily calories as protein

From 1977 onward, Canada’s Food Guide recommended that people consume:

55-60% of daily calories as carbohydrate

<30% of daily calories as fat, with no more than 1/3 from saturated fat

15-20% of daily calories as protein

The US recommendations since 1977 have been similar to those in Canada, with the Dietary Goals for the United States recommending that carbohydrates are 55-60% of daily calories and that calories from fat be no more than 30% of daily calories (of which no more than 1/3 comes from saturated fat).

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide which came out in 2015, recommends that people eat even more of their daily calories as carbohydrate;

45-65% of daily calories as carbohydrate

20-35% of daily calories as fat, with no more than 1/3 from saturated fat

10-35% of daily calories as protein


Health Canada recommends limiting fat to only 20-35% of calories  while eating 45-65% of daily calories as carbohydrates and currently advise adults to eat only 30-45 mL (2 — 3 Tbsp) of unsaturated fat per day  (including that used in cooking, salad dressing and spreads such as margarine and mayonnaise).

This is what people have come to call a ”balanced diet”.

But is it?

For the past 40 years, the public has come to believe that eating fat made you fat’ and that eating saturated fat caused heart disease. This however is not what evidence-based research shows. More on that in future articles.

Our society has become ”fat phobic”. People guzzle skim or 1% milk with little regard to the fact that just 1 cup (250 ml) has almost the same amount of carbs as a slice of bread.  And who drinks only one cup of milk at a time?  Most people’s ”juice glasses” are 8 oz and the glasses they drink milk from are 16 oz, which is 2 cups. Who ever stops to think of their glass of milk as having the same amount of carbs as almost 2 slices of bread?

In addition, carbs are hidden in the 7-10 servings of Vegetables and Fruit they are recommended to eat  — with no distinction made between starchy- and non-starchy vegetables.  Many people eat most of their vegetable servings as carbohydrate-laden starchy vegetables such as peas, corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes and then have a token serving of non-starchy vegetables (like salad greens, asparagus or broccoli) on the ”side” at dinner. Who stops to think that just a 1/2 cup serving of peas or corn has as many carbs as a slice of bread — and often those vegetables are eaten with a cup of potatoes, adding the equivalent number of carbs as another 2 slices of bread?

People drink fruit juice and ”smoothies” with no regard for all of the extra carbs they are consuming (not to mention the effect that all of that fructose has).  A ”small juice glass” is 8 oz, so just a glass of orange juice has the equivalent number of carbs as another 2 slices of bread! Many grab a smoothie at lunch or for coffee break without even thinking that the average smoothie has the same number of carbs as 5 slices of bread!

Then there is the toast, bagels and cereal or bars that people eat for breakfast, the sandwiches or wraps they eat for lunch and the pasta or rice they have for supper.  These are carbs people know as carbs — which are added to all the carbs they consumed as vegetables, fruit and milk.

What has been the outcome of people following these dietary recommendations to eat a high carb diet since 1977 ?

Obesity Rates

In 1977, obesity rates* were 7.6% for men and 11.7% for women, with the combined rate of < 10 % for both genders.

* Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥30 kg/(m)2

In 1970-72 the obesity rate in Canadian adults was 10% and by 2009-2011, it increased two and a half times, to 26%.

In 1970-72, only 7.6% of men were obese but by 2013, 20.1% of men were categorized as obese. In 1970-72, only 11.7% of women were obese but by 2013, 17.4% of women were obese.

In 1978 in Canada, only 15% of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, yet by 2007 that prevalence almost DOUBLED to 29% of children and adolescents being overweight or obese. By 2011 obesity prevalence alone (excluding overweight prevalence) for boys aged 5- to 17 years was 15.1% and for girls was 8.0%.

The emphasis since 1977 on consuming diets high in carbohydrates and low in fat has taken its toll.

Effect on Health

Non-alcoholic liver disease is rampant and not surprisingly, considering 37% of adults and 13% of youth are abdominally (or truncally) obese — that is, they are carrying their excess body fat around and in the internal organs, including the liver.

