Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are not evil. While some individuals experience varying levels of sensitivities to carbohydrates, most people would benefit from better portion control and better carb choices. What constitutes a better carbohydrate choice? Complex carbohydrates that are slow to digest are a great source of healthy energy, especially compared to simple, fast-digesting carbs like refined sugar.
To make better carb choices, consider swapping out bread, white rice, and pasta with these six easy, smart carb swaps.
Quinoa– pronounced keen-wah– presents as a whole grain but is technically a seed originating from ancient Peru. Not only is quinoa a complex carbohydrate and fantastic source of energy, but it is also higher in protein than any other grain at 8 grams per cooked cup.
For comparison, one cup of cooked white rice has only four grams of protein. In combination with its other nutrients, like iron and potassium, the high levels of protein make quinoa a great gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan side dish.
Spaghetti squash is a staple for pasta lovers who are trying to cut back on their carbohydrate intake. This stringy, yellow delight contains only seven grams of carbs per cup, in comparison to the 31-grams of carbs found in regular spaghetti. That’s more than four times as much!
The easiest way to cook spaghetti squash is by cutting the squash in half lengthwise or into rings horizontally, then scraping out the stringy inside. For a more traditional pasta dish, you can then sauté the squash with your usual sauce and add-ins.
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
While chickpeas are still relatively high in carbohydrate content, their other nutrients make them a worthwhile consideration. Extremely high in protein at 39-grams per cup, chickpeas also have high levels of calcium, vitamin B-6, iron, and magnesium.
What does this nutritional content mean in terms of eating? Chickpeas will have you feeling full after consuming only a small serving. They are versatile, making them not only a great foundation on which to build a meal but a delicious handheld snack or salad topper when roasted with seasoning.
Brown rice is a whole-grain alternative to white rice. As a great source of dietary fiber, brown rice can help reduce your cholesterol and lower your likelihood of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke.
White rice is processed brown rice. Through a milling process, the husk, bran, and germ are removed. As this process also removes a lot of the natural benefits, white rice is usually fortified with replacement nutrients.
Compared to russet potatoes, red potatoes have fewer calories, lower carbs, higher fiber, and higher vitamin C. Remember, the nutrients of a potato are all found in the skin so leave that vegetable peeler in the drawer. When it comes to potatoes, it’s important to mind your portions. If you soak the potato and butter and top it with sour cream and bacon, you’re going to offset the nutritional value drastically. Try dressing your potatoes with some extra virgin olive oil and herbs instead.
In much of the “all carbohydrates are evil” propaganda, fruit has been labeled as an egregious offender. Unless you have a medical issue, like diabetes, fruit is a great source of carbohydrates. Fruit is also highly versatile and makes for a great, handheld snack or sweet dessert if you’re being mindful of your meal selections.
Fruit juice, on the other hand, is not in the same category as whole fruit, even if you make it yourself. The fiber and nutritional value of fruit are found in the flesh. Rather than juicing, consider making a smoothie for a quick, easy, energy boost that doesn’t negate the nutritional quality of the fruit in question.
Go Forth and Dine
Rather than eliminating a macronutrient from your diet, try swapping out your usual sources of carbohydrates with the ones listed above. For further guidance, consult a nutritionist or dietician. As expert advice can be costly, you should look into getting health insurance that will assist with this expense.