Healthibella Food Plate & Carb Confusion

Carbohydrates are the single most important food in your diet for long term health. Without carbs, you won’t last long. Carbohydrates found in their natural form actually contain many essential nutrients and these specialized chemicals called phytonutrients that keep you healthy and turn up your metabolism.
— Dr. Mark Hyman, Chairman of the Board for The Institute for Functional Medicine, Best-Selling Author, and Medical Lecturer at Integrative Nutrition


There is a lot of confusion about what makes a healthy balanced meal. And if you’re hoping to lose unwanted weight or battling a health condition such as insulin resistance or diabetes, balanced eating is even more critical.


First, let’s dispel one of the greatest misconceptions of dieting today: no or low carbs for weight loss. With the exception of diabetics who must strictly adhere to dietary restrictions of high glycemic carbohydrates until their diabetes is reversed*, there is no need for carb phobia! (*Dr. Hyman has cured thousands of diabetics.)


Ketosis is a metabolic state when the body, no longer able to rely on carbohydrates for fuel, uses body fats and protein for energy and can thus result in a fairly rapid weight loss for some. But, ketosis poses serious health concerns. Unfortunately, the accompanying weight loss is short lived because low carb diets are unsustainable and the end result is often long term weight gain and lifelong metabolic disturbances. This is one of the reasons why so many dieters are forced to continue yo-yo dieting for life. Fad diets (including unsafe quick liquid detoxes) can result in a messed up metabolism for life! So if you want to yo-yo diet for life, cut out carbs now. Or, read on for a better plan...


But with myriad diets and contradicting dietary advice, how do we know what to eat today? To make matters worse, nutrition science is often cherry picked research and because everyone is bioindividually unique, what works for some may not work so well for others. 


Practically the only thing experts in nutrition science do agree about is that five to nine servings per day of a variety of fresh brightly colored vegetables and fruits can reduce your risk of every known disease of affluence. These foods help control our glycemic load (the total effect that meal or food has on your blood sugar) and are full of healing phytonutrients ―nutrients unique to plant foods! Plant foods also have carbohydrates, which include natural sugars and fiber, and are one of our most essential macronutrients. We would perish without carbs!


So even if we can all agree that eating a diet rich in real fresh vegetables and fruits is the first step in healthful eating, there is still the question of daily proportions.

I love the Integrative Nutrition Food Plate because it offers a direct visual of what our ideal food plate should look like. (This meal will need to adjusted for anyone trying to reverse a severe medical condition such as heart disease or diabetes.)

Plus, I added Healthibella notes to my diagram to offer more details and my personal recommendations.

  • vegetables should be mostly low-glycemic foods, such as fiber rich leafy greens and crunchy cruciferousof which we can enjoy unlimited helpings! we should be eating twice as many vegetables as anything else on our plate
  • can also swap out whole grains for higher glycemic veggies, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, or winter squash
  • protein can be a plant protein, such as legumes and pulses, or organic eggs (egg yolks have the most important nutrients, so thankfully they’ve been exonerated as they do not affect cholesterol)
  • for meat and fish eaters: try to avoid grain fed animals and eat high quality grass fed meat or game
  • for fish, opt for low mercury and low toxin fish, such as wild salmon, sardines, and anchovies (in general, the smaller the fish, the lower on the food chain and less toxic laden)
  • protein portion sizes equal the size of our palm; it looks small, but remember, we are rethinking our plate with veggies as the main and protein as the side dish!

US Government Food Plate

Comparing the Integrative Nutrition Food Plate to the US government’s My Plate is interesting. The My Plate diagram that Michelle Obama unveiled in 2011 is a big improvement over the scientifically outdated, controversial, food industry backing pyramid of yesteryear, but it still needs improvement. This plate includes dairy, not life-saving water. EVERYONE needs water to survive while the majority of the global population is lactose intolerant. The Integrative Nutrition Food Plate includes water and necessary fats, but it also specifies whole grains (because refined grains are a huge dietary problem). I will go into the other food groups in a future post. Today, I'm mostly focusing on carbohydrates. (In a future post, I'll also talk about the lawsuit Dr. Neal Barnard brought against the US government's food pyramid. By the way, he won.)