Since the 1970’s, Diabetes rates have almost doubled.

  • In the 1970s, the rate of Type 2 Diabetes in women was 2.6% and in men was 3.4 %. In the 1980s that number rose in women to 3.8% and in men to 4.5%. In the 1990s the rate was almost double what it was in 1970; in women it was 4.7% and  in men, 7.5%.

If people eating a high carb, low fat diet has corresponded to an increase in obesity, overweight and Diabetes, then what’s the alternative?

That is where a ketogenic diet comes in , which is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet which supplies adequate, but not excess protein. Eating this way enables us to use our own fat stores for energy, and to make our own glucose and ketones to fuel our cells and organs. Since humans are designed to run on carbs (in times of plenty) and in our fat stores (when food is less plentiful), ketosis is a normal physiological state. By eating a low carb high fat diet when we’re hungry and delaying eating for short periods, we can mimic the conditions that were common to our ancestors. By eating this way over an extended period of time, we can bring down insulin levels and as a result, decrease the insulin resistance of our cells. We can improve our blood sugar, lower our blood pressure and see our LDL cholesterol and triglycerides come down to normal, healthy levels.

Want to know more?

Why not send me a note using the Contact Us form located above?

To your health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the ”content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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The Limitations of Common Ways of Determining Weight Loss

People who are eating differently in an effort to lose weight often hop on the scale daily to see how they’re doing. What they fail to consider is that an average adult’s body weight can fluctuate by as much as 4  1/2 pounds per day — solely as a result of changes in the amount of water they are retaining or excreting.

The Limitations of Using a Scale to Determine Fat Loss

An 80 kg person has, on average 48 liters of water in their body. The problem with using body weight as an assessor of fat loss is that the human body does not precisely regulate body water content.

Above 49 liters of water, the kidneys of an 80 kg person will clear the excess water by causing the person to urinate more and below 47 liters of water, the 80 kg person will feel thirsty and increase their fluid intake. People’s “weight” is affected by this change in body water content of ~2 liters per day — which weighs approximately 2 kg or 4.4 pounds! Put another way, each day our “weight” can fluctuate by this amount solely due to the difference in retained or excreted water.

Since there is no way to measure this daily change in water weight in non-clinical settings, the standard scale is a very imprecise way to measure fat loss over the short-term.

Waist Circumference

Many people know that carrying excess weight around the middle increases one’s risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack so they measure their waist circumference frequently. Even if waist circumference is measured halfway between the lower rib and the top of the hip bone, with a fully relaxed abdomen, their are limitations to using this as a short term measure of weight loss.

The Limitations of Using a Tape Measure to Determine Fat Loss

Since the average person’s body weight fluctuates by as much as ~4 1/2 pounds per day due only to changes in body water, a tape measure fails to capture decreases in waist circumference stemming from the kidneys excreting water.

That said, waist circumference is helpful as a long-term indicator of weight loss, just not a short-term one.

Body Fat Percent

Some people have bathroom scales that have body fat analyzers built in and think that what it is measuring is the amount of fat they are carrying, however a number of factors can influence this reading.

The Limitations of Using a Body Fat Analyzer to Determine Fat Loss

Body Fat Analyzers use electrical impedance to determine fat percentage, and this measurement is affected by a number of conditions, including environmental (room) temperature, a person’s hydration status, as well as emotional stress. Since hydration status can fluctuate by ~4 pounds per day, a body fat analyzer is no more accurate as a short-term measure than a standard bathroom scale, without it.

Assess short-term weight loss

How one’s own clothes fit and comparative ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos are a much better short-term assessor of fat loss than a scale, a tape measure and a body fat analyzer. Since body water fluctuates considerably on a low carb high fat diet due to changes in sodium levels, I recommend that people eating a low carb high fat diet weigh themselves once every two weeks on the same day of the week, at the same time of day and measure their waist circumference at the same time. If they have a scale that assesses body fat percent once every two weeks is sufficient for taking these measurements.

