I’ve long espoused a fairly low-carb lifestyle for optimal health, but “low-carb” means different things to different people.
For some, it means eating the fewest carbs possible, as in a strict carnivore diet or something more like carniflex, a meat-centric approach that strategically includes some plants.
For others, it means a keto or Atkins-style diet that restricts carb intake.
Some people don’t count carbs at all but still consider themselves “low-carb” because they eat mostly meat, eggs, and vegetables, and they limit things like grains, fruit, legumes, and added sugars. Sound familiar? That’s the classic Primal or paleo approach.
What all these low-carb folks have in common is that they need to decide what to eat day in and day out. Thinking about food all the time can become tedious, especially when you’re trying out a new way of eating and don’t know what’s “allowed.” It’s tempting to sort foods into discrete categories based on macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and quality (“good” versus “bad” foods) to reduce decision fatigue.
Grains are fixtures of modern life. Pastrami on rye, spaghetti dinners, corn on the cob, birthday cake, apple pie, endless breadsticks, pizza parties, taco nights.
Studies about “heart-healthy whole grains” in the news. “AHA Approved” icons affixed to any concoction in the grocery store that contains a few grams of wheat—never mind all the sugar and seed oils.
Grains are “staples,” bread is the “staff of life,” and most people can’t imagine a meal without some type of grain on the table.
Yes, grains are solidly etched into our modern Western psyche—just not so much into our physiology. For the vast majority of human evolution, we were hunter-gatherers eating meats, nuts, bitter wild greens, regional veggies, tubers and roots, and fruits and berries. We ate what nature provided. If we ate any grains at all, they were wild and scarce—never staples.
Well, does it?
We’re all going to be putting food in our bodies just about every day for the rest of our lives. Most of us will do it several times a day. We’ll chew it, send it down the esophagus into our stomach, and expose it to gastric juices and digestive enzymes. We’ll strip it of nutrients and send the excess down to the colon for dismissal, feeding resident gut bacteria along the way. The whole process should go smoothly. There shouldn’t be any pain or discomfort, bloating or constipation. Oh sure, nobody’s perfect, and there will be slow-downs or speed-ups from time to time, but in general a vital, fundamental process like digestion shouldn’t even register in our waking, conscious lives.
But sometimes it does.
I pride myself on making the Primal Blueprint an easy-to-follow lifestyle. If you were just starting out, I could give you a one-page handout with the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws, the PB Food Pyramid, and the PB Fitness Pyramid, and it would be pretty easy for you to get the gist of everything we’re trying to do here.
That said, once you get past the basics, sometimes things get a little murky. Like with honey.
See, as a general rule, I am against the consumption of refined sugars, especially sucrose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Check out my definitive post on the subject to understand why. But what about the preeminent unrefined natural sweetener, the rich amber nectar that’s been available to humans from the very start (albeit protected by barbed, flying suicide stingers)?
Mashed potatoes are almost expected as part of a holiday spread. In fact, I would argue that mashed potatoes appear on more holiday tables than a turkey or roast, because even vegans will serve them. But, if you’ve been living more ancestrally and you’ve been keeping your carbs low, you may be looking for a low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes.
Whether you’re trying to lower your carb intake or just switch things up, why not try a different vegetable mash this season? Not to worry, each of these options makes a great vehicle for gravy, and we’re all in it for the gravy anyway, aren’t we?
Carbs in Mashed Potatoes
One cup of mashed potatoes contains 36.9 g of carbohydrates. After you subtract the fiber, you’re left with 33.6 g net carbs in mashed potatoes.
If you’re limiting carbs, just one serving of traditional mashed potatoes doesn’t leave room for much else.
A little planning and motivation will help you start a low-carb, keto, or Primal lifestyle, and under normal circumstances, keeping your carbs on the low side is easy. But let’s not create the illusion that it is easy all the time. From time to time, you may get stressed and eat mindlessly. Or, your aunt drops off her blue-ribbon cake that you’ve loved since you were in preschool, and you give in, just this once. Or, you had a jam-packed day and all you can muster to make for dinner is that package of gluten-free noodles in the back of your pantry. The next thing you know, you’ve eaten enough carbs for a week, and you wonder how you’ll get back into ketosis after a carb binge.
The short answer is, yes you will recover from a carb binge. Yes, you will get back into ketosis. As far as how long it will take to get back into ketosis – that depends on numerous factors, that we’ll dive into here. The important thing to remember is, you did not obliterate your goals with one misstep. Especially after you’ve spent some amount of time in ketosis, your body will allow for fluctuations in carb consumption here and there. That’s called metabolic flexibility, which we’ll go into shortly.