Like any other type of food, carbohydrate foods are absolutely okay, as long as they're consumed in moderation. In fact, they are an extremely important part of a well balanced diet due to the vitamins and minerals they provide for our bodies. Carbs are an essential part of long term weight loss and fitness plans.
Good Carbs Versus Bad Carbs
The most important thing to remember when perusing your carbohydrate rich food choices is the difference between good carbs and bad carbs.
Good carbs are basically any "natural" carbohydrate - meaning it has not been processed or refined, and thus stripped of its nutrients. Good carbs are:
- whole grains (including whole grain bread, pasta and cereal)
- green and leafy vegetables
- fruits (the sugar in fruit can add up quickly so be sure to consume fruit in moderation)
Bad carbs are found in foods made with over processed ingredients and refined sugars. Examples of bad carbs are:
- pastries and baked goods (which use white flour and refined sugar)
- sugary drinks like fake juice
- regular soda
- white bread
Tricks To Incorporating Healthy Carbs Into Your Diet When you are making potentially high carb meals, remember how many tricks you can use to enrich the nutritional value while reducing calories, fat and portion size.
It seems unbelievable, but whole grain pasta is so much more filling than white pasta, you can use half the amount of pasta in your portion and feel more satisfied for a longer amount of time. The same goes for whole grain bread for sandwiches and toast. Next time you are at the grocery store, compare the calorie and fat content of white bread and whole grain bread. The difference is shocking and if you eat a sandwich with whole grain bread at lunch, you will need a much smaller afternoon snack and you will not sit down for dinner famished, making you less likely to overeat at the end of the day. This is all because the good carbs, full of essential vitamins and minerals, contribute much more to your daily diet than the empty calories associated with bad carbs.
Avoid Pitfalls Of course, all good things can have a breaking point. Just because you made a macaroni salad with whole grain pasta does not mean the other ingredients (mayonnaise, egg yolk, bacon) do not count. Yes, the macaroni salad is more nutritious and filling because of the whole grain instead of white pasta, but the high fat content is extremely detrimental to your diet. It is best to find other diet tricks to incorporate into dangerous recipes like macaroni salad, chicken pot pie and lasagna. Some of my favorite substitutes, in addition to just plain old self control and moderation, is low or non-fat mayonnaise, hard boiled egg whites, low fat and calorie cream of mushroom soup (amazing for casseroles!) and low fat and calorie cheeses and tomato sauces.
Allow an Occasional Treat
When you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it is best to avoid bad carbs altogether, but you are allowed to treat yourself every once in awhile. A good trick to controlling your bad carb intake is to split dessert with someone else, or simply ask for a bite of someone else's dessert or candy. If you are addicted to sugary sodas, start trying to fill your cup at the soda fountain with half diet and half regular soda. Simple tricks like these cut down tremendously on your bad carb habits and they also train your taste buds to start appreciating healthier foods. Just remember, you are allowed a little bad with the good, as long as you remain in control of both.
Get Creative With Good Carbs
These days, good carbs are so readily available, you do not really have an excuse not to incorporate them into your daily diet. Adding a bit more to every shopping trip will eventually make your kitchen's collection of bad carbs dwindle. Remember to get creative - this is your life we are talking about. Is your favorite food pizza? Compare the nutritional elements of a whole grain pizza crust versus a white pizza crust - and pay attention to how quickly you get hungry after eating 1 piece of one, then 1 piece of the other. Do you love egg salad sandwiches? Make an egg salad with only hard boiled egg whites (no yolks) and low fat mayonnaise on toasted whole grain bread - all you will need is a piece of fruit as your afternoon snack as opposed to an entire meal or aggravating hunger that makes you justify eating an entire pizza for dinner.