None of these will provide much information on actual fat loss over the short term…so why rely on them for that, but they will be helpful measurement over the longer term.

Sodium and Body Water Content

As mentioned in a previous article, by eating only when hungry and only until no longer hungry, insulin levels have the opportunity to fall to baseline – something they do naturally after not eating for 12 hours.

On days where the time until eating is extended by a few hours (i.e. “intermittent fasting”), insulin levels stay low for an even longer period of time.  In response, our kidneys excrete sodium in a process called naturesis.

Failing to supplement sodium while eating low-carb high fat can result in intense headaches – and if sodium remains low, potassium will also be excreted to keep the necessary sodium-potassium balance. This drop in potassium often results in irregular heart beats, known as arrhythmia.

Phinney and Volek (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living) recommend that if one is eating less than 60 gms of carbs per day, that 2-3 grams of sodium should be added to the diet (provided the person is not taking any diuretics or other blood pressure medication).

A half a teaspoon of table salt or sea salt provides 1000 mg or 1 gram of sodium.

Final Thoughts

Since hopping on the scale daily or even several times a week won’t provide any useful information, nor will measuring our waist circumference or using a body fat analyzer too often – why do it? Part of ‘getting healthy’ ought to include having a healthy body self image – something that won’t be nurtured by obsessing about such “numbers”.

Short-term measures of success

Short-term success is best measured visually – with comparative photos taken from the same distance away, from the same relative height and wearing the same clothing.

How one’s clothes are fitting is another way.

A person who is insulin resistant or Type 2 Diabetic should be seeing both their fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels gradually coming down. If they aren’t then they should schedule an appointment with their Dietitian to find out why that is.

Medium-term measures of success

Medium-term measures of success in eating low carb high fat can be measured both subjectively and objectively. Subjective measures include weighing oneself and taking one’s own waist circumference once every two weeks. Objective measures include having your Dietitian weigh you on a clinical scale, having her assess your waist circumference and body fat percentage using both a device that measures electrical impedance, as well as using good old-fashioned calipers, that measure subcutaneous (under the skin) fat, in 3 or four specific locations on the body.

A person with high blood pressure should be seeing both systolic (the first number) and diastolic (the second number) blood pressure coming down and Type 2 Diabetics or those with insulin resistance should be continuing to observe lower fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels.

Longer-term measures of success

After 6 or 8 months eating low carb high fat, both subjective and objective measures should be continuing to lower in a reasonably linear fashion. Of course there will be times where a ‘plateau’ is reached, but if that lasts more than two or three weeks, then its important to check in with your Dietitian to make sure the amount of carbs you think you are eating is what your Dietitian has been determined as being best for you.

A Type 2 Diabetic should be seeing both their fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels approaching more normal levels and both Type 2 Diabetics and those with insulin resistance (“pre-diabetes”) should have their HbA1C assessed at a lab every three months, as this provides insights into one’s 3-month average blood glucose level. Fasting blood glucose provides a ‘snap-shot’ of blood sugar in the morning after not eating, and should be done twice a year by a lab, especially if one is Diabetic. Comparing lab test results to previous lab test results is an objective indicator of the effect that eating low-carb high fat is having on specific markers and provides an opportunity to determine if the amount of carbs being eaten may still be too high.

The most accurate assessor is a 2 hour glucose tolerance test, however few doctors will requisition this after one is diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetic.

Finally, every year or so, it is helpful for those who have been diagnosed as Diabetic to have their fasting insulin, C-Protein and AM Cortisol levels assessed and compared to previous results. For these, your doctor may refer you to an Endocrinologist.

Remember, achieving health is a journey and takes time and like most journeys, it is best not done alone.

Have questions about how I can help or about the services I provide?

Please send me a note using the form on the “Contact Us” tab, above.

