Flat Tummy Tip – Reducing Carbs

how to get a flat tummy

Over the last week I have been really trying to regain the flat tummy of the Educogym days (which I am returning to, by the way, just as soon as I finish off my five gazillion bits of writing for various people!) and so I have been cutting out a lot of my usual carbs. Mr AMR would laugh a lot about that, as he has watched me chomp through toast, weetabix and porridge (not all at once) in the mornings, but for the rest of the day I have been really trying not to lazily reach for the bread or pasta to quick-fix my meals. I’m upping my lean proteins and eating lots of fish (ugh) shellfish (yum) and chicken and serving them alongside some of the substitution ideas below!

Some good substitutions for bread, pasta, potatoes and rice:

1) Salad. Don’t groan! I’m talking beautifully-dressed, in-season, fresh salad. Gorgeous juicy tomatoes, colourful peppers and peppery rocket leaves. If you want ideas on how to make amazing salads (and they will fill you up, believe me!) then buy a few good cookbooks – I like Thomasina Miers’ Mexican book and anything by Jamie Oliver. Simple ingredients, quick methods, just what you need. Serve with grilled fish or chicken.

2) Puy Lentils. My most amazing food trick of this year! I love big, saucy meals like homemade curries and pasta dishes, but obviously if I’m trying to cut down on carbs then these will just not do! So this is what I have started doing: I chuck in a tin of puy lentils at the end of the cooking time to make the dish into a type of one-pot stew! It’s amazing! You can get puy lentils from most supermarkets – they are about £1.50 for a tin of them at Waitrose and Sainsburys from a company called ‘Merchant Gourmet.’ So far I have had them in a chicken curry, a French fish stew and most recently, I have jazzed the lentils up with lemon and garlic and herbs and then served pan-fried scallops and asparagus on top of them! (Dying of hunger now, absolutely dying.) Lentils have a carbohydrate content, so they’re not ‘carb-free’ but if you’re looking to cut out wheat and add protein then these are a brilliant way of doing so.

3) Low-fat, natural greek yoghurt. (Total 0% to be precise.) I have been swapping ‘cereal and milk’ for a huge dollop of yoghurt with berries. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries. I don’t usually advocate ‘reduced fat’ foods, as they are often pumped full of sugar and salt to compensate for lack of flavour, but in this case (as I am eating a shed-load of yoghurt more than usual!) I think that it’s necessary. Anyway, Total doesn’t have any nasties added, so it’s fine.

4) Cauliflower. (I haven’t gone mad, here.) If you simmer cauliflower florets in a bit of milk, and once they’re soft blend them up with a load of salt and pepper, they make rather a nice substitution for mashed potato! I have this with seared scallops on top and a bit of pan-fried parma ham. (Again, cauliflower has a carb content, but i’s not quite as starchy as potato, so I think it’s a good alternative. Especially with Sunday roast!)

My tummy is so flat at the moment – and I’m sure that it’s just from these little changes! I’m not advocating these substitutions for every meal – (I’m having the odd pasta dish or bit of bread when I really need to) – but as ideas to fall back on when you want to avoid too many carbs then I think you might find them useful.

(Q: What’s the problem with carbs?

A: No problem whatsoever if you eat them in sensible proportions, but some people eat toast for breakfast, a huge sarnie for lunch and then curry with rice and naan for dinner! Carbs are great for a quick-fix of energy (the body burns them easily and so chooses them first over fats and proteins) but they aren’t, believe it or not, essential nutrients for the human body. Fats and proteins are. I’m not going to go into depth here, because it would go on for pages, but there’s nothing wrong with eating carbs  – they can provide essential dietary fibre for a start! – we just need to eat them sensibly. They make our bloody sugar go haywire (because they are, or quickly get converted into, sugars) and they can leave us feeling hungry very, very quickly. So, just be a little bit ‘carb aware’ – things like white bread especially should be eaten infrequently. There’s no real nutritional benefit and although it’s a ‘fat free’ food, you have to get your head around the fact that IT WILL MAKE YOU FAT if you eat loads of it and little else! Don’t make processed, ‘easy’ carbs your staple – a plate full of rice is just a filler, try swapping it for a plate full of beautifully crunchy stir-fried vegetables instead! Mmmm. Also – and this is important – if you reduce your carbs, make sure that you’re getting enough protein. We want to build muscle people! Not waste away – healthy, toned bods, that’s the aim!)

