Waist watching? Don’t forego your carbs at dinner

In my last post, How to put a stop to your nighttime nibbling, I presented research showing that having a higher protein breakfast can be the route to  stopping mindless munching at night. Including an adequate amount of protein at lunch, though,  is also key to maintaining high energy levels and decreasing cravings and overeating in the late afternoon through to late night.

ee-pasta-RosieBut then what about dinner? You might be surprised to know that eating more carbs at dinner can offer a host of health perks, including easier waist management.

First of all, if you’re loading up on protein of the animal variety such as meat all day long, there can be some negative effects on your health. For one, eating too much red meat increases the risk for developing colon cancer.

Consuming excess protein, especially in the way of animal  options,  is also linked, because of calcium losses, to the bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis.  And for those at risk for kidney stones, this calcium loss can up the likelihood of developing kidney stones. Anyone who has had kidney stones can tell you it’s not a pretty thing. In fact, it’s incredibly painful.

A recent study shows that instead of a protein-based dinner,  more carbohydrate- filled choices in obese subjects led to greater weight loss and less hunger than when subjects consumed fewer carbs at dinner.  There were other health benefits as well.

Yet for some reason, I have heard many people spout dietary advice to skip the carbs at dinner.   It doesn’t appear, though,  to be the best guidance for good health and enjoyable eating.

The research, conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, involved 78 police  officers  whose body mass index was greater than  30 – a figure that would classify them as being obese.  They were randomly allocated to the experimental (carbohydrates at dinner) or control weight loss diets for six months.  Both groups consumed the same number of calories in addition to the identical proportion of protein, carbohydrates and fat.

Periodically through the study, blood samples and hunger scores were collected by the investigators. Not only were hunger hormones reduced in the late day carb-eating group, so were measures of inflammatory compounds. Research is showing that inflammation in the body may be the root to a number of different ailments including heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.

The carbs-at dinner group also lost more weight, had greater reductions in both their waist circumferences and body fat.

Now when you really think about it, if both groups were eating the identical amount of protein, fat and carbs, then the carbs-at-dinner subjects were consuming more protein during the day – as was seen in the high protein breakfast study.

So it’s the age old question: what comes first, the chicken or the egg?


Do you eat carbs at dinner or do you forgo them in favour of a high protein dinner? Which eating style do you enjoy? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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