After years of thinking that carbohydrates are the work of the fat-building devil, many women hesitate to incorporate them into their diets. However, you need not shun this popular side-dish staple. Carbohydrates are essential nutrients that your body needs to survive. They are its primary source of energy. Here are four ways to get healthy carbohydrates into your diet.
1. Ban the White Stuff
The more a food has been processed, the higher its Glycemic Index value. In other words, it converts more easily into glucose in the form of blood sugar spikes. Choose whole grain breads, pastas, pitas, waffles and tortillas for a healthy dose of fiber and vitamins, and a lower glycemic rating. White bread, pasta, and other breakfast breads are low in nutritional value and high contributors to elevated blood-sugar levels.
Adding fresh new options to your diet will make replacing your old favorites fun! Try pearled barley in place of couscous and brown rice instead of white rice. Snack on popcorn instead of chips and pretzels for fewer calories and a healthy dose of fiber.
2. Pack on the Fruits and Veggies
Your daily five servings of fruits and veggies contain carbs as well as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. If you are avoiding carbohydrates, it’s best to keep fruits and vegetables on your plate. Try halving your normal serving of starchy sides and doubling your vegetable portions. Pasta primavera is an easy way to add more veggies and still have your comfort food. Try making a lasagna with a layer of eggplant instead of all noodles.
Also, keep in mind that the better the veggies taste, the more likely you will be to eat them. Experiment with cooking methods like roasting or grilling, so you won’t mind heaping them on your plate in place of processed side dishes.
Some veggies even double as a starch, like sweet potatoes. High in beta-carotene, but higher in flavor, this tuber is a vegetable in disguise. Cauliflower puree mimics the texture and taste of mashed potatoes. Just boil the florets in chicken or vegetable stock, drain and puree in a blender when done. It’s an extra win if you use low-sodium stock!
3. Trade Fats and Salts for Herbs and Stocks
Lots of pasta recipes call for fats galore and salt “to taste,” making even less-processed sides like brown rice, more unhealthy. However, you don’t need those fats. Try using a cooking spray in place of butter or oil to reduce the diet bombing nature of our favorite carbs. For extra flavor, try making a pilaf with your brown rice. Cook it in chicken or vegetable stock and add some chopped parsley, chopped green onions and chopped or whole pine nuts for crunch.
4. Make Conscious Choices
Make some conscious choices when planning your foods for the day. If you’re having your whole grain English muffin for breakfast and are planning to have pasta for dinner, swap the bread in your sandwich for a hearty salad minus the carb overload for the day.
A good rule of thumb is 40-20-20. Each meal (and therefore your daily diet) should be made up of 40% protein, 20% carbohydrate and 20% fat. The protein will keep you satisfied, the carbs will give you energy, and the fat will be enough to keep your body healthy.