64 comments

  1. Don’t buy Tinned Lentils, any tinned items will have toxins seeping into the food. Buy natural, fresh items ALWAYS!

    • Totally agree! If you buy dry puy lentils they are also a fraction of the price, and you can buy in bulk :) Great website though, loving the carb-alternatives!

  2. Wow!
    This is really helpful! I love that you gave carb alternatives instead of just sharing the carbs we need to eat less of. Thank You!

    I just found your YouTube channel and I would be perusing your videos right now but my net connection is currently moving at a snail’s pace. So instead I read your blog. And I am having a great time!

  3. For those who feel dizzy when cutting carbs, I feel the same way. After three days it gets better! Your brain is used to the lower levels and regulates your sugar levels better!

  4. puy lentils are fab. if you put 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 4 chopped spring onions, 1/2 red chilli in frying pan, with fry light. then add 250g of cooked puy lentils warm through with splash of red wine vinegar. put on top of bag of salad, and then threw in any thing you fancy, crumble feta cheese, coriander, squeeze lemon. I love a oven cooked salmon. or cooked chicken perhaps cooked on griddle with patak tikka paste spread on top before cooking. this will feed 4. Cut up avocado is also yummy.

  5. Hey Ruth! These are amazing “diet hacks”. Especially the cauliflower and lentil ones – will definitely try those. Do you think I can write about these hacks on my site and reference you when I post it? :)

  6. hey,
    I just turned vegetarian and i am trying to get rid of my stomach and so i tried cutting all my carbs. but the thing is after i cut it i feel soooo hungry and dizzi at times and really weak! which make it difficult…As an asian I’ve been eating rice all my life for lunch and for dinner we have something different not rice again!… I am not sure y i feel like this..do you ever feel like this? what would you advice? x

    • Hey Pipa, you don’t need to cut out altogether – just the unnecessary carbs. Especially sugary things! x

      • I have been vegetarian for 9 years now and it’s quite simple. Don’t completely cut out carbs, just eat healthy carbs.

        Eat quinoa instead of rice. It is full of all the amnio acids you need as well as it is a complete protein. Just dress it with a bit of olive oil lemon and pepper.

        I just quit eating so much sugar. You get enough sugar with natural sugars from fruit. Water is also a good filler. Sometimes, when we are bored we tend to think we are hungry. Try drinking water first. I have learned that I am not as hungry as I think I am. When I am I eat almonds in between meals. They are excellent with protein. You can also eat some all natural peanut or almond butter. They will fill you up.

    • Pipa, I went vegetarian for 6 months and had the same problem. What you need to make sure of is that you are eating plenty of beans and eggs, (and maybe light cheese sticks for a snack). Make sure you eat protein with at least a couple of your meals. I think depending on our blood type, some people have an easier time eating vegetarian then others.

    • I’ve been vegan since 2005; vegetarian for most of my life. Be careful of consuming too many nuts on a plant based diet. It’s loaded in calories and fat. Some experts argue that carbs from whole foods are what our brain/body needs (see Dr. Douglas Graham and the 80/10/10 diet) while others say we need good quality fats and plenty of protein. FYI: plants have more protein that meat (especially greens like kale) and also loaded with calcium and iron. We’re not taught this in school so it’s a good idea for everyone do some food science research. As far as rice- I’m Asian too- I enjoy brown rice on occasion. Good luck!

  7. Interesting post everyone …

    I think the low GI way of eating seems like a pretty healthy way to go and a good balance. Carbs (good ones) are essential for energy but make sure they are in the form of wholegrains/veg/ pulses and fruit, its the empty white stodgy ones (white bread, white rice, white pasta, white flour) that do the damage and contribute to diabetes and obesity. Plus too much refined sugar obviously…
    I don’t have a weight issue, but do suffer from a thyroid imbalance, get easily stressed and tend to have low blood sugar, and a nutritionist told me that I should eat protein with my carbs, (noted I am a bit of a protein junkie already) not on their own, and to avoid refined sugars – so I just get my sweet fix from fruits and sometimes use xylitol in baking. Another tip a friend gave me was to have a no carbs after 6pm rule, which is quite a good way to change your routine, and more gentle than cutting them out completely. So see how that works, and if you get hungry before bed try having some natural yogurt, cottage cheese or a few walnuts or almonds?