To your good health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the ”content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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From Paleo to Present – a brief history of the human diet

Prior to the domestication of animals and the development of agriculture, the human diet centered around the ‘hunt’. They ate when they caught something, and didn’t eat until again until they either caught something else, or were successful in finding edible vegetation, berries or nuts. ”Feasting” and ”fasting” were normal events in the rhythm of life, and our bodies were designed to function using our fat stores for energy, as evidenced by our continued existence.

From hunter-gatherers to farmers

After the Ice Age, those that survived were left with an increasingly unpredictable climate, decreases in big-game species that were hunters’ first-choice prey, and increasing human population in the available habitats for hunting and gathering. To decrease the risk of unpredictable variation in food supply, people broadened their diets to second- and third-choice foods, which included more small game, plus plant foods which required much preparation, such as grinding, leaching and soaking. As I will demonstrate below, these plant foods, including grains were very different in carbohydrate and protein composition than they are today.

The domestication of animals and plant cultivation of ~ 13,000 years ago, forms a significant turning point in the human diet.

Humans began to transport some wild plants, including grains from their natural habitat to more productive selected habitats, and so began intentional cultivation, or farming. With the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals – the plants and animals themselves began to change.

This is important.

The fruit of today bear little resemblance to their ancient predecessors. The grains of today don’t either. For example, wild wheat and wild barley bear their seeds on top of a stalk, and sheds its seed spontaneously — enabling it to germinate where it falls.

Once people began bringing some wild wheat or barley seeds back with them in order to intentionally plant them, some seeds would accidentally spill along the way, germinating in new places. Over time, some seed would cross-pollinate with wild grain, while others would undergo spontaneous mutations, leading to wheat and barley varieties with non-self-shattering heads. Eventually, these non-shattering grains were selected for by humans for cultivating, leading to a very different type of grain than the wild species — and one with very different nutritional content than their wild predecessors.

Similarly, domesticated animals were selected based on traits that were considered desirable to people — chickens were selected to be larger, wild cattle to be smaller, and sheep to lose their bristly outer hairs and not to shed their soft inner wool. Eventually, the land where hunter-gatherers lived was overrun and replaced by people who had become agricultural – and who were ever-expanding the amount of land they required for raising animals, as well as for growing crops.

At Tell Abu Hureyra, in the Euphrates valley of modern Syria are the remains of a civilization that lived between 13,000 and 9,000 years ago, spanning the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic periods. This site is significant because the inhabitants of Abu Hureyra started out as hunter-gatherers, but gradually moved to agriculture, making them the earliest known farmers in the world. Meals consisting of the meat of gazelle, wild goat and game birds were supplemented with wild-growing Einkorn wheat-porridge, as well as berries, nuts or fruit, if in season.  Tools such as sickles and mortars for harvesting and grinding grain, as well as pits for storing it have been found at Tell Abu Hureya and remains of harvested Einkorn wheat (which was ground by hand and eaten as porridge) have been found at Tell Aswad, Jericho, Nahal Hemar, Navali Cori and other archeological sites.

The diet of man forever changed at that point.

As previously mentioned, plants underwent change as a result of both natural cross-pollination as both underwent change as a result of intentional manipulation by man.  This occurred everywhere that man settled — from the lush valleys of the Middle East*, to Africa and Asia.

[*yes, the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East was lush and green, then.]

The grain we know today as ”wheat” and ”rice” is nothing like their wild ancient predecessors. Likewise with fruit. The fruit of today has been bred to be sweet — not so with the wild cultivar. A brief history of wheat will help illustrate this type of change.

Evolution of Wheat – but one example

The first wild grass that was cultivated was Einkorn wheat. As cultivation techniques improved, Einkorn eventually became an essential component of the dietreducing the need for hunting and gathering. Einkorn wheat contained only 14 chromosomes.

Shortly after the cultivation of the first Einkorn, the Emmer variety of wheat (Triticum turgidum) appeared in the Middle East; a natural offspring of Einkorn and an unrelated wild grass, called goatgrass(Aegilops speltoids.

