Carbohydrates have received a bad rap over the last few decades. In my personal food experience, I was a staunch “CARBS ARE BAD” and limited myself to a mostly high protein, low carb diet. Potatoes were on the same list as ice cream in my books. Rice was a sugar trap. Pasta would bump me up a pant size in one meal. But in the end, I was always wolverine hungry and craved sugar even more… so what was going on?
I think we have to go back to high school biology for this one…. Hang with me. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. I know you just saw the word sugar and decided, “ah-ha! I knew carbs were bad! They are just sugar!” but that is far from the truth. Carbohydrates provide the body with sugar, which breaks down into glucose, which is converted to energy to support bodily functions and physical activity1. So, in lay man’s terms… carbohydrates give you energy! Without eating carbs, you might be more inclined to binge on unhealthy foods later in the day. Now let’s talk about quality carbohydrates….
There are quality carbohydrates that will give our bodies sugar AND nutrients, leaving our brains and bodies satisfied and happy! Here are 5 starter carbohydrates to incorporate into your diet:
3. Whole Grains (Quinoa, Brown Rice, Whole Wheat Bran, Wild Rice, Oats, Barley, Amaranth, Buckwheat)
5. Sweet Potatoes
There are some not-so-quality carbohydrates that you are probably more familiar with that should be kept in the “treat” category. These are your white bread, white rice, white pasta, processed sugary desserts, sodas, sugary coffee drinks, pastries, etc. These foods are why carbohydrates get such a bad rap; they are filled with sugar and minimal nutrients… leaving your brain and body asking for more, more, more!
I believe it is CRUCIAL to understand the difference between empty carbs (carbs with sugar and little nutrients) and quality carbs (carbs with sugar and lots of nutrients). When we make the switch, our bodies and brains will feel full, satisfied, and less inclined to have a sugar must-eat-entire-gallon-of-ice-cream attack.
Here are 7 traditional empty carb recipes that can easily be replaced with quality carbs!
1. Spaghetti & Meatballs: replace white pasta with a bean or veggie-based pasta (chickpea, lentil, cauliflower) I love brands like Banza & Tolerant. Here’s a Shrimp Pasta Pesto recipe you might enjoy!
2. Asian dish with White or Jasmine Rice: replace white rice with brown rice and add extra veggies. You might enjoy this Coconut Thai Veggie Bowl recipe!
3. White Toast with Peanut Butter: replace white bread with whole wheat and whole grain bread like Dave’s Killer Bread and add more nutritious toppings (fruits, flaxseed). Here’s a loaded toast recipe that will give you great options.
4. Sugary Cereals: replace with oatmeal and load it with fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats! This loaded oatmeal recipe is killer!
5. Lunch Salad with Ranch Dressing: keep all the veggies and salad, but ditch the dressing and add quinoa, nuts, fruits, and your favorite herbs! Try this Quinoa Kale Salad with Orange, Pistachios, & Cranberries!
6. White Rice Risotto: replace the white rice with brown rice and lentils and add onions, spinach, and half the dairy! Check out this Quinoa & Lentil Risotto recipe!
7. Sloppy Joes with White Bread Buns: replace buns with either a whole-grain bun (again, I love Dave’s Killer Buns) or eat sloppy joes over a sweet potato. You might enjoy this Homemade Sweet Potato Sloppy Joe recipe!
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Carbohydrates. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/
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