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How to find Healthy Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet, yet it’s important to know that not all of them are created equal. Here’s everything you need to know about carbohydrates and making smart choices when it comes to incorporating them into your diet.

A.  LOOK FOR THESE FOODS:

The first step is to know what kind of foods contain primarily carbohydrates (simple/sugar, complex/starch, or fiber.)

1. Fruit

2. Starchy Vegetables- peas, green plantains, root vegetables (like potatoes)

3. Beans/lentils/legumes

4. Grains (rice, corn, bread, pasta, etc) 

5. Yogurt and milk

6. Non-starchy vegetables (a few examples: asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, peppers, spinach, summer squash, zucchini) do contain low amounts of carbohydrate and a steady supply of fiber.  However, they don’t contain starch or very much simple sugar, so we are keeping them separate.  Just know, non-starchy vegetables also supply carbohydrates and should make up at least half of your meal most of the time.

B.  EAT THEM IN THE LEAST PROCESSED STATE POSSIBLE FOR THE HIGHEST FIBER STATE POSSIBLE.

1. Whole fruit instead of juice.

2. Starchy veggies from fresh or frozen cooked at home, not from a box. Like potatoes made at home instead of instant.

3. Beans/lentils/legumes buying them as dry beans (soaked, sprouted, or not) and canned beans are great options.

4. Dairy – yogurt and milk, no added sugar.

5. Whole grains as close to their natural form as possible —> here’s a suggested list:

·        Amaranth

·        Barley

·        Buckwheat

·        Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn

·        Millet

·        *Oats, including oatmeal

·        Quinoa

·        Brown Rice

·        Rye

·        Sorghum 

·        Teff

·        Triticale

·        *Wheat, including varieties such as speltemmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut®, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheatberries

·        Wild rice

·        *With wheat flours it’s important to look for the word 100% or whole.  Otherwise, if it says “wheat flour” it’s likely been stripped of its nutrient-dense outer layer (where the protein and fiber layer is.)  

·        *Steel cut oats are the least processed, then rolled oats, then instant oats.  

C.  AIM FOR THE HIGHEST FIBER CONTENT.

When you are looking to buy a starch that is more of a treat or requires processing like chips, bread, and pasta it gets a bit trickier.  For example, there are tons of options for chips including wheat, corn, quinoa, lentils, peas, plantains, potatoes, and sweet potato (to name a few).  First, make sure you can read all the ingredients in it. One of the best ways to make the healthiest choice is to choose the product with the highest protein/fiber content per serving (of course, make sure serving sizes are comparable.)  

D. CHALLENGE YOURSELF THIS WEEK.

1.    Try a new healthy carbohydrate –> I think I’m going to get to try amaranth!

2.   Upgrade your carbohydrates—> if you normally do white rice, try brown rice!

By: Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN


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