Ask the Nutritionist: “Why is it so difficult to stay away from carbs? What are some good carbs to help transition to better eating?”
Over the years, carbs have been given a bad reputation with certain diets suggesting eliminating them all together. However, not all carbs are as bad as they are perceived! First and foremost, our body needs carbohydrates- it’s our main source of energy. In addition, more complex carbohydrate sources like whole grains, beans and lentils, dairy items, fruits, and starchy vegetables like peas and potatoes, all contain essential nutrients that greatly benefit our body.
Its more often than not the carbs people crave the most are simple or refined carbs like cakes, cookies, pastries, chips, crackers, candy, sweetened beverages, pasta, white bread and so on. These simple carbs are low in fiber and digested quickly, which spikes blood sugar levels and leaves us feeling hungry and craving even more. On the other hand, complex carbs are high in fiber and digested slowly, helping us to feel fuller for longer. The slow digestion also prevents dramatic highs and lows in blood sugar resulting in stable energy levels throughout the day.
Now, that’s not to say you can never enjoy some of your favorite simple carbs from time to time. If you were to tell me I could never have white pasta again, I’d just about DIE. Here’s your new mantra: “everything in moderation”. Avoid putting a complete restriction on any food by labeling it ‘bad’, because – lets face it – that only makes you want it more. Instead, classify foods as being in either the ‘all the time’ category or the ‘sometimes’ category. Complex carbs are in the ‘all the time’ category whereas simple carbs are in the ‘sometimes’ category.
Be sure to include an energy packed complex carb at every meal and allow yourself to enjoy and savor a small serving of your favorite simple carbs treat on occasion. However, if you know having a certain food in the house is too tempting, simply avoid bringing it into the house altogether. Out of sight, out of mind.
Choose some of the following complex carbs to help keep you feeling fuller for longer and less likely to crave those simple carbs…
- Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, forbidden rice, kasha, millet, soba buckwheat noodles, oats, bulgur, whole wheat pasta
- Beans and lentils: black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, French lentils, and Dahl
- Whole fruits, high in fiber: plums, apples, pears, raspberries, blueberries, prunes, and figs
- A variety of vegetables: kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, split peas, Brussels sprouts, peppers
- Low fat dairy or dairy alternatives: protein rich Greek yogurt, sharp cheddar cheese, unsweetened almond soy or rice milk