How to Eat Well: Is Gwyneth Paltrow right to deny her kids carbs?

By Ian Marber, March 22, 2013
Follow The JC on Twitter

I see that Gwyneth Paltrow is about to publish her third book about food. This time it’s a recipe book and, needless to say, there’s a huge amount of publicity surrounding the launch.
It is reported that Ms Paltrow limits the amount of carbohydrates that her children eat, which may seem rather drastic, especially as she goes on to say that her family is often hungry.
She also claims that everyone in the family has multiple food intolerances suggesting, in my view, spurious testing methods as well as rather bad luck.

The reviews for the book have been cynical, with one US critic branding it, “the Bible of laughable Hollywood neuroticism”. Celebrity shines a light on everything the star does, magnifying what is already there and Ms Paltrow’s anxiety about food is no exception.

It’s this point that interests me, as our behaviour around food is inevitably something we pass on to our children. Mothers are always right (I know this is true because my own mother told me so) and so Ms Paltrow’s children will be affected by their mother’s beliefs about food and diet.

This truth applies to most of us, but has the actress got a point when it comes to limiting carbohydrates? Remember that carbs consumed on their own create glucose (the sugar the body uses as a primary source of fuel) more rapidly than when they are consumed with protein or fat. When glucose levels in the blood rise too sharply, the excess is stored away first as glycogen (short-term stores) and then as fat.

So a carb-heavy bowl of pasta might not seem quite as healthy as we once thought, but add in some protein — perhaps tuna or lean mince — and the combination of food groups leads to a slow and steady flow of glucose that doesn’t create an excess.

The result is consistent energy, reduced appetite and easier weight management rather than repeated feelings of cravings and fatigue.

Ms Paltrow’s control of her children’s diet has some merit if she limits rather than cuts out carbs altogether. But we can’t control childrens’ diets 100 per cent of the time, so educating them as to why we don’t want them to eat this or that is key, allowing them to make informed decisions rather than just because mother told them.

Ian Marber is one of the UK’s most highly regarded nutrition experts and the author of 11 books. www.ianmarber.com

Last updated: 3:29pm, March 22 2013