Emmer wheat is what is referred to in the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 9, Exodus 32, Isaiah 28, Isaiah 25) as Kes-emmet (כֻּסֶּמֶת) and both Eikorn wheat (חִטָּה) and ”Emmet” (ֻּסֶּמֶת), translated in English as ‘spelt’, are referred to together as distinct species (e.g. Exodus 9:32).  It was the ancient Egyptians that are credited with the addition of wild strains of yeast in order to make bread rise — which gives an added dimension to the story of Passover, where the Jews left slavery in Egypt in ”great haste”, “not having time to let their bread rise”.

Since plants do not combine genes but add (or sum) them which provides evidence of what cross-bred with what. Goatgrass added its genetic code to that of Einkorn , so Emmer wheat had 28 chromosomes.

Emmer wheat then naturally cross-bred with another wild grass called Triticum taushii, giving rise to the original cultivar of Triticum aestivum, the predecessor of modern wheat, which has 42 chromosomes. This was a higher yielding wheat variety which had many desirable baking properties that Eikorn and Emmer lacked.  This new strain remained largely unchanged until the mid-eighteenth century when Carolus Linneaus, who invented the Linnean system of categorizing species, counted only 5 species.

Today, Eikorn, Emmer and the original cultivated strains of Triticum aestivum have been replaced by almost 25,000 strains of modern human-bred wheat strains that are hundreds, if not thousands of genes apart from the original Eikorn and Emmer wheat species.

Our food is not the food of our ancestors.

Modern Triticum aestivum is on average 70% carbohydrate by weight and only 10% protein. Emmer wheat, on the other hand was 57% carbohydrate and 28% protein — and was suitable to supplement the protein of a meal.

Paleo Diet compared with the Low Carb High Healthy Fat diet

The premise of Paleo eating to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors did is understandable, however the foods that exist now are nothing like the foods our ancient ancestors ate. Fruit, for example is considered “paleo” -but the carb content of paleo fruit was substantially less than that of today.

In a low carb high healthy fat way of eating, carbs are not avoided. It is the foods that are high in carbs that are easily broken down to glucose and have little nutrient-density that are limited.

[It is hard to justify eating grain products made from varieties of wheat that were bred for no other reason than they could be grown in nutrient- poor soils in novel parts of the world.]

No justification is needed to eat carbs that come as part of fibre- and nutrient-rich non-starchy vegetables and to eat carbs found in nuts that are a good source of protein and monounsaturated fat.

A diet where 45 – 65% of calories are as carbohydrate is has us eating ”carbs for carb’s sake”, but a low carb high healthy fat diet should not be about “fat for fat’s sake”.

Some people think they should eat large amounts of saturated fat ”just because they can”, and I suppose that’s true. One can certainly eat a pound of bacon, but when compared  with a fat marbled grain-fed steak or a Brome Lake- or wild duck, one is more nutrient-dense than the other. The yolks of free-range egg comes as part of a nutrient-dense package, which includes good quality protein, as well as other nutrients. A pound of bacon, does not. That doesn’t mean that eating bacon is ”bad”, but in comparison to grilled salmon with a large serving of non-starchy vegetables bathed in cold-pressed olive- or avocado oil, it doesn’t quite measure up. It is not just about not being hungry, but about being healthy.

A Low-Carb-High-Healthy-Fat Diet is about ”nutrient density” — not just ”fat density”

Final Thoughts

In a Low-Carb-High-Healthy-Fat Diet, carbs are not ”bad” and fat is not ”good”.

Carbs and fat that come in nutrient-dense food and in particular ratios are what we are striving for.

As well, protein quantity is based on physiological need and not unlimited (as excess in a low carb diet will be converted and stored as fat). The source of that protein ought to be considered, as well. For example, it is well documented that fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are good for our brains and our hearts so for those that enjoy fish, eating it often is ideal.

The good thing about the Low-Carb-High-Healthy-Fat Diet is that it can be adapted to  culture- or religious restrictions. Don’t eat pork? No problem. Don’t eat beef? Not an issue. Take fast days? That is easily worked-in.