    By the way Ruth I love your cauliflower mash, it’s fab and really filling!
    Leila – another great tip re the avocado and tuna mix, I am not a fan of mayo so this is a revelation!

    x

  8. Doh!! Sorry Ruth, that last comment regarding carbs and proteins was from me but I submitted before adding my name. Oops x

  9. Interesting post Ruth, I completely agree that it’s empty sugary snacks and stodgy white carbs (including potatoes) that do the damage and are the major contributor to obesity and diabetes. Protein is so important!!! BUT I think diets like Atkins, for example are not healthy either..who wants to end up with mega constipation and bad breath, no matter how skinny you are!! I think the low GI diet seems a pretty sensible way to eat and it’s about striking a good balance…there are plenty good carbs out there just make sure they are from a veggie/fruit source or a wholegrain product. I have issues with my thyroid, blood sugar and stress and a nutritionist once told me to always eat some protein with carbohydrate, never carbs on their own, and to avoid refined sugar – so I just enjoy naturally sweet things like fruit, in moderation and I always stick to this advice. Almond butter has become a godsend! I also try to avoid carbs and grains at dinnertime (the no carbs after 6pm rule) but not cutting them out altogether.

    Ruth, I’m hooked on the cauliflower mash, very filling and totallly moreish!

    Leila – Genius tip re the fishy avocado pate/dip! Just made some with tinned salmon instead of tuna, with a squeeze of lemon, black pepper and chilli, awesome!

  10. If you combine not eating carbs with sport you bonk. Yup, zero conditional, since it’s GENERAL TRUTH. Not that 15-minute sessions of exercize count as sport, but an active lifestyle of a model, imho, does. When you hit the wall just head to the fruitstand near you and make friends with it.

    • @Lana the operative word, I think, is “Reducing” – as in, I’m “reducing” carbs. Nowhere do I say that I’m not eating them at all! x

  11. This post was amazing to read. Thanks for all your tips. I’m starting with lchf tomorrow!

  12. Hi, I love your blog and often take on your advice but I do disagree with this one ;) I think the best way to get a slim body and flat stomach is to decrease your animal (fat) intake – both meat and dairy. Those are the real devils in our diet if you ask me (besides processed anything obviously, and sugars). I do eat my carbs but always in its whole form never refined (like no white pasta or bread, those will make you fatter for sure). I combine it with a lot of veggies and the occasional chicken or meat, but only 1-2 a week. I also eat a lot of fruit and eating this way has made me really slim. I believe my body needs carbs so it can digest my food fast and in a healthy way, if I would eat a lot of animal products and less carbs maybe I’d lose some pounds but in the end it will all come back, together with all the weird allergies, upset stomachs, bloating and colds I used to get when I ate very little to no carbs and lots of “lean” meats! Cutting down animal food is really the way to go.. but anyway that’s just my opinion. I do feel like a lot of people would benefit from eating less dairy and meat, so many people are lactose intolerant or have digestive issues with meat and don’t even know it. I do agree with your fruit tip I usually eat that in the morning on an empty stomach =) Anyway have a nice evening and I look forward to you new posts!

    • I agree with this. As a biological scientist I know that carbohydrates (which are just complicated sugars by the way) are not poisonous, whereas fats ARE, and are often consumed in conjunction with foods containing high salt, both of which can lead to horrible diseases such as cardiovascular disease, are bad for the skin, accelerate old age… I won’t go on. Cutting out carbs is all fine, but in the long term, learning to avoid fatty and salty foods can have the biggest impact on your health. As well as EXERCISE! why has no one said anything about going to the gym here??!! Overall there are plenty of exciting and deliciously healthy foods out there that we can eat instead of the stodgy cheap ones (be daring), but in my opinion, loosing the fat is the best way to flatten your stomach. Non fatty, low salt, vitamin rich foods (try edamame for a snack!) combined with exercise and water- that’s the flat tummy winner!

  13. That’s a good point – I eat five or six portions of fruit and veg a day (embarrassingly, my husband and I are a bit competitive about this!) but most of it is fruit and salad which I guess causes bloating more than veg. Hmm.

    • @Kate yes, better off tipping it towards more veg I think! Also, I try to eat fruit away from my main meal so that it doesn’t sit on top of everything else waiting to be digested! x

  14. Some fab tips in these comments, would never have thought to substitute courgette for pasta. Agree that cutting the carbs definitely helps the bloat. Love anything involving avocado, so will be trying the tuna recipe too.

  15. The boxes are also Merchant Gourmet – that’s what we get. x

  16. Hi Ruth, and that about fruits? How many of whem we can eat per day? Are you have favorite fruits?

    • @Olga I try and have some fruit before I eat my proper breakfast (berries and kiwi usually!) and sometimes I will snack on an apple! Bananas are pretty handy to have about to stop you from eating bad things when you’re starving! I don’t really ever eat more than one piece in a day though – but I eat LOADS of veg! x

  17. Cutting carbs IS the most sensible way! Totally. Traditionally starchy or carb-filled foods have been accessible, and for most part, cheap. So they are staple and are served with everything! It can be super hard to avoid, because it is everywhere! These are awesome suggestions, thank you!