We tend to think of carbs in terms of grains, but legumes, vegetables, and fruits also provide complex carbohydrates. Complex means it’s the whole fruit—not the fruit juice stripped of its fiber, pasteurized, then bottled for a long shelf life. It is the whole, unground grain and not the fluffy white or whole wheat bread in plastic bags, nor the "whole wheat" cakes lining supermarket shelves.


Processed refined grains and sugars are so prevalent in the standard western diet, but these simple carbohydrates convert to sugar very quickly and spike insulin levels, which over time can lead to insulin resistance (insulin is a fat storage hormone, so the more insulin you create, the more fat you store). Our body's cells slowly become resistant to the effects of insulin and need more and more to do the same job of keeping our blood sugar even. This sets off an avalanche of problems, the slowing of metabolism as well as the onset of the diseases of aging—including diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. 


And many vegetables not only provide carbs, but also protein and fat. I’ll use common broccoli as an example. According to Dr. Hyman, BROCCOLI is:

  • 68% carbohydrate
  • 23% protein*
  • 9% fat
  • with an amino acid score of 112 (anything over 100 indicates a complete or high quality protein)

1 cup of cooked broccoli provides:

  • Vitamin A: 50% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 170% of the DV
  • Calcium: 65 mg
  • Glycemic Load: 2

Because grains and carbohydrate foods in general can be confusing to most people, specifying whole unadulterated grains is important. I recommend my clients to consume their slow carbs from vegetables and gluten free whole grains, such as quinoa, brown and black rices, and millet—whether or not they are gluten sensitive or have Celiac disease—and to avoid wheat in any form as much as possible. Reserve white rice, spelt, kamut, oats, and all grain flour bread and pasta as 'fun' food or occasional splurges.


  • brown, red, and black rice
  • millet
  • quinoa
  • amaranth
  • buckwheat
  • corn
  • teff
  • oats (certified gluten free; oats have gluten by contamination)

* grain flours, including whole grain, turn to sugar more rapidly in the body; and Cheerios and Wheetabix are not “whole" grains, in spite of what the manufacturer wants you to believe!


While 1% of the world population has Celiac Disease, 8 - 10% are gluten sensitive and can even feel worse from gluten than someone with Celiac. (Although persons with Celiac must strictly monitor their exposure to even minuscule 1mg amounts of gluten—even the risk of non-gluten bread baked in a gluten containing bakery because flour is airborne and can contaminate.) Reducing or eliminating gluten has also been shown to ease symptoms of many inflammatory syndromes, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as well as other autoimmune diseases, not just Celiac.

LIFE BALANCE 80/20 or 90/10

Each client’s goal is different, but I try to help clients to work towards an 80/20 (and then eventually 90/10) balance of fresh high quality unprocessed foods that includes the right balance of slow carbs, protein, and fat. 20% is the indulgent foods: alcohol, gluten, dairy, caffeine, fun foods. (But, we still try to avoid “junk” food and soda as if they were the plague.)

Personally, I try to maintain a 90/10 balance: 90% plant based, gluten-dairy-sugar free foods + 10% low mercury fish, organic eggs, a bit of cheese, low gluten grains such as spelt, white rice, and fun foods that I enjoy, but don’t need daily to be happy (such as wheat durum pasta).


Eating fresh, whole foods sounds easy, but if we look at the thousands of manufactured pseudo-food products lining supermarket shelves (mostly made of today's genetically mutated modern wheat, trans fat, refined sugar, and additives), and open our eyes to the global obesity epidemic and alarming numbers of chronic diseases, it’s clear that something as fundamental as eating is really not that easy for the majority of us.

I hope you will follow me along my healthful eating journey, rid your diets of Frankenfoods, and learn to love and be nourished by gorgeous, real food—for life!

Cheers to your health and happiness!

xx, Juli