Carbohydrates (often referred to simply as “carbs”) get a lot of attention these days. Depending on who is delivering the message, carbs might be recommended as the star of the plate OR they might be banished altogether. What to do?!
The (now obsolete) food guide pyramid from 1992 was based on eating a LOT of grain items. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, this dietary advice was simply “WRONG”. We now understand the importance of eating the right AMOUNT and TYPE of carbohydrate based on our individual tolerances. There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to carbs.
Many pre-packaged items claiming to be “whole grain” are really just heavily processed treats that are masquerading as a healthy product. For example a popular cinnamon flavored cereal boasts “whole grain wheat” as the first ingredient, yet it offers little in the way of fiber and it packs a hefty amount of sugar. A glance at the colorful package of a favorite spicy snack chip shows it to be “100% whole grain”, but this heavily processed salty item could hardly be called a health food!
Try to choose foods with high quality carbohydrate (such as beans, whole oats and berries... things which require a bit of preparation) instead of convenience items such as sugary cereals, flavored noodles, chips, and gummy “fruits”.
Which foods contain carbohydrate and what are some of the better choices?
Grain items: Look for breads with whole kernels of visible grain and at least 3 grams of fiber per slice. Opt for whole grain brown rice and pasta instead of the white, refined versions. Try experimenting with “ancient grains” such as quinoa and barley. High quality grain based items digest slowly and do not cause large spikes in blood sugar.
Beans and legumes: Black beans, lentils, pinto beans, black eyed peas, cannellini beans, etc. are delicious and satisfying. The protein and fiber helps them to digest slowly.
Fruit: Seasonal whole fruit is ideal to serve as a dessert. If hungry, fruit may also be used as a snack. It is best to combine the fruit with protein and fat when eaten between meals (for example a pear with cottage cheese OR a serving of blueberries with peanuts).
Starchy vegetables: Peas, butternut and acorn squash, sweet potatoes and corn are examples of starchy veggies that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
Milk/ yogurt: Choose plain (unflavored) milk. Greek yogurt is also a good choice!