  18. The Merchant Gourmet puy lentils are great as they’re ready made however you can also buy boxes of puy lentils (got mine in Sainsburys) that you make yourself and the box last forever! Lovely in a quick curry with aubergine, peppers, mushrooms, tinned tomatoes and some balti paste!

    • @Allanah I need to get me some! The tins are expensive really for what they are, but I do like a bit of convenience! xx

  19. I had the most amazing puy lentil salad last weekend, it blew my mind. It was a simple salad with spinach or chard, soft goats cheese, garlic and toasted walnuts. OMG – the walnuts they haunt me. I loved it so much, I honestly did a Wayne’s World “We’re not worthy” bowing to the lady who made it. So simple, but the nuts… *drools*

  20. Before I fall asleep … just to say that I also do the cauliflower thing. Also ribbons of courgette work really well as a pasta substitute. I just make ribbons with a vegetable peeler and then steam or flash-dry-fry the strips (just enough so that they aren’t soggy). It’s a really good alternative especially with white pasta sauces and shellfish.

  21. Haha, tell me about it – it’s too late for food now but I have decided on having a tagine tomorrow evening now so I can satisfy the craving I have given myself.

    I’m starting a course of iLipo on Saturday so going to be mainly ‘back on the wagon’ where food is concerned to try to get the best results but as a veggie (and huge carb lover), low carbs can be VERY difficult – eeek. xx

  22. Like Liz, serious illness knocked my normal eating/exercise regime for six a year and a half ago, and it’s thanks to you, Ruth, that I’m back on track at last xxx

  23. i cut down on carbs or eat a very little amount of it and my stomach still seems to be gettin bigger but i havent been over eating or having junk food. do you know why that happens?

  24. Not all rice is bad. Brown rice is actually really, really good for you, full of minerals, vitamins, fiber and protein. It also releases its energy slowly and doesn’t disturb the blood sugar level. I find that some people struggle with the taste though, but if you cook it long enough it becomes soft and is as good as white rice.

  25. Oh and I think another important thing is to make sure that when you do eat things like bread, pasta and rice that it’s wholemeal.

    Maybe swap sweet potato for normal potato too!

  26. Oh and I think another important thing is to make sure that when you do eat things like bread, pasta and rice that it’s wholemeal and not white.

    Maybe swap sweet potato for normal potato too!

  27. Another cauliflower tip is to have it as a couscous alternative, blitz it in a food processor, raw with nothing in until it actually looks like cous cous… then steam it like you would couscous too.

    Great with a vegetable tagine (moroccan stew thing) or a veg curry (or chicken etc, of course)! x

  28. I’m from the Philippines and here, no meal is complete without some rice! :D Maybe I should start cutting down on my rice, then. :D

  29. This is the only I shall say… But potatoes are gooooood!

  30. Fab tip about the lentils. I’ve never tried the Puy ones in a can but will definitely give them a go with a bit of tuna fish. Avocados are also a good filler.

  31. Carbs make me feel so bloated and drowsy, it’s obvious I function better with protein. I love Total 0%, it’s the nicest non-fat yoghurt I’ve ever found. One of my favourite things is to mix an egg with an extra egg white, add a lot of pepper and chopped parsley and put them into fairy-cake tins and bake for 20mins at gas mark 5. They’re all puffy and delicious, and great with a big salad.

  32. Well done Liz! 5kg is fantastic – it took me five months to lose 7!

    And thanks for the kick up the wotsit, Ruth. I’ve been saying for ages I’m going to cut down on carbs.

  33. I’ve always been guilty of not having a healthy diet but I am gonna make my diet stronger and have alot more vitamins and minerals. Never been a great fan of salad but like you say theres always away to mak it sound like a treat. i will give this a try even though i aint one for vegetables. Thx for the tip
    Eden

  34. I can actually vouch for this. I’ve always eaten healthy and low-fat – I love cooking with fresh ingredients and have always stayed away from sugary drinks, processed food and deserts. Yet due to my genetics I have a tendency of gaining weight easily, and a hard time losing it. Beginning of the year I was very sick and gained about 10 kg I could do without while in hospital. I’m still not really well enough to do even half-way serious exercise, and had a really hard time even keeping my weight. A month ago or so I got fed up with things and decided to cut down on carbs – not completely cut them out, I don’t believe in radical diets, but I only have a small serving of bred or noodles once a day or once every two days.
    For the first 5 days I felt hungry all the time, but my body (or my mind, depending on who was making me feel hungry!) got used to it.