Want to know more?

Feel free to send me a note using the form on the “Contact Us” tab, above. Remember, Nutrition is BetterByDesign.

To your health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the ”content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 


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Binford LF. New Perspectives in Archaeology, 1968; 313—341

David, W. Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health Rodale Books, 2011; 15-32

Diamond J. Evolution, Consequences and Future of Plant and Animal Domestication. Nature, 2002; 418:700-7

Flannery KV. The Domestication of Plants and Animals, 1969;73—100

Hillman GC, Davies, MS. Measured Domestication Rates in Wild Wheats and Barley under Primitive Cultivation, and their Archaeological Implications. J. World Prehistory; 1990; 4:157—222

Raeker RO, Gaines CS, Finney PL, Donelson T. Granule size distribution and chemical composition of starches from 12 soft wheat cultivars. Cereal Chem 1998;75(5):721-8

Shewry PR. Wheat. J Exp Botany 2009;60(6):1537-53

Stiner MC, Munro ND, Surovell TA. The Tortoise and the Hare: small-game use, the broad-spectrum revolution, and Paleolithic demography. Curr. Anthropol. 41, 39—73 (2000).

Zohary D, Hopf M. Domestication of Plants in the Old World 3rd edn (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2000).

A Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet

Client Brochure on the Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet – front

A low carb high fat (LCHF) diet is a way of eating that maximizes the body’s natural ability to access one’s own fat-stores for energy. Fat takes the place of carbohydrate as the preferred source of energy, so most of the body’s energy needs comes from a wide variety of healthy fats. A low carb high healthy fat diet  minimizes carbohydrate-based foods, has a moderate amount of protein and has a high amount of healthy fats.

We use the dietary fat that we eat and our own stored fat for energy and by keeping carb intake low, insulin levels are allowed to fall, which in time makes our cells more sensitive to it. As insulin levels fall, so does hunger – so we eat meals when hungryuntil we are no longer hungry – but are no longer hungry every few hours.

The low carb high healthy fat diet

These are the categories and types of food that are available to enjoy on a low carb high healthy fat diet;

Low Carb High Healthy Fat – food categories (acknowledgements: Dr. Ted Naiman)


The exact ratio of macronutrients in your diet (i.e. grams of carbs, fat and protein) will differ depending on your age, gender, activity level, current body composition as well as any health conditions or medication you may be taking.

Here are some general guidelines to give you an idea;


A low carb high healthy fat diet does not have unlimited amounts of animal protein, although some variations of this style of eating do. There is a reason for this. When carbs are reduced, the body can synthesize glucose from protein (through a process known as gluconeogenesis), so if you eat too much protein, it can slow down your body’s transition to burning fat stores, for energy. The type of low carb high healthy fat diet that I encourage, provides sufficient protein for our body’s needs based, but not excess.


One thing all low carb high fat diets have in common, is that they are lower in carbs than the conventional low fat calorie-restricted diet and high in fat.

People often ask me “isn’t saturated fat ‘bad’ for us?’, without realizing that ~80% of the saturated fat in our bodies is actually made by our body, and only 20% comes from diet. If it was that ‘bad’ for us, why would our bodies naturally manufacture it?

The questions often follow as to how much saturated fat should we eat? What about polyunsaturated fat? Monounsaturated fat?

Eating a diet that is high in carbs while eating lots of fat, including saturated fat is a concern, but eating a diet rich in saturated fat while eating low carbs is not inherently detrimental.

According to Phinney and Volek (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living), when someone is adapted to eating a low carb high healthy fat (i.e. are in “fat-burning mode”), saturated fats do not raise LDL cholesterol. That said, why eat only saturated fat? Eating a wide range of healthy fats from a variety of natural sources provides our bodies with all the essential fatty acids we can’t make, as well as provides us with foods that can reduce inflammation.