    I’ve been losing weight ever since I started! No insane amounts, obviously, as I still can’t exercise really, but roughly 5 kg in the last month. I don’t feel hungry at all anymore, on the contrary, carbs fill me up much more then before, and even eating 2/3 of what I’d usually have for a meal fill me up to the point that I feel uncomfortably full for an hour or two.

    One thing that I found helps, not really substituting but limiting the % of a meal my carbs make up, is to have them in a soup. It’s been absolutely un-summery around here so I’ve been having veggie-barley soups or more-seafood-then-udon-udon! mmmm~

  35. I accidentally have majorly cut down on carbs lately – specially bread – and I definitely see a different. I eat a lot of pasta though so I am cutting down to once a week with meat and veg (simple meals) the rest of the week! I need to up my veg portions seriously!

  36. I nearly dropped my spoon as I was reading this while having my morning bowl of shredded wheat. I love the lentil substitution suggestion. Have you ever tried Bikram yoga? I just started, but I swear I can already see the difference. It seems like it would be exactly the type of exercise to give you that supermodel body — long lean muscle, and since you sweat a massive amount of toxins and water, you end up with glowing, toned skin. It’s really intense, but you feel like a goddess afterwards.

    Thanks for the tips. I love Jamie Oliver too.

  37. Tip for eating porridge if you can’t live without it: soak it in water (the same amount as you would cook it in) overnight, then top up with a bit more before you cook it. This breaks down some of the bloating factor in the porridge and makes it easier for your body to digest. Add butter (just a little! And the real stuff, none of that fake butter substitute lark) and the good fats in the butter actually help your body absorb the nutrients properly:-)

  38. It’s nice to hear that you don’t really need to eat carbs to be healthy; the amounts recommended always seem so much! That being said, I know they should never be cut to 0%, ever, but I need to do some more research on this.

    I wanted to share a simple recipe that seems to be suitable for the educogym diet. Tuna with mashed avocados (which replaces mayonnaise). It’s something I came up with this year when starting to use avocados in my cooking, since I don’t really like using mayonnaise.

    Put the tuna in a bowl, slices of ripe avocado and mash it all together with a fork. Add salt, pepper or whatever seasonings you want. I also add lime juice sometimes. Or turn it into a salad by adding cucumbers and lettuce. Whatever you want really. Makes a good sandwich filler too (when you’re not on a diet).

    This is my lazy go-to meal (or rather, snack) when I haven’t eaten dinner and it’s too late for a full meal. Something else I tried recently, adding fresh basil to scrambled eggs makes it so good!

    Sorry this was so long! Anyway, I like your sensible approach to these health articles. Keep up the good work!

  39. Thanks Ruth, this is really helpful! I definitely eat too many carbs, but am never sure what to replace them with, except a (boring) salad, which is never as appealing as pasta. If you have any more tips like this it would be great to keep getting them every now and again!

  40. Thanks for the tips! I really need em in time for formal!!

  41. Great post! Couldn’t have come at a more perfect need-to-sort-my-life-out-and-stop-eating-so-many-carbs-time. One of my favourite recipes when I’m trying to be good is a salmon and coriander dahl. Yay for lentils! x

  42. Great advice Ruth, and very inspirational. I find that if I don’t eat carbs past 6pm I wake up the next morning flat(ish). I need my toast in the morning though :)

  43. I do agree with the fact that carbs need to be consumed in a sensible way, and I have noticed too that eating less of them made my tummy much more flat!

    However, it’s not true to say that the body don’t need them. And, for instance, the only “carburant” your brain can use is SUGAR. Plain sugar. Not kilos of them of course, but you NEED some, and you need some carbs.
    Of course, eat too much of them and you’ll get fat. But that’s true with any food :)

    • @Musing on Beauty actually, that you can live without carbs is accurate – they aren’t an essential ‘building block’ at all, as fats and proteins can be converted into sugars via gluconeogenesis, just in a slower way. You could probably get all you need from the less starchy carbs – fresh veg for example, without ever having to touch bread and potatoes. Some people live like that all the time – although personally I think that it would be a little extreme! And yes, your brain would be on total go-slow. x

  44. Interesting post, enjoyed reading it. The tips are great, so thanks for sharing. I’m on a mission to tone up before a holiday in September – not long left now!x