I recommend that people look mainly to plant-based fats such as those found in avocado, olive, avocado oil and coconut oil (which is largely made up of medium chain triglycerides that is processed through the lymphatic system rather than the liver), nuts and seeds as well as omega 3 fats found in fatty fish for the bulk of their fat sources, beyond the saturated fat that is found in their protein sources.

Nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, pistachios etc. contain carbs – ranging from ~1.5—4 grams net carbs per ounce (30g). Cashews which are actually fruit not nuts, are the highest in carbs, ~ 7 net grams per ounce (30g) but more importantly, since nuts are high in omega-6 fats (which are pro-inflammatory and compete for binding-sites with the omega-3 fats from fish) I recommend that these be eaten in portioned quantities – such as added on top of a salad or a handful with a meal.

Chia and flax seed are approximately 1—2 grams net carbs per 2 Tbsp (50 ml) and are excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

All fats on the meal plan are healthy – which is why I call this approach “low carb high healthy fat”, but for a small percentage of people for whom high LDL cholesterol continues to be a concern, eating less saturated fat may be beneficial. Each person’s needs and familial risks are different, so no one low carb high healthy fat Meal Plan is the same.


Carbs are a healthy part of the low carb high healthy fat diet, but excess carb is minimized.

There are naturally-occurring carbs in non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruit (such as lemon, lime, eggplant, cucumber and tomatoes) and berries, as well as those found in nuts and seeds – and these are not restricted.

When starting a Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet

Although not everyone does, some people experience some of the following symptoms, which usually subside within a couple of weeks. For each, I have offered some suggestions to minimize them:

  • headaches: often a result of eating too little salt. As insulin levels fall, so sodium is excreted by the kidney in urine. The drop in sodium results in the headache.  Taking 1-3 gms of salt per day (I prefer sea salt) will alleviate this. If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.  “Bone broth” is another way to restore electrolytes that are lost as insulin levels fall. Be sure you’re drinking plenty of water and also consuming enough salt/sodium.
  • sleep disruption: often a result of needing to urinate more, but sometimes experienced when people of switching from being in “carb-burning mode” to being in “fat burning mode”. Some people find taking some magnesium (with calcium) before bed helpful.
  • digestive changes: some people find they get slightly looser stools or get slightly more constipated when starting.  I can help troubleshoot this with you to get things back on track.
  • aches and pains: some people feel a little achy and almost flu-like for a few days when they are switching fuel sources.  Some people call this the “keto-flu”.  Making sure to have a balanced amount of sodium/potassium and calcium/magnesium as well as taking extra omega 3 fatty acids is helpful.

My role as a Dietitian

As a Dietitian, I make sure that you understand the effect that following a low carb high healthy fat diet can have on your body.  If you are taking medication for high blood pressure  (hypertension) or to lower blood sugar, I’ll ask you check with your doctor before starting, as blood sugar and blood pressure medications may need to be adjusted lower, as insulin levels fall.

If you aren’t taking any medication, I’ll help you transition into understanding that fat in and by itself is not ‘bad’ and that eating good quality healthy fats, nutrient-dense carbohydrate-containing foods and high quality animal protein is part of a healthy diet that will enable you to feel better, lose weight and lower insulin resistance.

I’ll design your Meal Plan so that it is adequate in macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals – especially Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, B-Vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Vitamin C) and sufficient in soluble and insoluble fiber  – suitable for your age, gender and activity level, and that factor in any diagnosed medical conditions you may have.

I’ll make sure that you are eating sufficient food in each of the food categories to meet your dietary needs, while adjusting for weight loss, if that is also a goal – so that you can just focus on eating healthy, ‘real food’.

Have questions ?

Feel free to send me a note using the form on the Contact Us tab, above.

To your health!


Client Brochure on the Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet – inside

Note: Everyone’s results following a LCHF lifestyle will differ as there is no one-size-fits-all approach and everybody’s nutritional needs and health status is different. If you want to adopt this kind of lifestyle, please discuss it with your doctor, first.

Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the ”content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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